When I woke up I was ready to leave. I hadn’t had a decent nights sleep in days, and I was looking forward to sleeping without the interruption of nurses or machines. Also, the food sucked. I fully planned to indulge in the three b’s once I got out of here. The three b’s being, bath, bacon, and bed. I wasn’t sure why bacon was so high up on my priority list but after eating another meal in the clinic I decided it was a necessity.
A nurse had helped me shower this morning. I had argued against it, but had agreed once the nurse offered to let my mate help me instead. I had hobbled to the bathroom so quickly that the middle aged woman had dropped my chart. For the duration of my shower, she looked confused and irritated. She must have thought that I was some bitch who thought I was too good for her alpha. I ignored her. She didn’t know my business.
After I was dressed, I was informed that I wasn’t allowed to leave my bed unless Zach or one of the medical staff was present. They wanted to be sure I could stand on my own. Joanne had been worried about my leg injury. The arrow had pierced my upper thigh so it had gone through muscle. They were worried that the tear it caused may have been made bigger by the demands of me shifting back into my skin side. Since I had a history of slow or impaired healing, she was considering keeping me another day.
I was flipping through a magazine when I heard a knock at my door. Looking up I smiled when I saw it was Joanne. “How are you feeling today?” She asked as she came and sat on my bed. “Amazing.” I beamed at her, hoping my act was convincing. She smiled at my enthusiasm. “You’re ready to go home huh?” She asked with her eyebrow raised. She saw through me in an instant. “So ready. Please say I can go home.” My smile fell from my face and I clasped my hands together in front of me, as if praying for my discharge.
Joanne threw back her head, and released a full body laugh amused by the sudden change in my demeanor. “This place isn’t that bad.” She responded, picking up my chart. Flipping through it she took her pen from behind her ear and began to write. “How are your ribs feeling?” She asked as she began to prod at them. “Sore.” I replied as she prodded a tender spot.
I had cracked a couple of ribs when I had hit the floor of the ravine. Since they were hairline fractures and not full breaks, they had healed fairly quickly. They were just bruised now. Finishing her inspection of my ribs she took a few notes. “Let’s take a look at your stomach and thigh.” Laying down, she lifted my shirt so she could inspect me.
My abdomen had been wrapped in gauze to keep my wound clean as it healed. The wound had been superficial, but by the way it bled it had been hard to see that at first. Joanne unwrapped the gauze and began to inspect the remnants of the injury. “Your skin has pulled together nicely. You’re healing much faster with your mate by your side.” She said with a small smile. “Did Zach tell you? Do wolves really heal faster with their mates?” I was fascinated.
“He didn’t have to tell me. Anyone who saw the look on his face when he carried you into the clinic that night knows.” “Oh.” I responded, not knowing whether I should be smitten or embarrassed. “And as for your second question, our wolves draw strength from their mates. We are stronger and heal faster when we are mated. You and Zach are not officially mated yet, but your wolves can feel each other. It’s part of the reason he has been sleeping here next to you.” My heart skipped a beat.
“Zach’s been sleeping here to help me heal?” I asked. He was doing so much for me and I had next to nothing to offer him. I suddenly felt guilty. “Yes, he knows it will help you. I’m sure he’s anxious to get you home so he can place his mark on you.``she stated as she looked at my thigh. She said it so matter-of-factly that it kind of shocked me. “I doubt we’re ready for that.” I responded. “You may not be but he’s been ready since the moment he met you” she answered as she offered her hand to help me sit up.
Pulling myself up slowly, I placed my hand over my abdomen for support. The area was still tender, and although the skin had already scabbed over I was afraid I would reopen the wound. “We’ve only known each other for a couple weeks though.” I said as I smoothed down my shirt. “It’s normal for wolf’s to mark and mate quickly, often within the same day.” My jaw dropped. “Within the same day? I guess werewolves don’t stick to the third date rule.” Joanne laughed. “The pull of our mates is almost irresistible, we do fear rejection but that doesn’t happen often, and we don’t fear that our partners will lose interest in us the way that humans do.”
“Why is that?” I asked with wide eyes. Zach could teach me about mates, but hearing all this from a woman’s point of view was priceless. “Because once you’ve been with your mate you just want them more. It’s customary that pack members get a few days off from work when they find their mates. New mates like to spend as much time together as they can.” So my attraction to Zach was only going to get worse?! “How are you supposed to know the difference between what is real and what’s the bond?” I asked her, hoping she understood.
She smiled at me knowingly. “The bond pulls you together initially but everything that starts to grow after that is real. The bond may make it hard to stay mad at your mate and may bring you closer, but that is so you have the chance to really get to know each other.” Putting her hand on mine she looked me in the eyes and smiled at me. “Ade, I’ve known Zach his whole life. Despite how you view his previous actions he is a good man. Don’t be afraid of your feelings or the bond. It isn’t there to deceive you.” All I could do was nod at her.
Something about Joanne made me trust her. If I had a grandmother, I would hope she would be like her. Pulling a packet of papers from her clipboard she handed them to me. “Now, since you seem to be healing normally, I will let you go home. I do want to see you back in a couple of days though.” She said. I nodded, holding the papers in my hand like they were made of gold. She went over my at-home care instructions with me and had me sign and date when it was necessary. “Oops, almost forgot, can you look over your personal information for me and verify that everything is correct?” “Sure.” I said as I started reading over the form.
“Hey, what does this mean?” I asked her as I read over a box that said ‘Pack Status’. In that box ‘under assimilation’ had been typed. “Oh, this means you’re an incoming pack member. That you’re being integrated into the pack.” That was odd. It wasn’t something that Zach and I had talked about. He had hinted that he hoped I would be part of the pack one day, and my release was a constant conversational sore spot, but he had never really expressed that he was working on granting me pack status. Yawning, I reminded myself that I wasn’t in the right place to be jumping to conclusions. I shouldn’t assume anything until I ask Zach. I would ask him tomorrow after I had a chance to get some real sleep.
“Now, go get some rest. I want to see you back here in two days.” She said to me as Zach walked through the door. “Awww, perfect.” She said as she saw him. “I’m agreeing to discharge Adeline today but she needs to take it easy. Which means you need to take it easy on her. No extracurricular activities for a couple of days.” She said to Zach eyebrows raised. Did she mean what I think she meant? I was partially mortified but Zach merely put his hands up in mock surrender and replied with a “Yes Ma’am.” I was starting to learn that werewolves were much more relaxed about sex than humans were. Once Joanne left the room Zach beamed at me. “Are you ready to go home?” He asked. Home. The word tumbled from his lips and fell heavily into my lap. I hadn’t considered his house home. It was just the place I was sleeping. I wondered if I would ever go back to my home. Did I even see it that way anymore?
Zach’s house had a whole different feeling to it after talking with Joanne. It once held a thin layer of safety and now that was gone. Now I was afraid of being alone and unsupervised with Zach. He had promised to go slow but what if he lost control and initiated something that I mentally wasn’t ready for? What if I didn’t stop it? Zach came and sat on my bed. I had been silent for too long.
“Why do you look so nervous?” He asked me. “I’m not nervous.” I stated, raising my head high. “It’s just when you said ‘home’ I realized how much I missed mine.” I said, deciding that giving him half the truth was better than nothing. His eyes became stormy and he touched his forehead to mine. “Will you ever trust me enough to let me go back?” I asked, not being able to stop the words that fell from my mouth. “I don’t know.” Zach answered truthfully. “Do you think you’ll ever like being with me enough to want to come back?” He countered. I sucked in a breath. I hadn’t expected that.
“I like you now.” I answered not sure what to say. I wasn’t sure of anything lately. I felt like I was constantly lost in this new world, and I hated it. I hated feeling like a child in a world that should have been mine. I hated constantly feeling at a loss for words. Most of all I hated the way I no longer understood myself. I was becoming a stranger to myself and I wasn’t sure if I was changing or if I had been this person always.
“Enough to come back?” He asked. I wanted to say yes, but I couldn’t. “That’s a really big question.” I whispered. “I know.” He said. Placing his hand on my chin he kissed me deeply, as if the answer he had been searching for lived just past my lips. I leaned into him loving the way his lips felt against mine. He deepened the kiss and I was surprised at how intimate his kiss could be without being demanding. It asked for nothing more than this moment, which suited me perfectly because this moment was all I had to give right now.
When we separated, Zach kissed my forehead before standing up. Reaching out his hand he asked “You ready to go?” This time I nodded ‘yes’ and took his hand. Joanne had decided that I should use crutches for a couple of days to keep the weight off my leg as it healed. She had a nurse leave them by the door. Zach ran and grabbed them for me so I could hobble out the door. I was kind of looking forward to the walk back to Zach’s house but he had driven his car to the clinic to drive me back. He helped me climb into the passenger seat before hopping in himself and driving home.
Walking in the front door Zach was laughing about my three b’s. “You know if I had been waiting to come home from the med clinic I would be looking forward to the three s’s.” He said. “What are those, I’m open to suggestions.” I asked. “That’s good to know” he laughed, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. I rolled my eyes. “What does it mean?” “Shower, sex, and sleep.” He answered laughing. “Nevermind then.” I answered approaching the stairs. “What about your bacon? ” he asked, walking over to me. “It can wait. Bath and bed are first.” I yawned as I hobbled towards the staircase.
Resting my crutches against the wall I hopped up the first stair on one foot while I held onto the banister. “Hop-along, what are you doing?” Zach asked coming to stand next to me on the other side of the rail. “I’m going to bed.” I said practically biting my tongue to stop myself from adding ‘duh!’ “Hmmm, mmmm, and you’re going to do that the whole way up?” He asked looking up the large staircase. “Yeah. Why not?” I asked, furrowing my brows. “I don’t know it just seems like a lot of work. If only you had a big, strong, devilishly handsome man around to help.” He said in mock distress. Poor guy. He had somehow believed that I would just hand him all these compliments without him having to work for it. “Oh! You’re right!” I said, widening my eyes and looking around. “Hey Zach . . .” I asked coyly. “Yes?” He answered, leaning towards me with the beginnings of a smug little smirk tugging at his lips. “Can you call Jeremy to help me up the stairs?” I asked with the straightest face I could muster.
Zach started to answer and then stopped, finally realizing what I had said. His eyebrows scrunched together, and he looked at me sideways as if trying to figure out how serious I was. Then his eyes became slits and a spine tingling growl escaped his lips. Before I had time to laugh or tell him I was joking, he was on the stairs scooping me into his arms and carrying me to my bedroom. Entering my bedroom, I realized my mistake when Zach put me down on my bed leaned over me and then began kissing me dizzy. “Zach?” I pleaded between his kisses. His thumb brushed my breast and I moaned into his mouth. He growled in response, as he crawled forward, his hands going up under my shirt to grab onto my waist.
My joke, which had seemed funny at the time, had set off his wolf. I was now drowning underneath him. His lips burned their way from my heaving chest to my shoulder. Arching my back I feverishly pushed myself against his lips. He paused, earning my groan in protest. Pulling away from me, my eyes roamed to his soft lips, wanting to feel them on me again. Dragging my eyes away from his lips I watched as he observed me. His hungry eyes drank me in until they met mine in his continued search for . . . ? I wasn’t sure. I just knew that I wanted to be what he was looking for.
His kisses crashed down on me, once more bringing wave after wave of pleasure and anticipation. His touch awoke a need within me that had lain dormant. My need for my mate. I recognized that same need in his greedy kisses, and demanding grasp. “Zach, I don’t want anyone else.” I whispered to him reassuringly. “But I’m not ready for this.” I said trying to focus my mind on that fact. I was not ready for this. “Why?” He groaned, pulling away “Can’t you feel this?”
His amber eyes were heavy with confusion as he studied me. “I can feel it.” I confirmed nodding my head. In fact, at this moment I was trying my best not to. “Don’t you want this?” He asked, kissing my neck. “I do. When I’m ready for it, when I’m sure what it means.” I said hoping he would understand. “I know that this should be enough for me because that’s how this is all supposed to work or whatever, but I can’t make a lifelong decision based on just a feeling.” Zach stopped. “It’s more than just a feeling Adeline, it’s part of who we are.” He said, confused by my words. “It’s part of what everyone here thinks I should be. Everyone seems to forget that I was somebody before all this happened and I am still that same person.” I pushed myself out from under him, and slowly sat up.
“I may be a werewolf, and a rogue, and to you I might be some poor orphan you fantasize about saving, but I’m not. I’m Adeline Harris, and I get to decide what dictates my future. Not some bond.” Zach sat up, not sure what to say. I can see the battle raging behind his eyes as he tried to decide what his response should be. “Ade, I’m not trying to take that choice from you, I just don’t see what would be so horrible about this being what you choose. About this being your new life.” I sighed. I was exhausted, and I hadn’t been ready to discuss any of this yet. ” I never said it would be horrible, it just has to be my choice. So far nothing that’s happened has been my choice. My decision. You have all taken that option away from me by enrolling me into this program, and then you guys act like you haven’t taken anything from me.”
I took a deep breath and ran my fingers through my newly tangled hair. “Ade the program is supposed to offer rogues pack benefits so they, and our kind can stay off the radar. Yes we add the rogue into our records, but that can be beneficial to both parties.” My eyes burned. “Not all rogues get that option though. Not the rogues who have been selected to be assimilated into the pack.” Zach just stared at me. “I saw my discharge paperwork. It listed my pack status as ‘under assimilation’ I didn’t think that had been decided yet. It definitely wasn’t decided by me.” I said.
I stared at him. Waiting, no, daring him to give me an answer. “You’re the future Luna of this pack Adeline, of course you’d be a part of it.” “Am I?” I asked quietly. “Last time we spoke nothing had been determined. Last time we spoke, we were going to take it slow.” We both just sat there, staring at one another. I was hoping he would say that I misunderstood what I read, or that they had to put that there for me to get medical care or something, but he didn’t. He just looked at me like he hadn’t done anything wrong. “I’m tired. Can we finish this later?” I asked. There was no point in prolonging this argument. Neither one of us was backing down today.
“Yeah. You’re supposed to be resting anyway.” Zach said rising from the bed and crossing the room. “Ade, there is a difference between holding off on a decision you’re not ready for, and avoiding the inevitable because you’re scared of what it could mean. Think about that.” He said before leaving the room and shutting the door behind him. I stared at the door long after he had gone, thinking about what he said, and wondering where all this left us. Where this left me. Pulling back the comforter I crawled into bed. Getting comfortable I settled into my first truly restful sleep in days.
When I woke up, my room was completely dark. I had been so tired I slept through the whole rest of the day. Sitting up, I rubbed the sleep from my eyes before pushing off my comforter. Turning on the lamp beside my bed, I hobbled into the bathroom. After taking a long, hot, private shower, I put on clean bandages and with one hand on the wall I limped over to my crutches. Just as I reached them my stomach roared, angry that I had ignored it for so long. Taking a moment to listen, the house sounded pretty quiet. Deciding that Zach was probably in bed, I decided it was probably safe to go downstairs and make myself something to eat.
Opening my bedroom door, I walked to the top of the stairs. Shifting so that I carried both crutches in one hand, I slowly went down the stairs. By the time I made it to the bottom of the staircase I was ravenous. Seeing that the light was still on in the kitchen, I went straight there, fantasizing about what I could eat the whole way. Having reached the kitchen, I slowed when I saw Zach, torso buried in the fridge with his back to me. “I was starting to think you’d sleep through the night.” He said when he noticed me coming in. ” I almost did.” I replied, thinking about how strong the urge to sink back between my sheets had been.
“You’re just in time for BLT’s.” He smiled at me. Bacon. Guess I was getting my three b’s today. “Need someone to wash and chop for you?” I asked, remembering the first night we ate them together. “Yes please.” He said putting bacon in a skillet. “Getting the lettuce and tomato from the fridge, I washed and cut the lettuce, before slicing the tomatoes into rounds. Deciding to toast the bread I went to the cabinet for the toaster. Opening it I was about to reach for it when Zach’s broad chest pressed into my back. Reaching over me he grabbed the toaster and placed it on the counter in front of me. “Thank you.” I whispered. He replied by kissing my forehead.
15 minutes later, we were sitting across from each other, eating our sandwiches. “Zach how do mates mark each other?” I asked. Zach swallowed his bite loudly. “Ummm, well marking is kind of an intimate occasion.” Zach started. “Some packs have marking ceremonies, but ours believes it is a more private thing.” I nodded, urging him to continue. “A lot of couples tend to mark each other when they first mate. The male bites the female around here.” Zach explained, reaching out and touching the spot between my neck and shoulder.” My hand flew up to the spot and I grimaced. “Ouch! That sounds horrible.” I exclaimed, my hands tracing the jagged scar from when I was attacked.
“It’s not that bad. It only hurts for a second and then it becomes pleasurable. It’s hard to resist the urge to mate after a marking, because of this. That’s why they are done together.” I took a rather large bite of my sandwich while I thought about all of this. Zach kept looking up at me nervously, as if he was expecting me to freak out. “Is that as bad as you thought it would be?” He asked. “I really didn’t consider that that’s how it was done. I am glad it has nothing to do with pee though.” I said casually, not really thinking about it. Zach inhaled loudly, sucking his food into his throat. He choked for a moment before clearing his windpipe and taking a drink of water. Not wanting to embarrass me he said “Yeah, me too.”