Feeding Ade, being able to acknowledge her as my mate even in this small way was deeply satisfying. I hadn’t planned to, but after what happened in her room, I felt like maybe her attitude was shifting. Maybe she was getting ready to accept me. My father had wanted to use tonight to get her more involved with the pack. He had argued that once she felt more at home, she would be more inclined to stay.
He had been furious earlier, convinced that I needed his help to win over my mate. I know I had messed up in the past. This time however, I knew she wasn’t ready for the kind of exposure he was pushing. She had agreed to come here with me, even though she didn’t really want to, so I would make her night as comfortable as possible. If I had to look like a crazy possessive alpha wolf to do it, I would.
Now I felt like I had just blown everything in one move. Looking over at Adeline, I watched as she silently ate her salad, her eyes on the tablecloth. I didn’t need to look around to know that she was avoiding the eyes of half the people at the party. There had been rumors that a woman was staying in my home, and that I had found my mate. Having confirmed that Adeline was indeed my mate had just earned her a lot of attention. I just hoped that since she didn’t have my mark, it wouldn’t be brought up at the table.
Although she couldn’t see it right now, acknowledging her as my mate meant that everyone at the table would go out of their way not to offend her. Her night would go smoothly if she could ignore the stares. Squeezing her thigh again, she looked up at me, her eyes a stormy haze of emotions that were indecipherable to me. Had I just undone all our progress? I needed a sign from her, any indication that we were still alright. She gave me a soft smile, and I understood that she was just as lost as I was.
Hearing my mom’s melodic giggle, I found her laughing over her salad plate. Jeremy was smiling at her, but the happiness on his lips didn’t reach his eyes. He hated functions like this. My mom did her best to make him feel included, but he still felt the weight of his background when the other betas or gammas looked at him. They respected him, but in their eyes, he was an outsider who stole a position that could have been there’s. It didn’t help that Frank gave him a hard time every chance he got.
Jeremy grew up as a rogue. His family had abdicated his pack when they had been taken over by a rival alpha during the wolf wars. In the coming years, his family grew strong in their anti-pack sentiment, and his father started to lose his sanity. He became paranoid and as a result he moved his family constantly. He tried to keep his children home, but his mother fought to keep them in school.
I was a junior in high school when I met Jeremy. I had insisted on going to a human high school so I would have a better chance of finding my mate when I came of age. My dad had argued that I had too much to learn about being an alpha, but I convinced him that it was a wonderful exercise in self control. Jeremy transferred in the first couple of weeks and we recognized each other instantly. Feeling some sort of confrontation would be inevitable, he sought me out, explaining that he didn’t want any trouble, he just wanted his diploma.
Growing up in a pack filled with wolves that had come from other packs, or had been rogues once, I didn’t think anything of it. I told him I didn’t want to cause trouble for him. I should have reported him to my father, let him know there was a new family of rogues in town but I didn’t. That may end in him having to run, and all he wanted was to go to school. I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
A couple of weeks later, he was cornered by half the football team. Jeremy had worn out clothes, a sharp intellect and he took shit from no one. It was the perfect formula for an ass whooping. I knew he couldn’t use his real strength or abilities to fight so I joined him. We were both suspended from school.
Luckily, it was my mom who came to get me from the principal’s office. Jeremy was still waiting for someone to come for him, and my mother could tell what he was. She scolded me once we got to the car and she threatened to tell my dad, but I begged her not to. I told her about him and she felt bad so she agreed to keep it our secret. No one came to get Jeremy, so my mom lied to the principal and ended up taking us out to eat.
Jeremy treated her like he would treat anyone else, and she liked that about him. She started treating us to lunch once a month, and Patrick started joining us. My mother wanted to do more for Jeremy, but it wasn’t until I was surrounded and drugged by a group of hunter initiates that she got the chance. The three men had scoped me out, learned my schedule, then waited until I was walking home from school one day to make their move. Masking their scent, they tranquilized me, and dragged me into the woods.
Werewolves have incredibly fast metabolisms and it takes a lot to take us out. The three men had combined different chemicals and some wolfsbane to put me out. The drought was only half effective and I was still conscious as they dragged me into the woods, each laughing about what they would do to me. Luckily, Jeremy had noticed that I had left my math book at school and had tried to catch up with me. Being exposed to hunters and other dangers from an early age, he easily detected that something was wrong.
Not knowing what else to do, he took on the men himself. The men had basic training and weapons, but we were just two 17 year old boys who had trained, but had never been in a life or death situation before. He had taken one guy down when I was able to stand. The men had neglected to see me as a threat, which proved to be their fatal mistake. The fear and adrenaline pushed me over the edge, and although the drug stopped me from shifting, I lost my mind to my beast.
I incapacitated the second man before snapping his neck. The third man ran, but Jeremy chased after him and being faster, he caught him and brought him back. The man stabbed Jeremy in the arm in the process and I killed him. It was the first time Jeremy and I had killed someone. I knew in my position it would probably be inevitable but it still didn’t help the shock or the hurt.
I was still battling my wolf, and we were surrounded by dead men so Jeremy did the only thing he could do, he called my parents. When my father showed up Jeremy was taken into our custody. After giving my father my account, and my mom throwing a fit, he was released. My father thanked him, and then gave him the option to join our pack. Since he was a strong wolf, he was given the option to train along with the other betas.
My mother told him he would have food, a place to live and that we would pay for his schooling. The invitation to join the pack extended to his family, who vehemently declined. Deciding that our pack was his best shot at having a normal future, he accepted bringing his 12 year old sister with him. He had fought his father for her and won. My mother basically adopted them as his family abandoned them when they joined.
His sister found her mate at 19 and became a pack lawyer, and Jeremy worked his way up to being my gama. He still missed his family, and sometimes when he looked at Adeline, I saw that he understood her struggle. I think he saw a bit of himself in her, and they had this connection that, quite frankly, I envied. I never had to struggle the way they had. I always had support and a place in the pack, so he could understand her in a way I couldn’t. I hated it.
“I heard the Red Rocks Pack was attacked by rogues.” Frank said loudly from across the table. Here we go. Taking a sip of my drink, I moved a cherry tomato around my almost empty plate. “Yes, they did. The damages were minimal.” I tried to downplay the event, but noticing the luster in his eyes, I knew he was determined to make some kind of point.
“It feels like we are hearing about rogue attacks more and more lately. People are saying the attacks are unrelated, but something smells off to me” he scrunched up his nose and looked directly at Adeline. My hand tightened around my fork. “The council has concluded that the attacks were unrelated.” I simply stated, giving my plate to the server as he passed by.
“Speaking of the council, what do you think of the new laws they are pushing regarding rogues?” A plate of steak, potatoes, and asparagus was placed in front of me. “ The rogue population has grown lately, but I feel that if they spent more time healing old wounds, and fixing mistakes they made, they wouldn’t have to combat this problem with the new laws and recent violence.” I cut my steak, keeping the pressure on my knife even. Frank found a way to say something about rogues everytime Jeremy was present, but I had a feeling this was brought on by Adeline’s presence and her relationship to me.
He lost his sister in a rogue attack 15 years ago, and knowing he would end up with a former rogue as a luna had him angry. He looked calm, but I knew by the way his eyebrow twitched and his voice deepened that he was upset. I hadn’t considered what he would do when I revealed Ade’s position, and I had believed my rank would keep this type of behavior at bay. Having a role in raising me left Frank feeling entitled. I may have to put him in his place before the night was over. “Can you believe this Jonah? These pups are starting to get ballsy aren’t they?”
My dad looked up from his steak with a sigh. Frank had been his beta and friend for years and they maintained that relationship by avoiding discussions like this. They each had different opinions and they respected that. Frank was swimming in dangerous waters now, and I could tell my dad wasn’t interested in jumping in with him. “ Times are changing, and rogues aren’t what they used to be. We have been operating in a broken system for years, and I am sure we will see it’s collapse in our lifetime.” He answered, stuffing his mouth with steak.
“Surely you don’t approve of the wolves abandoning their packs and the propaganda spread by the rebellion? It doesn’t bug you that the rebellion renounces the council for ‘crimes against wolves’ but won’t actually sit down with anyone to really discuss what it is they are really fighting for?” Frank pointed his fork at my father, who loudly swallowed his steak. “Of course it bugs me, but what also bugs me is how wolves who have been mistreated and abandoned by the system are treated like criminals” my dad answered, stabbing his steak with his fork with so much force he broke his plate. The two men stared at each other, eyes slotted and jaws clenched.
Sparing a look at Adeline, I watched her hand shake as she tried to cut her steak. Placing my hand over hers, I gave her a small smile before sliding her plate towards me. Taking her knife I began to cut her meat. She dropped her hands into her lap and sent me a look of pure relief. “What do you think, Adeline? How do you feel about the new laws, and what were you taught about the council as a rogue?” Her eyes widened, shocked that she had been pulled into the conversation.
I was about to tell Frank off when to my surprise, she answered him. “I’ve haven’t seen the new laws so I really couldn’t give you my opinion on them, and as for your other question, I was never told anything about the council.” Her hands were shaking so hard she had them clasped together in her lap, but her voice was strong. “How is it possible that you never heard anything? How did you come to be a rogue?” Frank spat, rolling his eyes.
“I was orphaned.” She answered simply, eyes resting on Frank’s aging face. “Orphaned? How convenient.” he commented haughtily. “Convenient for who? It certainly wasn’t for me.” She fired back, and Jeremy had to spit his wine back into his glass to stop himself from choking. “She’s got a mouth on her. I’d watch that.” Frank answered dryly, staring Ade down. “Actually, I quite enjoy her mouth.” I said angrily, passing Ade her plate back a bit too hard.
It wasn’t until I noticed how hard Jeremy was trying to hold in his laughter, and Adelines dark look that I realized how my comment could be taken. “Conversationally, I mean” I added, clearing my throat and taking a large drink. ‘Nice save, son.’ my father linked me, and I could practically hear him internally smacking his head. Patrick, whose relationship with his father was complicated, to put it kindly, smiled at me and Ade from across the table. Glad we had stood our ground.
The smile was wiped from his face a moment later, when Howard, the head of security at the compound linked us. ‘We’ve got a rogue on the property.’ Jeremy jumped up instantly “You guys enjoy your meal. I’ll handle it.” He gave a small bow, excusing himself from the table. Catching a ghost of a smile on his lips, I almost smiled myself. I don’t think a security breach has made anyone happier.
We all ate in silence for the next couple of bites. Adeline looked a lot more relaxed now that the worst of her confrontation with Frank was over. “Oh! Amelia!” A nasaly voice called from down the table. We ignored it, until it called out again “Zach, Amelia!” Turning, I found Kaily leaning over in her seat, her eyes trained on Adeline.
“Zach?” I questioned looking over at Kaily. “Oh, I’m sorry, It’s alpha now.” She answered coyly, bowing her head at me. “It’s always been alpha to you.” I say. Adelines brow raises, and her teeth sink into her lip. It’s adorable how hard she’s trying not to laugh.
Nudging Adeline, I tried to smile back at her. “Adeline, this is Kaily, Kaily, Adeline.” I introduced them, hoping Kaily picked up on Adelines name. When she smiled brazenly I realized she had probably known her name the whole time. “Adeline, how did you and Zach, I mean the alpha meet?”
I opened and closed my mouth, thinking of what to say. “I went for a run and we kind of ran into each other.” Ade lied smoothly, smiling at Kaily. “Oh, that’s . . . nice.” Kaily said, her brow furrowing. Had she made the connection between Ade and the rouge that was rumored to have escaped our compound? A smile suddenly lit up her face and I knew it meant trouble. “I noticed you aren’t marked yet, Adeline. Are you guys planning on having a ceremony or something?”
My mind went blank and I looked over at Ade. I had been wrong on two accounts tonight. I didn’t think anyone would question or mess with her, but taking Franks comments lightly had opened her up for further scrutiny. “We’re taking the time to get to know each other. There is no real rush.” Adeline answered, giving the server who took her plate a polite smile.
Adeline reached for her drink while smiling calmly at Kaily, and my chest filled with pride. She hadn’t needed me to protect her. She had handled herself wonderfully. “That’s surprising. Most alphas like to mate quickly. Having an established luna and a happy alpha is what’s best for the pack.” Kaily tilted her head and folded her hands over her chest meekly, acting like the submissive mate many men would adore.
“Well, there is more than just the alpha in this relationship, and I would wager that having a happy luna is just as important to the packs well being.” Adeline commented, not even bothering to look at Kaily. “What are humans saying? Happy wife, happy life?” My mother butt in, smiling brilliantly and putting her hand over Ade’s. “Oh, a , yes, I’m sure it is.” Kaily sputtered before looking down at the dessert placed in front of her. Ade had gained the support of the previous luna, there was no way Kaily would try to rival her.
A large slice of tuxedo cake was placed in front of me. Picking up my fork I cut into the moist cake, mouth watering. The cake was halfway to my lips when Jeremy’s voice crashed into my head. ‘We’ve apprehended the rogue.’ Placing my fork down, I leaned back and sighed. This was the last thing I needed with Ade around.
‘We will be by to question him after I take Ade home.’ I linked, smiling towards Ade. ‘Zach, we found him at your house, looking in your windows. I think he was looking for someone.’ I instantly leaned forward. Patricks head snapped to mine, as Jeremy had sent the message to both of us.
“Please excuse Patrick and I. We have urgent business to attend to.” I stood, throwing my napkin on the table next to me. My hands shook, and it took all my self control to not storm out of the room. “Ade, I’m sorry, but I have to go. My parent’s will keep you company, and I promise I will make it up to you later.” The words came out in a rush. Sensing my desperation, she nodded. That was all I needed before turning on my heel and leaving the dining room.
Rushing out the door I pulled my tie loose , as I climbed into the driver’s seat of the SUV. Patrick followed closely behind. Once he was in the car I pulled out of the drive-way and started driving to the compound.I hated leaving Ade alone, especially when she looked as good as she did tonight, but I knew my parents would take care of her. “How are we treating this?” Patrick asked, taking off his suit jacket. “The rogue will be treated as a hostile. Not only was he on pack lands but he was outside my house. That’s too much of a coincidence for me. I want to know exactly what he’s doing here.” I seethed.
What if Ade had stayed home tonight and none of our patrols had caught this rogue’s scent? A violent shiver ran up my spine. I gripped the steering wheel until my knuckles turned white. “I agree. Maybe he caught on to Adeline’s scent and was curious. Do you think he could have heard about her breaking out of our compound?” Patrick asked as he watched the trees outside the windows intently. The thought of this rogue having anything to do with Ade had me seeing red.
Pulling up outside the compound, I barely had the car in park when I leaped out of the vehicle and slammed my door shut. I could hear Patrick behind me, keys jingling in hand as he must have turned off the car. “Zach!” He called out from behind me. I stopped, my hands balling in and out of a fist, as I fought for control. Approaching me, Patrick stayed on my right side, keeping his distance. “I know the thought of what this rogue could have done to Ade has you on edge, and you should be, but we can’t just go in there guns blazing. This rogue may have done nothing wrong. What if he is here to warn us or something? We need to keep an open mind.”
This was way easier for him to say because he wasn’t considering the possibility that his mates safety may be on the line. He was thinking with his head and not with his ego, and I knew I needed to take his advice. It was why Patrick was an amazing beta. He was loyal, but he would say what was on his mind when he thought I needed to hear it. A leader could end up getting too wrapped up in his own importance and ego to realize he was making the wrong decisions. Patrick kept me humble. Closing my eyes I focused on relaxing my hands. He was right, I couldn’t go in there ready to murder this guy. I had a job to do, I had to think of the pack.
Nodding my head and shooting Patrick a small, and obviously fake smile, we continued to enter the compound. Walking through the familiar building I linked Jeremy ‘Where are you?’ Within an instant he replied ‘interrogation ’. Making my way to the second row of cells, Patrick and I walked all the way to the end of the cell block. Set in the wall at the end was a door. Opening it we descended the stairs that took us to our interrogation block. The block contained five barred cells. The three adjoining walls of each cell were concrete, to prevent interaction between prisoners but the fourth wall in the front of the cell was a set of steel bars. This way we could have a guard in with the prisoner during interrogation and witnesses on the other side of the bars could hear everything that was said at a safe distance.
Being underground, this room always looked dingy despite the ample lighting. Adjusting to the dim, yellowish tint the room took on, we walked to the third cell where Jeremy was leaning against the bars, seething. Looking into the cell I found the ruffed-up rogue leaning against the back wall. He was wearing a blue zip up hoodie, a gray undershirt, and black athletic pants with red converses. He was well muscled, and from the power he was putting off I would guess he was either an alpha or beta born. He had natural red hair that was short on the sides, but longer on top and had been tousled during his capture. His dark brows were raised slightly as if amused and his kiwi-green eyes twinkled. He wore a shit-eating grin on his busted lips and his chin was pushed forward in defiance showing slight stubble.
Taking off my jacket, I motioned for Jeremy to open the cell. “Wow! You called an alpha for me? What’s wrong big boy, can’t handle your job without a little grab-ass from the boss?” The rogue laughed staring at Jeremy. I smiled at him pleasantly as I entered. Sizing me up the rogue pushed himself off the wall. “Maybe you’re all a little jittery since rogues seem to be hopping your borders left and right.” he laughed. He knew something, and I was going to rip it out of him. I laughed too, thinking of what would happen next. “Why are you here and why were you at my home?” I asked evenly, trying not to let my growl break through. The rogue just sneered at me.
Charging him, I shoved him against the wall. His head smacked into the cement and bounced back towards me from the impact. Cocking my fist back, I launched it into his face, sending his head into the concrete once more. The rogue glared at me, blood running out both nostrils. “Is this how you treat every rogue you come across? We’re just filthy little inconveniences to you aren’t we?” It was my turn to glare. “Only the ones that trespass on pack lands and threaten the safety of my pack.” I answered. “Now, why are you here?” He eyed me calmly. “Is this how you treated the last rogue you caught?” He asked, a small ember of anger burning to life behind his eye.
I smirked before punching him again. This time I could hear the small snaps, and feel the crack of his orbital bone breaking under my fist. The rogue’s head was resting against the concrete wall, eyes shut tight as he recovered from my blow. Using my grip on the front of his jacket, I pulled him towards me, his head falling forward. Shaking his head, he tried to refocus his eyes on me. “Have you come to attack me or my pack?” The rogue laughed, the sound barely audible. He smiled at me again, his dazed eyes suddenly becoming serious. “No, this is a rescue mission.” The rogue spit sideways, clearing his mouth of blood. “What did you do with the female rogue you caught?” He asked, his voice low and menacing.
My hands shook. Ade. He was asking about Ade. My wolf roared in the back of my mind, angry this man would even have the audacity to think of my mate. I punched him again, this time his head snapped to the side. His chin touched his chest for a moment before he shook the hit off and looked me in the eye. “I’m here for Adeline Harris.” A loud growl escaped my lips as I threw the rogue into the wall next to me. With his chest now to the wall I grabbed a handful of his hair and pressed my arm against his back. “What business do you have with her?” I growled, turning his head to the side using my grip on his hair . “She’s my mate.” The rogue spat out.
I threw the rogue against the bars at the front of the cell, furious. How dare he tell me such a disgusting lie. “You’re lying. Adeline has a mate.” I said quietly as I descended upon the rogue’s half conscious form. “You . . .you forced her into a mating?” The rogue yelled to me, his body visibly shaking, trying to hold back his wolf. This was the first time I had seen him riled up since I had been here and the power emanating from him had me on edge. In a fight between us the outcome could go either way if you were going off of brute strength alone. Grabbing onto the bars, the rogue pulled himself up to standing, his eyes yellow with the instinctual anger of his wolf.
His response to my news worried me, but still my ego was bigger than the need to worry about how deeply this piece of shit believed his own delusions. ′Bring Ade to interrogation.′ I mind linked my father. I would show this rogue just how wrong he was. I would decimate any fucked up little fantasy this rogue had about being with my mate. When he saw she had no reaction to him, that she had no recollection of him, he would break, and we would learn the truth. “Of course I didn’t.” I answered the rogue as he approached me. “She’s my mate.” The rogue stopped in his tracks, the yellow in his eyes being forced back as his green orbs re-emerged. An exasperated sigh left his lips and he wiped the blood off his face with a shaky hand. “She would be, wouldn’t she.” He said to himself, and I smiled. I had him caught.
Despite how it started, the rest of the night went smoothly with Zach’s parents by my side. His mom had even taken my arm and walked around the perimeter of the party, telling me about the guests and a bit of their backgrounds. Despite his joking, Zach’s father was actually a lot like Zach. They were both a bit goofy, sharp witted, and warm to the people around them. The difference between them that I could notice was that I often saw Zach at his most confident when he was in action, but when he was standing still, or dealing with me he was slightly unsure of himself. His father on the other hand seemed confident in everything he did.
Jeremy had said that overconfidence was an extremely common alpha trait, but his father didn’t give off the air of being arrogant. He had the aura of power that a man knew he had earned, not one he believed he was born with. Perhaps that is why Zach was so nervous and unsure around his father. He hadn’t believed he had earned the right to be anything more. Perhaps he was trying to measure up to his ideal of his father and saw himself falling short. I could have been wrong. Familial relationships obviously weren’t my strong suit.
As people started to leave the party, I let out a long yawn. “Tired?” Mrs. Williams- Nat as she kept asking me to call her, asked. “A bit. I had no idea that dinner parties took so much energy.” “Oh, they’re draining all right.” Nat laughed. “Host enough of these things and you’ll start to fall asleep just thinking about them.” She said. I smiled at her politely, still uneasy around her. “You did wonderfully tonight, I’m glad you decided to come.” She added, seeing my nervousness. “Thank you, that means a lot to me.” I told her, looking her in the eyes. “Allow me to drive you home.” Jonah’s offer sounded more like a demand as he pulled his car keys from the pocket of his black slacks. “Thank you, that would be great.” I said accepting.
After excusing myself and saying goodnight to the remaining guests and hugging Zach’s mom, I climbed into the passenger seat of Jonah’s car, and we were driving towards home. Jonah was in the middle of telling me an embarrassing story about how he had stolen Zach’s clothes in the woods, and Zach had to sneak home naked during a fun run for the female pack members. He was laughing when he suddenly went silent. “Change of plans. Zach has asked me to take you to the compound instead.” He said to me while he stopped the car and pointed it in the opposite direction. I was instantly nervous. Zach hadn’t told me why he had left, but if he was at the compound it obviously wasn’t good.
Parking outside the compound next to Zach’s black SUV we got out. We walked to the door of the compound and Zach’s dad walked ahead of me, entering a code and then opening the door for me. I stopped right outside the door, taking a steadying breath. Jonah seemed to sense my uneasiness as his voice was low and soft as he said “You don’t have to be scared of this place anymore. Zach may have a long night ahead of him and he may just want to wish you goodnight.” He tried to reassure me, a soft smile on his lips. Smiling back I nodded before crossing the threshold. Following his lead, we walked to the end of the second row of cell blocks and to a door that was on the back wall. Opening the door for me, I descended the steep staircase first, one hand on the wall for support as the tap - tapping of my heels echoed off the cool concrete walls.
Reaching the bottom of the steps I walked down the wide hallway to where Jeremy, Patrick, and Zach were all standing outside a cell. Zach’s shirt was speckled with blood and his knuckles were raw and bloody. The smell of blood mingled with Zach’s usually enticing aroma, giving off the edge of danger. Trying not to show my fear I sped up, trying to get to Zach faster, concerned he was hurt. Taking a few steps closer though I stopped and my eyes went wide. Mingled with the overwhelming scent of blood and the familiar scent of the men I knew in the room was another. Breathing in deeply I pulled it to me, instantly warmed by the pleasant scent. There were too many scents to tell what it was that this scent reminded me of, but I did know that I wanted more of it. Turning I started to follow the scent to the third cell in the block.
I was both excited and confused. This couldn’t be what I thought it was. Every instinct I had told me that what I was experiencing was indeed just that. Clutching my chest, I felt a sudden ache, as if my heart had just been cleaved in two. “This can’t be.” I whispered to myself as I walked closer to the cell. Zach watched me from the corridor, a dark look of concern on his face as I approached the bars and looked inside the cell. There sitting against the wall, was the beaten and bloody form of my mate. “Adeline.” he croaked out, struggling to stand and then moving towards the bars. The closer he got the more real it became. Could this even be possible? “I don’t understand.” I muttered out, my heart pounding in my ears.
The man reached the bars and then held out his hand to me. Curious, I reached out with a single finger, and running it over the course skin of his bloody palm I gasped. A warm electric surge ran between us. The man smiled at me and we locked eyes. Tears began to fall down my face. “No. This can’t be.” I said backing up from the cell and turning back towards the stairs. I started walking away, the loud clack off my heels thundering around the room. “Adeline! Please wait!” The man cried out. I heard footsteps behind me. Arms wrapped around me and my whole back exploded with thousands of tiny sparks. The bond felt heightened, and overwhelmed I melted into Zach’s hold.
“This rogue says he’s your mate Ade.” Zach said gently, turning me towards him. “Tell him he’s wrong.” He demanded, choking slightly on the last words. I met his eyes, feeling completely lost. “I can’t.” I whispered. “I don’t understand.” I said shaking my head back and forth as if to reset it. “You said wolves had one mate. How is this possible?” “Oh shit.” I heard Jonah mutter behind me as he shuffled from on foot to the other. It was Zach’s turn to shake his head. He shook slightly as his mouth opened and then closed. “I-I don’t know. It shouldn’t be. Wait, he knew. How would he know? Have you met him before? Did you lie to me?” Zach finally managed to ask, his hands squeezing my arms hard enough to hurt. His eyes became black with the thought of my betrayal. “N-no, I, I , pro-promise.” I stuttered, scared for the first time at what Zach’s reaction might be.
“Don’t touch her!” The man screamed from the cell. “She doesn’t know anything. Adeline, I know this is hard for you right now, but please, please let me talk to you.” He continued, earning a loud growl from Zach who released me and charged the bars. Shoving his hand inside he grabbed the rogues jacket, and violently jerked him forward slamming him into the bars. A wild anger consumed me. “Stop!” I screamed out “Stop hurting him!” Zach released him and looked over at me like a kicked puppy. I walked towards the cell, now determined to make sense of it all.
The moment I got close to the bars, Zach held his arm out in front of me stopping me from coming any closer. “Don’t test me.” his eyes moved from the man to me threateningly. The man’s eyes examined me quickly, eyes resting on my neck and shoulders. “He hasn’t marked you yet. Has he forced you to mate with him?” He asked before I had a chance to talk. Zach growled loudly at him. “N-no, of course not. Zach wouldn’t hurt me.” I answered honestly. “Then what happened to your shoulder? That looks pretty fresh.” The man questioned. “I fought them, when they-when I first came here.” I answered looking at my shoes. “Adeline, they attacked you, of course you fought back! Don’t say that like them hurting you is your fault.” He screamed pounding at the bars. I flinched, not sure what to say to that.
“God, this is all my fault” he turned away from the bars for a moment running his hands down his bruised face. “I failed you Adeline. I was supposed to be protecting you from all this and I failed you.” He turned back to me, eyes large with a mixture of sadness and anger. I was so confused. “How could you have prevented that? Who are you?” I asked, finally finding my voice. “You don’t remember Ade?” He said softly. “I once told you that there would be a day when you realize how special you are, I also promised you, that when we saw each other again, I would give you my name.”
My mind was working in frenetic circles as I searched my memories. “You, you were the guy from the bus station. You stopped me from running away.” I said, remembering. He nodded his head. I moved forward and Zach’s hand fell away as he watched me confused. ”One day you will find out just how special you are.I just hope I’m there to see you when you do.” The words ran through me, a memory not forgotten but buried somewhere hallowed and close to my heart. The man’s hand reached out to me, cupping my cheek. “I had always hoped that you would forget being locked in the darkness, but a selfish part of me always wanted you to remember me.” He said to me softly, eyes locked on mine. “Brenden?” I asked, almost not believing what my mind was telling me.
He nodded, smiling. “It’s me Ade. It’s always been me.” He confirmed my suspicions with a smile. “You always did have a bad habit of ending up where you don’t belong.” He added throwing Zach a dirty look. “Where did you go? Wait, did you know? Did you know then what I was?” I asked, flooded with questions. He looked down, dropping his hand from me. “I had to leave, you ended up in that awful place because of me, because I was careless. I thought you would be safer without me.” He paused looking me in the eyes again. “I’ve always known. I’ve known what you were since the day you were born.” I took a step back, my jaw dropped, and my hand hovered over my heart. “Brenden, you were a child. That wasn’t your fault. Why, why didn’t you tell me? How could you have been there when I was born? My file says my mom died in the hospital alone. She had no visitors, she was alone.” the words ran from my mouth, the current of my curiosity too strong and fast moving to hold in.
“My job was to protect you Ade, so yes, I failed. I couldn’t tell you. You were safer as a human, and Ade your mother didn’t die in a hospital. She never made it that far. They were everywhere she never would have made it.” Brendens eyes glazed over as he was torn between painful memories of the past and the present. “If it will make you feel better, then you should know that she wasn’t alone when she died.” He added “So she was a wolf then?” I asked. “No, she was no wolf, but she was the most beautiful person I knew. I secretly envied you before you were born. I wished she could have been my mom.” He said with a small smile on his lips as he looked me over. “You look a lot like her you know. It’s your eyes.” I nodded, tears rolling down my face.
Swiping away my tears, I tilted my head towards the ceiling and closed my eyes. Swallowing the surge of sobs that were building in my throat, I slowly lowered my head. Opening my eyes, I locked my blues on his dancing green orbs. His eyes flickered in the dim light, and I could tell he was having a hard time pushing his wolf back. “Brenden, do you know what happened to my family? Do you know who my father was?”
His eyes slowly closed. Pulling in a shaky breath he reached for my hand. Placing my small hand in his, he held it gently. Running his fingers over my knuckles, his eyes returned to mine. “I do, Ade. I do, but I can’t tell you here. Not in front of him. I promised to protect you, and keeping this secret is the best way to keep you safe.”
I wanted to yell. I wanted to demand that he tell me everything he knew. I had waited years to know the truth. Keeping it from me felt unnecessarily cruel. I opened my mouth to tell him as much, but the look in his eyes had me snapping my mouth shut. A shiver ran down my spine at the conviction in his eyes. He not only believed what he had told me, but the weight of the story he held left the shadow of fear in his expression.
He had kept this secret since childhood. Harbored it away from prying ears and wagging tongues because whatever it was was so damning that people, my family, had died for it. Frustration leaked from the corners of my eyes, seeking the only release I would allow it. Nodding, and accepting the reality of his words was hard. My head felt heavy and my body was slightly unresponsive, refusing to give up. He would tell me, I silently vowed. I would make sure of it.
Giving my hand a small squeeze, Brendens broken smile diffused some of the tension that crackled between us. “Ade.” he breathed my name as he moved closer to the bars. “I don’t know what they’ve said to you, or what they’ve done, but you don’t have to be here. Ade, you can have a life away from this place. A life that you choose . . .” A ground shaking roar erupted to the right of me. My hand was ripped from Brendens and I was suddenly in the air. Zach had scooped me up and was walking me away from Brenden. “Let me down!” I struggled in his hold. “No” he answered angrily as he marched up the stairs. He shifted his hold on me, scooping up more of the fabric of my black dress underneath me as he carried me from the compound.
Opening the drivers side door of his car he climbed in, moving me over to the seat next to him before starting the car. His breaths were coming out in quick angry puffs as he sped away. “Zach, please.” I pleaded softly. He couldn’t even look at me, he just shook his head and kept driving. Arriving at his house, he exited the car before walking to the passenger side and opening the door. He picked me up without giving me the option to get out on my own. Pausing at the door, he typed in the code on the keypad on his door handle, before shoving the door open. Kicking it closed, he carried me to the back of the house, and then up the stairs.
I had expected him to put me down in my room, but instead he pushed the door open to his and dropped me on his bed. I could feel curls bouncing out of my updo at his slightly rough treatment of me. Suddenly feeling vulnerable I smoothed my skirt over my legs and tucked the ends underneath me. He started pacing back and forth in front of the bed. After a minute or so, I began studying the rug under his feet, impressed that he hadn’t worried a trail in the heavy ply. I started to get up but Zach held a hand out to me. “Stay. Please. Stay.” I sat back down biting my lip.
Turning to me, he watched me. Fixating on my eyes,he then moved to my lips, then my heaving chest. “You have no idea how hard I am fighting to not mark you right now.” He said, pulling his eyes from me and returning to his hypnotic pacing. Freezing up, I stayed firmly planted on his bed while he paced. “Do you want to be with him?” He suddenly spat at me, stopping mid-pace. “What? Zach I barely know him.” I said aghast, not believing he just asked me such a question. “Do you want to be with him?” He growled again as if it hurt him. “No! Zach please just don’t hurt him! Just let him go.” I asked remembering Brenden’s appearance.
Zach looked at me with wide eyes. “And risk him taking you? I can’t do that.” Tears ran down my face yet again “Please he will go, I will ask him to leave. Just don’t hurt him.” He approached me now, kneeling in front of me. “I can’t Ade, I just . . .” he stopped, running a hand through his hair. “He can come back with more rogues in the future and without assurance of how you feel, my wolf -I just can’t. If you were marked things would be different.” He said getting up again. Jumping from the bed I grabbed Zach’s hand and pulled him to me. “M-mark me.” I said looking him in the eyes. His eyes bulged. “What?” “Mark me.” I repeated.
“Now?” He asked, his eyes turning gold. “I need a couple of days. Then, if you promise to let him go, I will let you mark me.” He considered it for a second before shaking his head. “I want to mark you because you want to be with me not-” “I do want to be with you.” I cut him off. “Let’s face it. This was always how this was going to end.” So here it was. The music had stopped. “Ade.” Zach said hands on my face, unsure of what to say. “We can do it the night of the Full Moon Ceremony . I just need a couple of days to wrap my head around everything. Also I need to talk to Brenden.” He growled. “He knows about my past! He has the answers I’ve been waiting for my whole life!” Tears threatened to make another appearance as I choked these words out.
“Fine. The Full Moon Ceremony it is then” he said. “Seems like the perfect day for you to gain your place as the luna of this pack.” He pulled me into him, face buried in the crook of my neck. “Are you sure this is what you want?” He asked me, his hot breath on my skin. “Yes. I’m sure.” I whispered, resolute yet somehow still terrified.