For the Best
The next day I found myself climbing up the stairs to the room I was once interrogated in. This time instead of holding up my shorts, I was holding a notebook and a pencil. I had spent my night thinking about the questions I had wanted to ask. It was going to be hard to not ask about my family, but if I could get Zach to leave us alone maybe he would tell me. I knew there was next to no chance of that happening, but I was determined.
Zach was walking behind me, his palm on the small of my back. He had insisted that I sleep in his bed last night. Even with me next to him, he barely slept. He acted like I would disappear if he let me out of his sight. It made me feel like some prized pet that he was too afraid to let off the leash.
Entering the room, I froze as Brendens scent hit me. It set my nerves on fire, and seeing him sitting where I once did, hands shackled to the metal table, I suddenly wanted nothing more than to free him. Walking around the table, I sat on the opposite side, a small smile on my lips. I was afraid to offer him more than that. My time with him was limited, and I didn’t want Zach to end our session early out of jealousy.
Zach entered the room after me walking to a small desk and chair on the far side of the room. Leaning against the desk he looked at Brenden menacingly, letting his presence be known. “It’s nice to see that you weren’t dragged off and brutally marked last night.” Brenden said leaning back in his chair and tilting his head up, directing the words more towards Zach then me. “That would have never happened.” I said as calmly as I could. Being in such close proximity to him was messing with my head. “That decision has always been mine to make and I have made it.” I said evenly.
Brenden whipped his head towards me, looking alarmed. “In two days, There will be a Full Moon Ceremony, on that night I will take my place as Zach’s mate and luna of this pack. In three days, you will be released. You will be escorted to a bus station where I have bought you a bus ticket. You will get on that bus, and you will never return here. That is as far as I can guarantee your safety.” I said looking him in the eyes. His eyes became slits as he looked from me to Zach. “Did you choose this on your own or did he threaten you with me?” He demanded. “I chose this on my own. All of it.” I said looking at him as seriously and coldly as I could. I must have been doing a horrible job at it because his eyes softened.
“I’ve asked them to bring you here today because I have some questions that I would like you to answer.” I said more to my notebook then to him. “I’m sure you do.” He said, still staring at my face. “How did you know I was here?” I started, hoping that just jumping in would make this easier. “I’ve been keeping tabs on you since I left the Lawsons. I’ve been checking in on you your whole life.” Zach snorted and rolled his eyes. “If you have been in her life all this time then why didn’t she recognize you? She would have known what you were.” Zach asked incredulously.
“I kept my distance. I limited all my interactions with her after her first shift. She would have been able to recognize me for what I was after that.” Brenden answered looking at me, and doing his best to ignore Zach. “How did you know when I had shifted?” I asked, curious. “Because I was there when it happened.” Brenden answered matter-of-factly. “W- what?” I stuttered, surprised by his answer. “How often did you ‘check-in’ on me?” Shifting uncomfortably in his chair Brenden sighed. “I would check in on you every couple of months. Spend a day just making sure you were okay.”
Brenden leaned forward in his chair, trying to get comfortable on the cold metal. “The day you shifted happened to be one of those days, so I witnessed your first shift kind of by accident.” Zach snorted loudly. We both shot him a look before Brenden continued. “I watched you leave your house without shoes or a jacket on. You were dazed, and stumbling through the snow to the trees. I was worried, so naturally I followed you. When you started to change it took every ounce of self control I had not to go to you. It’s important to keep calm during your first shift. You had no idea what was happening to you. You must have been terrified. It was hard to watch. I was about to go to you when you changed. You were so strong and beautiful.” He smiled at me.
Remembering my first shift I shivered. Then going rigid in my chair I slowly looked up at him. “The howl. That was you.” Brenden nodded. “I needed you to know you weren’t alone. That you were heard.” I nodded, remembering how much that howl had meant to me. “You saw me again after that?” I asked, needing to know. “I intervened a couple more times.” He smiled at me coyly. He kept looking at me nervously, trying to gauge my reaction. “Like when?” I asked seriously. It was odd to realize you had been watched your whole life without being aware of it. Now that I knew I wanted to know just how much he saw, and how many moments of my life I had unknowingly shared with him.
“Are you sure you want to do this in front of him?” Brenden glared over at Zach. “She’s not doing it without me.” Zach growled back at him. Shocked by the intensity of his growl I nodded quickly. “Okay then.” Brenden answered looking directly at Zach, letting him know he wasn’t intimidated. “I saw that you used to read a lot. You would skip class and read under the bleachers in the football field. That was where you and Sarah tried smoking pot for the first time.” He chuckled and I wasn’t sure if it was at the memory or the look on my face.
“That was a one time thing.” I said to Zach quickly. “Was it?” Brenden asked playfully, smiling at my raised eyebrow and serious expression. The smile quickly faded from his lips. “Your senior year. I’m sorry I showed up late to that. You were already much too involved with that guy before I could stop it.” His hands shook a little. My heart mirrored his movements.
His name was Phil. I was 17, and he was handsome, older and a bit dangerous. He acted like he cared about me and I fell for it. I gave him all of me, only for him to turn around and try to get me to keep giving him my all in the audience of his friend. I refused and well, he got angry. Angry enough to use me as an ashtray.
“When I saw how he was with you, I knew he was bad news. I followed you guys into his apartment. I heard you yelling. He was drunk and I could hear all the awful things he was saying to you through the open window. When he took his cigarette to you, I ran for the door and rang the bell. When he answered I made sure he would never think of looking your way again.” His whole body had gone rigid with anger. I looked down at my hands embarrassed. Feeling eyes on me I looked up to see Zach staring at me, a mixture of concern and fury on his face. “Thank you.” I said to Brenden shifting my attention back to him. That moment had got him off me, allowing my escape. I had always wondered why I never saw him again after that night. “and to think that dumb ass thought he was getting pizza.” I said quietly to myself, wishing I could have seen the expression on his face when he found Brenden on the other side of his door instead of the delivery man.
“When did you know we were mates?” I asked putting the subject of Phil behind us, and asking one of the questions I wanted an answer to the most. Brenden smiled. ” I hadn’t seen you for a year. I decided it was time to stop in and see that you were okay. I was walking to your campus when I smelt the most amazing thing. The scent of my mate. I got excited and followed the scent into this crazy backyard frat party. I was getting nervous, thinking I was going to have to pull my mate out of some drunk guys arms, and then I saw you. There were so many distracting scents in the air, it was getting hard to keep tracking my mate, but the sight of you distracted me.”
He smiled at me, then his face resumed it’s far away expression as he continued reliving the memory. “I had only been gone a year but you had really grown up. You were gorgeous, and you were also incredibly drunk. You were laughing with your girlfriends, and this guy by the pool had his eyes on you. The way he looked at you pissed me off. I always knew you’d be too beautiful for your own good. He came up behind you to dance and I stepped in instead. You turned around to face me and when you looked at me I knew. It was you. It made sense. I had watched over you all your life, and now I had the chance to do it properly. To make you as happy as I knew you should be.” He leaned back still caught up in the memory.
The way he told his story had my heart thumping and my cheeks burning. The air between us sizzled. I wanted to lean in and touch his hand, but Zach was there and I know it wouldn’t have felt right. The mate bond was overpowering sitting between the two. At this point I was proud I was even functioning being around both of them for this long. “What did you do?” I blinked my flush back, disturbed that I couldn’t remember. “Well, you yelled that I should dance with you so I put my hands on your waist and danced.” Putting my head down in my hands I groaned, embarrassed. “That’s not even the best part. When we stopped you put your face in my chest and declared that I smelt ‘so so good.’ ” Seeing the look of mortification on my face Brenden laughed and Zach stifled a chuckle by pretending to cough.
“Why don’t I remember any of this?” I asked myself out loud. “You were tanked. I escorted you home from the party and you were basically passed out by the time we opened your front door. Leaving you there was so hard.” He finished with a grimace. “Then why did you?” I asked, my tone hostile. “I didn’t want to mess up your life, ” he answered simply. Sensing I was upset, Zach stepped forward. “I think she’s had enough for today.” Brenden looked from me to smirk at Zach. “I think you’ve had enough for today.” “What’s that supposed to mean?” Zach asked leaning in towards Brenden menacingly. “I think it’s hard for you to hear about all the history we have between us because deep down you know you can’t compete with that.”
The minute Brendens mouth closed Zach was on him. Brenden, seeing Zach coming, jumped up and dodged Zachs incoming punch. Both men started growling as they started to fight. Brendens hands were still cuffed to the table so he dodged , then kicked out at Zach as Zach threw a continuous string of punches at him. Running towards Zach I wrapped my arms around his waist and tried tugging his massive form back. Feeling me on him he stopped and allowed me to move him back. Looking back at me, he gave me a small smile. “I’m sorry Ade.” Nodding at him he took my hand as I led him towards the door. If only they could have behaved long enough for me to ask about my parents.
“Ade wait!” Brenden cried out still standing in his place behind the table. “I’m sorry I stayed away as long as I did. I’m sorry I left you alone. I figured you would be safer away from me. I wanted to create a safe place for you, for us. Imagine my surprise when I came to get you and discovered you were already gone. That I had failed. I’m so sorry they took you, that you got dragged into all of this.” His face was stained with the various shades of his grief and guilt. My mouth went dry. Looking him in the eyes I nodded, not trusting my voice to speak.
This time Zach led me out the door. The moment we left, two guards went in to take Brenden back to his cell. Knowing Brenden was locked up here for me made my heart hurt. Knowing that I was falling in love with the man who kept him locked up, and that both men were my mate, made my heart hurt even more. If I thought it was confusing getting used to one mate, I was in way over my head with two.
After talking to Brenden, Zach took me home. Getting into the car I put my head in my hands and groaned. Everything I had been thinking and feeling was amplified. Being around Brenden made me second guess my decision to be with Zach and being with Zach made me feel guilty for my feelings for Brenden. “You okay?” He asked me as he started to drive. “Yeah, I’m just feeling a lot of things all at once.” I said. Feeling bad I turned to him “How are you feeling? This must be hard, I’m sorry I’m putting you through all this.” Zach nodded then sent me a small smile. “Don’t feel bad, you couldn’t have predicted this would happen. I’m feeling weird. I honestly didn’t think something like this was even possible and I am feeling jealous, and worried I could lose you, then mad at myself for not handling this better.” I reached over and grabbed his hand, sending him my most reassuring smile.
“You know the worst part of this whole thing?” He asked, looking me over. “The worst part is that he’s right. He knows all this stuff about you that I don’t. He has a history with you, creepy history, but history. Part of me feels horrible for taking that from you, but another part of me knows he can’t give you what I can and is happy that you still picked me.” He explained, continuously glancing between the road and I. “Is that weird?” He was obviously feeling insecure about sharing these kinds of feelings with me. “No.” I said looking him in the eyes before he turned back towards the road.
Pulling up to his house, we saw Joanne waiting on the front porch. Getting out, Zach ran to open the door for her. “Thanks for coming.” He said letting her in the house. The two of them entered the house, and I followed closely behind them. “Can I get you something to drink?” He asked her as he motioned towards the kitchen. “No thanks, let’s just get right to business.” Joanne said. “Business?” I asked looking at them both. “I asked her here to talk to us about what can cause something like this to happen with a mate bond.” Zach explained motioning Joanne to the couch before he himself sat down. He motioned for me to sit next to him, and I did, curious as to what Joanne would have to say.
“We see cases where a wolf has more than one mate bond rarely.” She started looking back and forth between us. “Sometimes it happens for twins, and other times it happens to wolves who are the last of their pack. It is like a survival instinct to keep the genetics of their pack alive. If this rogue you found was also from Ade’s pack, this would make a lot of sense.” Sitting back, I thought about everything she said . “So if I could have this bond with Brenden because we are the last of our pack then why would it develop with Zach as well?” I wondered aloud thinking it was weird that I would develop a second bond when unbeknownst to me, I had already met Brenden and recognized him as my mate. ” I’m thinking it all comes down to that survival gene Ade. That or depending on what you believe, luna may have bonded you with one wolf, and the evolutionary need to survive with another.” Joanne elaborated. I guess that makes sense. If I chose to believe in that sort of thing. If the reason I had two mate bonds was the latter though it posed an awkward question. Who was I meant to be with and who was the mate of necessity?
Joanne made it sound like Brenden would have been an evolutionary thing, but I met him first. Who’s to say it isn’t the other way around? Just thinking that made me feel guilty. I couldn’t start thinking about these things. I had already made up my mind and it was what was best for everybody. “Ade.” Joanne said looking at me. “I know about the recent decision you’ve made, and I think you’ve made a good one. The thing is though, there is still something you are going to have to do, so that you and that rogue can move on.” She said, shifting uneasily in her chair. “What’s that?” I asked. “Tomorrow when you go to see him for the last time, you need to reject him.” Hearing this made my chest hurt. I laid my hand over my beating heart confused. “What is that?” I asked.
Taking my hand from over my heart, Zach turned me to look at him. “Do you remember when I first told you about mates, and I said that mates could choose not to be together? Well when they do that, they formally reject each other. You will have to tell him that you reject him as your mate. It will hurt you both, but if you want him to be free to find love in the future, it is something you will have to do.”
They both just looked at me while I thought this over. “After everything he has done for me, isn’t that kind of cruel?” I asked. Joanne smiled at me sadly “Not as cruel as leaving him to a life where he can’t move on from you. Do you want him to be alone for the rest of his life? It sounds dramatic but for a werewolf it is a real possibility. We mate for life.” She said softly. “I wouldn’t want that for him.” I answered. “Then tomorrow you have to reject him.” Zach said, looking me in the eyes before pulling me into his chest.