Just Across the Hall
My eyes went wide. Did that mean what I thought it did? What was he saying? “Wait. Are you-?” Zach absolutely beamed before saying “I am Zachary Williams, alpha of the moon ridge pack. It’s nice to finally meet you Adeline.” All the color drained from my face. My mouth fell open for a moment and my mind reeled.
This is the moment to have something smart to say, I screamed at myself as my arms hugged myself awkwardly. Snapping out of my trance all I could manage to whisper out was “So you’re him.” You’re my future, I finished to myself. “Him?” He repeated, more to himself than me. “The reason I’m here.” I clarified still whispering. “I guess I am.” He smiled again, reaching his hand out for me to take.
I looked from his hand to him before shaking my head and sliding out of the car. My body was still shaking from my near panic attack. Dropping his hand with a shrug he motioned for me to follow him as he walked to the door. The trunk door slamming, had me looking over my shoulder. Patrick had grabbed my backpack from the car. Turning I walked over to him. Reaching out, I thanked him for retrieving my bag. Turning back towards the house I noticed Zach was waiting for me in the open doorway.
Walking to meet him, he gestured me inside. Entering his home, I could feel Patrick at my back as I walked far enough into the entry way for both men to comfortably stand inside. I let my eyes drift over the highly polished hardwood before I risked a look behind me. The men seemed to be staring at each other. Patrick looked over at me and Zach nodded before Patrick walked back out the door and left. Nervous that I was now alone with the alpha, I tightened my grip on my bag and tried to keep my eyes low. The last thing I needed was for them to claim I knew too much about the Alphas house to go free. I almost rolled my eyes just thinking about it.
“Hey, I know it’s late, but would you like something to eat?” Zach asked breaking me out of my thoughts. At the mention of food my stomach gurgled loudly. ” Traitor.” I whispered to my stomach only to hear Zach chuckle. Already mortified that I had unknowingly bad mouthed him, and the pack, in front of him, I would have rather hid under a rock then sit and eat with him. Motioning for me to follow him, he led me to the kitchen in the back of the house.
Leading Adeline through the house, I concentrated on calming both my breath and my wolf. Her scent, an airy mix of heather and earth, wafted towards me with every step she took. All I wanted was to bury my face in the crook of her neck and breathe in her enticing aroma. Every instinct I had was screaming to be close to her, to touch her.
Risking a glance back at her, I could see the anger, fear and apprehension on her face. I was sure that releasing my wolf on her, would only make matters worse. I had to stay in control. Luckily for me, my father had taught me to exercise control in all things that concerned my wolf and my pack. He taught me how to fight, how to control my strength, he taught me the logistics of running a pack, but the lesson he never stopped drilling into my skull was control.
I could still hear his voice, as he told me that the strength and instincts of an alpha was his greatest asset and weakness. Alphas had a very strong connection with their inner wolf. This gave them great command of their strengths, but also had them reacting out of basic instinct. Alphas were prone to anger, violence, and mass displays of power when threatened. They were always quick to fight and to act.
My father taught me to reign in these instincts. To stay calm, and rational when I needed to be, without suppressing my connection with my wolf. It was hard. It required open dialogue with my wolf, without letting him take control. There were still times I lost control, but for the most part, I stayed pretty on top of it.
Reaching the kitchen, I turned and smiled at Adeline. “So, are you in the mood for anything?” I asked pensively. “I’ll have whatever you’re having.” She halfheartedly joked, a nervous smile on her lips. Opening the fridge, I rummaged through its contents, looking for something she might like. Grimacing, I realized I had neglected to go shopping recently. Recognizing something I could do with the few sparse ingredients I had, I called out “How does a BLT sound?” I turned closing the door slightly, Not wanting her to see how poorly stocked the fridge was. “Sounds good.” She smiled again, the motion not reaching her eyes.
Pulling out the ingredients, I started placing bacon in a skillet. Taking a seat on the bar stool behind the kitchen island, Adeline put her head down on her hands as she watched me. After a couple of minutes of silence, she lifted her head up and asked “Can I help you with something?” Realizing she needed something to do, I nodded before pointing up at the cabinet. “Sure, could you toast some bread and wash the tomatoes and lettuce please?” Nodding in response she got to work.
I watched as she washed and dried veggies. Turning back around I flipped the bacon. Hearing the cabinet door open, I turned just in time to see her standing on her tip-toes to reach the toaster on the top shelf. I don’t remember why I put the toaster there, but I was sure glad I did. I couldn’t stop my eyes from roaming her figure as she stretched. Fighting a growl that bubbled up from my throat, threatening to escape, the sudden popping of bacon snapped me out of my trance, and put my focus back on the food.
Once the bacon was done, I sliced the tomatoes and started assembling the sandwiches. Putting the last piece of bread on top I slid her sandwich to her. She eyed it appreciatively. Gods how I wished she looked at me like she did that sandwich. Taking a bite of her BLT her eyes lit up. Watching her lick her lips she went in for another bite. A drop of mayo fell out of the back of the sandwich and onto her lap. ‘Now I have two things to be jealous of’, I thought as reaching forward I handed her a napkin.
Seeing my hand come towards her she flinched. “I promised we wouldn’t hurt you.” I tried to reassure her as I held up the napkin for her to see. Noticing her roll her eyes at my statement I couldn’t help but say “You really don’t trust us. What cause have we given you to think we would hurt you.” Glancing at her shoulder, she took a moment before looking up and meeting my eyes. “You guys torture people.” Holding my gaze her expression dared me to deny it. “What makes you think that?” I asked curious as to what she’d say.
“The day I escaped; I heard a man being tortured in one of the cells.” Realization hit. Her behavior became a lot more understandable. “We don’t torture rogues for no reason, and we almost never torture females.” Looking back down at her plate, her gaze only hardened. “Why not females, and what did that guy do? Trip over your property line?”
Giving a sarcastic smirk I answered “That guy? No. He was found trying to kidnap one of our pups.” Shocked, her eyes grew wide. “His sister had stayed with the pack when he left, upset, he had come back to take her son. His goal was to raise him to fight the pack. ” I explained, watching her eyes grow wider still.
“We don’t torture female rogues because often times, they aren’t a rogue by choice, or they have no motive to hurt the pack. That’s not true for all of them though. Some have been abandoned, or have been raised by families that had defected, or even kidnapped and raised by rogues to one day boost their numbers.” I answered her other question, watching her as she studied her plate.
“What do you do with them?” She asked finally looking up at me.Smiling at her knowingly, I cleared my throat before explaining. “Well it depends on the situation. If they aren’t involved in anything bad, we try to assimilate them to the pack. Oftentimes they have no idea what being in a pack is actually like. Sometimes they end up finding their mate in a pack, so they stay, and become part of the pack family.” Adeline’s eyebrow raised and she tapped her fingers against the counter top.
“What you’re telling me is that you take stray wolves off the streets, forests, whatever, and stick them with a ‘mate’ so you have a few more pack members and one less rogue.” Wincing at her interpretation I tried to explain. “We don’t just ‘stick’ them with some random guy. They find their mate.” Adeline’s tilted her head to the slightly, her eyebrow remained cocked. Leaning back, I realized why she wasn’t understanding. I had suspected after her lack of reaction when we met, and her question at her apartment and this just confirmed it. She didn’t understand how wolves’ mate.
“Wolves don’t exactly, ahhhhhh, date, like humans do.” I started awkwardly. “Okay. . .?” She nodded, waiting for me to continue. “Wolves have mates, one person that they can create their strongest and sometimes only offspring with. We believe our mates are our soulmates. That the moon goddess, god, or whatever higher power you believe in, willed it that way.” In that moment I could see that my words birthed a million questions. They waited behind her wide eyes, while she tried to sort her thoughts. A tiny, and very adorable, crinkle formed between her eyes. Fighting the urge to smooth it away, I waited patiently.
“What if you don’t like the person who turns out to be your mate? What if you never find them? Wait. . . How do you even know?” I couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped my lips. Understanding what she meant I cleared my throat before replying “You don’t have to be with your mate. Although some can only have children with their chosen mate. Some wolves form perfectly happy relationships with someone else. Some reject their chosen mate. It is often a painful experience though.”
Giving her a chance to mull over what I just told her I paused. She nervously chewed the right corner of her lip. I traced the outline of her pink lips with my eyes, itching to feel if they were as soft as they looked. At this point, I didn’t care if it was the brush of my finger over her lips, or by pressing her lips against mine, I just had to know. Dragging my eyes away, my hands shook thinking about how to explain her most important question.
“Most wolves are brought up knowing how to identify their mate. Your mates smell will be intoxicating. . . Irresistible. You will automatically be drawn to them. You will develop feelings for them quickly and long to be with them. You feel safe with your mate, even when you think you shouldn’t. The first few times you touch. . .” Not being able to stop myself I reached out my hand and grazed my fingers over the back of her hand. She shivered as she raised her eyes to mine. “. . . You’ll feel sparks.” I almost whispered returning her stare.
Jumping up from her spot across the island, Adeline blushed deeply as she took her plate to the sink. “It’s been a long day. May I go to sleep now?” She asked, avoiding my face. “Yeah.” I answered my voice shaking “Of course.” Telling her to follow me, I led her up the stairs and down the hall to the room that was across from mine. Bidding her goodnight, I watched as she nodded and closed the door behind her. In that moment, part of me already missed her. I wondered how long I could keep her here and what information our investigation would turn up. I also wondered how I would ever get her to trust me.
Shaking my head, I turned and entered my own room, shutting the door behind me. With her room being so close and with the guards patrolling the perimeter of my property, I wasn’t worried she would escape. Getting ready for bed, I pulled my shirt off and slipped beneath my soft, gray sheets. Staring up at the ceiling, I thought about the rogue in the bedroom across from mine.
Truthfully, after searching her home and meeting her, I knew she wasn’t a threat. I doubted that she was a threat when we first interviewed her. When I was first informed of her escape, I was on my way back from visiting a neighboring pack. Rushing home, I met with Patrick and we surveyed the compound as he filled me in. Finding her escape route, we had called our warriors to the woods behind the compound.
Bringing out a bag with her clothes and Jeremy’s borrowed pants, we had everyone familiarize themselves with her scent before their hunt. Jeremy was already out looking for her since he already knew it. The men had shifted and ran off in different directions to find her. Deciding to join the hunt I pulled her shirt to my nose and had gasped at what I had found. Her scent triggered something in me, and I knew I had to find her. Seeing her in person only confirmed what my soul knew. She was meant for me. This outspoken woman was meant to be my Luna.