Astrid looked simply stunning as she made her way into the great hall where Khaos was waiting for her at the end of the walkway. Eros and I had slipped in quietly and sat at the back, remaining silent and still so as not to draw attention to ourselves. We had our bags next to us, ready to take off as soon as the ceremony was done. Most of the guards were reassigned to watch over the new arrival and her family, seen as though they were the guests of honour.
I had read Khaos’ letter the moment we sat down, and it was all I could do to hold myself together. I kept repeating the same thing to myself over and over: Just a few hours more. A few hours more and this will all be behind us.
But it wouldn’t be behind us, would it?
I might be able to remove myself physically, but I couldn’t help the way I felt. Despite the hurt, I knew that I would treasure the letter for as long as I lived. I pulled it out once more and took comfort in his loving words.
“Hey, little one,
I know this probably feels morbid, and I know you’re probably going to get angry at my next words, but I couldn’t risk this not working, and you not having something left behind to try to comfort you.
I’ve never been a man that had an easy way with words. Every emotion I ever had before I met you was something that was born from intense hurt and pain. I had conditioned myself to feel nothing. And then you came along and blew me away – life has never been the same since.
I’ve spent a lot of time tonight watching you sleep. I couldn’t help but think about the first time we met. I looked at you, and I was lost.
I had never seen a woman more beautiful, or more radiant than you were that day. You were so young and perfect; I was almost scared to touch you. I knew I was no good, and I didn’t want to ruin any of your fragile innocence.
But I also knew there was no way in hell I could ever keep my hands off you.
I was yours that day, as surely as you were mine.
Life as I knew it changed that very moment.
And then it changed again when I saw you with our son. You’re amazing, Violet.
There are so many things I wanted to say in this letter. I wanted to remind you to buy an extra blanket because your feet are always cold. I want to remind you to drink more water and stop skipping your meals when you’re stressed. I want to remind you that some things can be put off until tomorrow. But it wouldn’t make a difference. You’re as stubborn as you are beautiful. And no doubt in a few years’ time when you rediscover this letter, you will do so with cold feet and realise you skipped breakfast that day. Hopefully, despite the passage of time, you’ll remember this moment and you’ll smile. You’ve always said I was an insufferable know it all!
I also wanted to remind you that you are strong, and the most amazing mother I’ve ever seen. But you know all that, Violet. You know you can live without me, and you’ve proven that you will do whatever it takes to survive. You don’t need reminding of that. There’s a storm inside you, a fierceness that cannot be denied.
So instead, I’ll tell you of a few of the ways you’ve changed me.
You showed me what it was to see the world in colour. Before you, everything was evil. Black and white. Now I see rainbows, and no more shadows. You made me into a man, Violet. And for that, I will be eternally grateful.
Promise me that if ever you feel like life is too much, that the road is too long and painful, take a step back and see yourself as I see you. There’s no one in this world like you. Nobody even comes close. Take a step back and listen to the whisper on the wind. I’ll be there, Violet. I’ll help you find your way.
Thank you for taking care of me, for showing me a new path. Thank you for protecting me and keeping my memory alive. Thank you for so much – things you’re not even aware you did. But the biggest thank you of all? Thank you for doing me the honour of being my mate. Our time together was brief, but unrivalled. Our love will transcend time, and I’ll be waiting for you on the other side, ready for our souls to reunite.
That’s not to say you have to pine for me. You were my whole world, my reason for living. My life. I have no regrets. But I am only a brief moment of time in your life. Don’t be afraid to open your heart again. If you find someone who truly deserves you, who loves you as you deserve to be loved, and someone you can see yourself loving just as much in return, I want you to grab them with both hands and never let go.
I have to go. The sun is creeping up and I still have loads to do. Take me with you in your heart, but live your life. It’s time you started laughing again, Violet.
Forget this place. Forget Grey. Forget everything that ever brought you pain. You deserve nothing but the best.
I’ll be here… when the time is right.
I love you.
I folded the paper carefully and put it in my pocket, knowing that I would reread this over and over until the pages were ripped and the ink was smudged. Not that it mattered. His words were already imprinted on my heart.
There was another note for Eros, but when I offered to read it to him, he had shaken his head. I don’t think he was quite as ready to say goodbye to his father as he would have me believe. As soon as we were away from this place, we were sitting down and having a heart to heart. I wouldn’t push him, but I needed him to know that I was here for him, no matter what.
I could hear Astrid in the back as people fussed about her, making sure that she was well taken care of. I looked around and caught Grey’s eyes. Despite my heartbreak, I shot him a triumphant smile, noting that the blood on his stomach was beginning to seep through the bandage that had been applied.
He would think twice before he challenged me again, and that gave me hope that maybe Eros and I stood a good chance of getting away from here.
I had no doubt he was already planning his revenge, but he had to assemble a team of people and attack me as a group. He wouldn’t face me alone. And whilst Astrid and her family were still here, we had time.
The crowd gasped and Astrid paused nearby as she waited for the wolves to get to their feet to watch her walk down the aisle. I got a good look at her, seeing her perfect, fragile beauty. I knew that I was beautiful too, but over the years I had gained a hardened edge to my beauty. Years of fighting on my own had put a look of fierceness behind my eyes. I no longer looked like the doe-eyed beauty who saw the world so innocently. I was a stark contrast to Khaos’ new mate. Astrid looked sweet and innocent. Another reminder of something else that had been stolen from me.
I rolled my eyes at her, hating her even though none of this was her fault. I couldn’t help it. I hated that she was going to share all of my firsts with Khaos – the first kiss, the first pregnancy, the first time they said I love you. I hated it even more that she was going to get all the first I had missed out on. She was going to see the first time Khaos held his baby. He was going to be there for the baby’s first steps. He was going to be there for his grandchildren. Astrid was getting everything that was fated to happen to me, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.
I also hated that they were having a stupid mating ceremony. It just felt like another one of Grey’s dirty tricks to hurt me. Mating ceremonies did not always take place. They were similar to a human wedding and were only in place today to announce Astrid’s new place in the pack, as well as giving her the opportunity to say goodbye to her parents. As soon as this ceremony was over, the two mates would disappear into the woods, running together as their wolves as Astrid teased Khaos into chasing her and dominating her, submitting her wolf to him, and finally completing the mating process by biting each other and solidifying the bond.
I wondered if this would hurt me. My mating bond was intact, and I remembered all too well the agonising, soul-shattering pain I had felt the first time this was torn from me. I saw Eros glance up at me and put on a brave face, smiling reassuringly at him. I would have to brace myself for the pain that I knew was coming and find a way to live with it. I was all Eros had in this cruel world and from this moment on I promised myself that his life would be filled with nothing but happiness.
Astrid began her walk down the aisle, smiling softly at whatever guests caught her eye. I scoffed quietly, seeing through her farce. This was her way of assessing the wolves in her new pack, trying to decide who had what place, who held the most power and asserting her new dominance as their Beta’s mate. From what Grey had told me, this was a step down for her as an Alpha’s daughter and she was going to make damn sure that she still had the same level of respect that she had always received growing up.
As she made her way down, I started saying my goodbyes.
Goodbye to the love I had once had. Goodbye to the laughs we shared. Goodbye to the fights that took over us, the tears that hurt us, the arguments that defined us and the lovemaking that consumed us. Goodbye to the fire that ignited whenever we were around each other and goodbye to the two soulmates who never got their chance.
Goodbye to the man who was my everything. The man who showed me love. The man who made me a mother. I will never forget you.
I had to bite my cheeks to stop myself from sobbing out loud. I felt like a teenager again. This goodbye was eerily similar to the one I had already given him. The one where I promised our son would grow up knowing who he was. I had never broken that promise, and I would be forever grateful that he had been given the chance to know his dad, even for a brief moment.
My heart squeezed tightly in my chest as Astrid reached to the front, standing in front of Khaos with a gentle look in her eyes.
I couldn’t pull my gaze away from the two of them.
My mate and his mate.
It was the most painful thing I had ever witnessed.
Khaos cupped her face in his hands and planted a kiss on each of her cheeks. I knew every inch of his mouth so well that my eyes were instantly drawn to it, reading the words “you look beautiful” as they fell from his lips.
How was it possible that only a few hours ago, those lips had been on mine? How was it possible that only hours ago, the love he was ready to give Astrid was reserved solely for me? How was it possible for him to not remember?!
“Mummy?” Eros whispered, bringing my attention to him. “I think we’ve said goodbye now, we don’t have to stay to the end.”
Goddess knew what I did to deserve this little boy, but I wasn’t about to argue with him.
I forgot how connected the two of us were, and how easily he was able to read me and sense my emotions. As much as I was the Alpha in our little pack of two, his wolf knew the power and dominance it held and took care of me even though he was young. He knew that it was only a matter of time before he outgrew me and became Alpha himself. It was just a waiting game as far as his wolf was concerned, and already he was establishing the role of being the caregiver.
“Are you sure?” I asked, and he simply nodded at me, giving my hand a squeeze.
I took Eros’ bag from his hands and hauled them both over my shoulder, stopping only for a moment to take one final look at the love of my life.
As though he could feel my gaze on him, Khaos turned in my direction, our eyes connecting.
I was trapped. I couldn’t break away from him no matter how I tried.
Every inch of my body turned towards him, the same pull I had felt all those years ago once again taking over me. He held me mesmerised; the years slipping away as once again I was the eighteen-year-old wolf that he had easily wrapped up in his spell, calling to me wherever he went.
He was mine as surely as I was his; it was written in the stars to be that way.
I felt that way all that time ago, and I still felt that way now. Not even the Gods could keep us apart.
As though he could read my thoughts, Khaos shot me a tiny wink that sent butterflies wildly darting around my stomach. I didn’t dare to hope what that could mean.
Khaos tore his eyes away from me and turned to address the crowd, pulling his phone out of his pocket as he did so.
“Mummy,” Eros tugged on my arms. “What is he doing?”
“I have no idea, darling” I whispered back, placing my finger to my lips when Khaos began to talk.
“Thank you for coming, ladies and gentlemen. However, today isn’t going to go the way we planned, unfortunately.” He turned to Astrid as my heart pounded in my chest. “Astrid, you’re more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. It would have been an honour to have you by my side, and it would have been a privilege and a blessing to be able to call you my mate.”
He paused to look over at her father, who was glaring at him with anger and growing hatred. “She is a credit to you, sir, and would I be in a position to take a chosen mate, she would have been perfect.” He turned back to Astrid. “However, I can’t mate with you for one reason and one reason only.” He pulled down the collar of his shirt to reveal the distorted mark on his neck - my mark. “I already have a mate.”
The entire pack seemed to gasp at once before coming together in a collective silence, the air thick with tension. Grey stepped forward, looking as though he was going to murder Khaos there and then, but he was pulled back by Astrid’s father, who looked as anxious to hear what Khaos had to say as everyone else did.
“I’m sorry for wasting all your time by continuing this farce, however now that I have you all here, there’s something I need to show you.”