“Honey, I’m home?” I say unsure. I can’t quite make out if Michael’s angry, relieved, shocked, or all of the above. Finally his face and actions choose one and it unfortunately was the one I feared but expected the most. Anger.
“Honey,I’m home?! You are kidding aren’t you. We’ve been worried sick and this is what you have to say?” Michael’s outburst is startling and I find myself leaning towards Ivy for protection. The fury has changed Michael’s beautiful loving, green eyes black, making him look demonic. Michael blows out a huge huff of air and storms off to one of the rooms down the hall, slamming the door loudly behind him. I’m surprised I didn’t hear the door come crashing to the floor, flying clean off its hinges.
James continues to stand unsure in the kitchen looking after his best friend. He then turns to look from Ivy to me and back again. Even though I haven’t known him long, I know that I have affected him as well; Ivy’s worries are his worries. I wish I could go back and persuade myself to not be so impulsive. Feeling like a disappointment to my closest loved ones is torture. But you never would’ve seen Ryder. The tiny voice in my head whispers. My heart and mind are battling with each other and it’s making me confused to the point of wanting to break into a million pieces.
I stand from the barstool to follow after Michael. I need to sort things out with him. I wait for Ivy to stop me but she doesn’t. Slowly, I creep down the hall, the wood creaking in the same spots they always have. Judging by the crooked pictures hanging on either side of my bedroom door, I assume Michael’s inside and crack open the door. I feel like a disobedient child meeting with their upset parent. Michael sits on the end of my bed, peering towards the door. He heaves another large sigh.
“I’m sorry if I scared you back there,” he starts. I move to sit next to him. “I lost control for a moment. Rupert wanted to meet you so badly and when you left he was afraid he’d never get the chance to officially meet you. He was upset and then when you came back he just sorta snapped. Both of our emotions were riding high and that pent up anger just came out when we saw you. Please forgive me.” Michael looks into my eyes with complete sincerity and takes my hand. I watch his adam’s apple bob as he nervously swallows.
“I forgive you. I want to apologize too, for my impulsive attitude earlier. I guess I felt betrayed in a way that you had kept your true identity from me. I needed some space to clear my head. And…” I pause unsure if now was the time to bring up Ryder. I know this whole situation is because of secrets, but I need a peaceful moment with Michael. “And I don’t know. I don’t understand. Why me? Ivy spoke of mates as something every wolf searches for and I know I’m not your fated mate.” I stop myself. How would I, a human, know the difference between a chosen and fated mate if I’m supposed to not know the difference? I hope Michael missed that last statement.
Michael looks hurt for a moment. An agonizing expression crosses his face like a shadow. When he looks me in the eye, the sadness in his eye makes my heart throb.
“I guess you deserve to know... Her name was Sara,” he quietly says and stops as tears begin to glisten in his eyes. I don’t miss the past tense as he describes her. He shakes his head as more painful memories seem to flood his mind and he clears his throat, preparing to speak. “She was… amazing; everything to me. She was my other half.” Michael pauses as he thinks. “We met when I was 19, so a couple of years before I met you. She had just turned 18 and the whole community came to her party to celebrate her adulthood and ability to sense her mate. Immediately when I walked through those doors, I could sense her. By the pull of fate, we found each other and our story began,” he says. Michael seems happy in the relived moment, remembering his meeting with his other half. I remember my first meeting with Ryder, how we seemed to literally fall in love at first sight. Just the thought of him now, I can feel the pull from my very core tugging me towards Ryder. Does the thought of your mate always bring up these feelings?
“What happened?” I whispered. I’ve tried to stay quiet and let him talk at his own pace, but, after a long pause, I’m beginning to fear he won’t continue.
I watch as he breathes in and releases a huge sigh. “We umm… I guess in human terms we never actually “dated”. With werewolves things are less complicated in that sense,” he explains like I don’t know. I mean I shouldn’t know, but here we are. “We accepted each other as mates and had a mating ceremony within two weeks. Within the following year though, rogues had begun threatening pack borders. Getting more aggressive and forming into bigger groups. I told her to be safe. I told her when I leave her side to be with someone else. I… I-” He stops and inhales sharply, like he’s been stabbed. His breathing changes to a rapid pace. I wrap an arm around his shoulders and pull him close, hoping to relieve him of his guilt. “I should’ve been there to protect her. I never should have left her side.” His words are mumbled as he talks into my shoulder. With each deep calming breath in, I can feel him calming to normal.
“I rushed back from a border attack. I had felt her consciousness slip from mine when I was minutes away from the house and with a final searing pain, I could feel her soul being ripped from me-ripped from this world-as some rogue finished her off.” That’s when he stops. I can tell he cannot bear to go on anymore with the story.
“I understand. It’s not your fault... I’m sorry,” is all I can say. I wrap my other arm around him and secure him in a hug, trying to ward off his inner demons. His guilt for something he couldn’t control. He had a duty to his pack and one of the beasts happened to get to his mate before anyone noticed. “I’m sorry.”
Moments pace and the question still goes unanswered. “But why me?”
Michael straightens up out of my grasp, looking me in the eye.
“I don’t know. You were beautiful, smart, and had the biggest heart; and human, which meant you were unlikely to have a mate," he says, his voice a deep gravely sound. My heart drops; Michael is going to be devastated when I tell him about our predicament. “After a couple years of mourning Sara, James had me consider another mate. I was on the brink of either losing myself and becoming rogue or suicide… The loss of a mate leaves any wolf in a pit that is nearly impossible to climb out of. Many just let themselves go, wishing to reunite with their mate.” He looks up at me sadly, like he’s disappointed in himself for having wanted to die. “It took some time for James’s talks to kick in, but they did. The day we met I hadn’t been out of the pack grounds for almost a year,” he says. I look at him surprised.
It had been a sunny afternoon and I’d just gotten out of a morning lecture, deciding the night before I needed groceries. That one decision had led me to Michael, where I met him in the check out aisle. I had taken him as bold for introducing himself, but he radiated a sort of kindness and when he offered to help me carry my many bags of groceries, I let him. When we got to my car, he simply said “it was nice to meet you” and left with a warm smile. My shock of how gentlemanly he acted wore off too late and all I could wish for was to see him again sometime. No more than three days later, we literally bumped into each other at the public library. (What a commotion we made.) I wasn’t letting him go after our second meeting and we exchanged numbers.
“I didn’t know that,” I reply. “Well, I’m glad James pushed you to get out.” I smile and watch as a small grin finally shines once again on his handsome face.
“Me, too,” he says and leans into me. As the gap between us slowly closes, my heart jumps and I see blue glowing eyes in my mind’s eye. I don’t realize what I’m doing, but my hands move from around Michael’s shoulders to pushing him away. Michael looks down at both of my hands placed on his chest, uncertain of what is happening. His brows are scrunched together in confusion and I panic unsure of how to explain.
“I-er… there’s something I need to tell you first,” I begin; No more secrets. Michael pulls away from me. My stomach feels like I’ve been eating lead all day and my heart feels like a field of butterflies taking flight, fluttering with nerves. I continually remind myself to breathe. I hate this feeling when I’m with Michael, as of late being nervous around him seems to be the only thing I can feel. Here goes nothing. “I met my mate.”
I think Michael hasn’t heard me; he remains still. Not a single facial muscle moves to tell me what he could possibly be thinking. Gradually, his forest eyes widen, he looks away like he’s trying to solve an impossible scientific equation, and I watch him take a deep breath. He stares back at my face, mouth agape with disbelief. “You what?”