When Jolena opens her eyes, it’s still dark outside. Sweat drips down her forehead, past her ear and disappears into her hair. She had a nightmare. She relived everything that had happened yesterday all over again. It doesn’t really surprise her, she suspected something like this would happen. Yesterday was a chaotic day. A lot had happened. She knew Vince meant no good, she had been warned about him more than was, so she knew she had to stay away from him. But what he did yesterday, she never saw that coming. She steps out of her bed and takes a bottle of water out of the little refrigerator that stands next to the door. When she looks at the clock on the table next to the bed, she sees it’s almost three in the morning. Way too early to wake up. She crawls back into her bed and tries to sleep, but she’s having a hard time falling asleep again.
It’s very early, it is still dark, when Chris looks out the windows of his bedroom. He looks shabby. His hair dishevelled, his stubble clearly visible, bags underneath his eyes. He rubs his stubble with one hand and frowns. He is so tired; it was late last night. The fight had worn out all his men. The clean-up had taken a long time, but every wounded wolf is now taken care of, and every deceased wolf was buried. All the captured rogues are locked up, waiting to be questioned. On top of that, he woke up around three in the morning, all sweaty and hot, but he had no idea why he was awake. He had a hard time going back to sleep after that.
He turns around and walks into his bathroom, turns on the faucet and splashes some water in his face to wake up a little. When he looks in the mirror, he sees how he looks. He looks like he has had a wild night. He turns a little and lifts his shirt to look at the wound on his side. It’s healing, slowly, but it’s healing. He puts his shirt back down and hunches over with his hands on the sink. He feels horrible, his wolf has been restless ever since the situation with Vince. His wolf wants to tear Vince apart, then claim Jolena to never let her go, to make sure she’ll always be safe with him. He knows he can’t. Jolena probably won’t appreciate it if he just does that. She is a person with a will of her own, without a mate bond.
When he sits at his table, waiting for breakfast to be served, Alpha Krane joins him and takes a seat next to him. Chris estimates Alpha Krane is in his late forties, but he has an impressive beard that makes him look much older. Chris still has to learn a lot, and he feels like Evan could be the one teaching him a thing or two. “Good morning,” Evan says, “I hope you don’t mind me sitting next to you.”
“No, take a seat,” Chris says, “please, I’m honoured. I am so grateful you are here. If it wouldn’t be for you, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now.”
“You’re welcome son.” Evan winks. “It’s nice to have a friend out here in this crazy world.”
“That is so true,” Chris agrees.
“You wanted to discuss something with me?” Evan looks curious.
“Yes, that is right. I am having some troubles finding a new source of income.” Some pack members started handing out breakfast. Chris looks down his plate and starts eating.
“What’s wrong with your current source of income?” Evan asks and he starts his food as well.
“I am looking for a different way of income. I currently have a big booming business in Litchley, but I hate the city. I’d rather have an income here in Miller Creek. I hate going back to Litchley, it’s too crowded, too loud, too much of everything. I just don’t know what I can do to make sure we don’t lose any money.”
“Hmm,” Evan drops his cutlery for a minute to think about the things that Chris said. “I could tell you what I do for our income, maybe you can do the same.”
Chris nods, “please, tell me.”
“I have converted my land into a nature reserve. Right next to mine was already a nature reserve, so it was only a small step to maintain it together with mine. Ensure that the number of animals that live there is in balance, ensure that the trees and plants stay healthy, fine poachers, and so on. I receive a generous premium from the government for it. All of the men that work for me to maintain the land are registered and receive wages as well.”
“That is great! There actually is a reserve here right next to this land and the current administrator is going to resign in a few months. I’ll see if I can give him a call about what to do. That would be an excellent idea.”
“There is another benefit.” Evan says. “You can protect your land much better this way. Keep strangers at bay.”
Jolena walks into a big hall. It’s crowded and warm. Ava, who has shown her around and took care of her, walks in front of her. Ava walks over to a long table and takes a seat next to Danny. Across from Danny sit Nick and Leo with a beautiful woman in between them. To the left of Danny sits a broad muscled man with a beard, and at the head of the table sits Christopher, deep in conversation with the man with the beard. The rest of the people on the table, she doesn’t recognise.
She takes a seat next to Ava and starts eating her breakfast. When she looks up, she notices Chris staring at her. She can’t help but think about what he said yesterday that she was just a mere human. She frowns, is that really what he thinks about her? That she is weak? She wonders what else he thinks about her. Apparently, Danny was wrong, and Chris doesn’t care about her. On top of that, Vince attacked her and held her hostage to get to Chris. She got all these problems because of that man! That man that thinks she’s weak! She’s getting angry and she lets her cutlery fall down on her plate. The noise makes everyone at the table look at her in surprise. When she shoots an angry look at the head of the table, she sees a confused frown. The ass has no idea what he said. Of course! She shoves her chair out of the way and gets up. She needs some fresh air, and she hurries out. When she’s on the steps of the porch, she takes a deep breath. She can hear some muffled noises from inside, stumbling and the raised voices of men. Then it becomes quiet again.
When Jolena left so suddenly, Chris wanted nothing more than to go after her and take her into her arms to get rid of what made her so upset.
“What was that about? Who is that?” Evan asks him.
“That is my mate.” Chris tells him. “I have no idea what’s wrong.” I should go and see what’s wrong.”
But as he steps away from his chair, Danny gets in front of him and stops him. “Alpha, let her go. Talk to her later.” Danny looks concerned. “Give her some space.”
Chris sits back down. The way she shot daggers at him, doesn’t sit well with him. Is she angry with him? What did he do wrong?
A while later Ava comes to see her. “Hey, there you are. You left in such a hurry, earlier. Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I don’t know.” Jolena shrugs.
“What’s bothering you?”
Jolena sighs. “I am a bit puzzled, I guess.”
“I don’t know. I never realized that these wolves could be so violent. I saw things yesterday I never, ever want to see again. Wolves, bleeding, growling, baring their teeth, tearing each other apart. There was nothing ‘human’ about them anymore. I feel so uncomfortable around here now.”
Ava frowns. “I understand what you’re saying. The first time I saw the aftermath of a fight, I thought the same. I saw all these wounded wolves coming into the clinic. But the wolves around here are not just tearing each other apart, you know. They only fight when they are provoked, or when they have to defend themselves. It’s those rogues that start the fights, that threaten the wolves that live here. You don’t have to be scared or uncomfortable. These wolves here will always protect you; they won’t hurt you. Especially because you’re the Alpha’s-mate. You’re the most important person around here for these people.”
Jolena sighs again. “But still, it’s hard, it’s a totally different world than I’m used to.”
“Give it some time, maybe you won’t get used to it, but you’ll find a way to deal with it. It gets easier, trust me, I know.” Ava grabs Jolena’s hand and squeezes it reassuringly.
“It’s not just that.”
“What else is bothering you? Tell me, I’m here for you”
“I am mad. I am mad at Christopher. Yesterday he was convincing Vince to let me go and I really thought he cared about me. The way he was when Vince was in my apartment, I really thought I could fall in love with him. But then yesterday he told Vince that I am just a mere human. I don’t know, it feels like he punched me in the gut.”
“Do you really think he meant it that way? Don’t you think he was just convincing Vince that you were just a human so he would let you go?”
“I don’t know, you tell me.”
“Ask him. Talk to him, I think that will clarify a lot.”