Conflicted Affection

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20

"Mister Crane is act'lly workin' back in London right now. I'm sorry I can't help ya' more but I sure as hell wish I could." Mr. Hilton says.

"What's going on?" I ask, everyone responding in silence and wide eyes.

"Well, Dillan, these folks you're tryin'a get away from those folks who don' like human mates." Mr. Hilton says.

"A mate?" I ask. I see Ryland out of the corner of my eye stand up.

"I gotta go to the bathroom." Ryland says, quickly walking up the dark brown staircase.

I see Max rub his temples as his head faces the floor and Sean pressing his lips together while scratching his head as Lela simply looks down at the floor.

"What?!" Mr. Hilton asks.

Max whispers something to him and Mr. Hilton's eyes widen.

"Oh!" He says.

"They just don't like us right now." Max says, but I knew by now it was a lie, yet I don't want to argue with him right now--or ever.

Ryland rushes back down stairs, not even looking up from the ground.

Mr. Hilton taps him on the shoulder, asking him if they can talk, and they leave into another room.

"Is he ok?" I ask.

"Yeah." Lela replies with a smile, finally speaking to me, which makes me smile back to her.

***

Mr. Hilton told us that we need to go to Fairbanks, Alaska--which is pretty far from Seward. He gives us a bunch of supplies--which I don't understand what they are--but apparently they aren't detected from metal detectors. Maybe it's something that only kills their kind? I hope nothing bad happens.

We take a long plane ride back home, or more like to Fairbanks. I begin wondering, where is my family?

"Ryland?!" I jerk up, startling people on the plane.

"Dillan you gotta keep quiet. What's wrong?" He asks in a whisper.

"Where is my family?" I ask, feeling the burn of tears welling up in my eyes.

"Hopefully they are safe. But, if they have them, we will get them back. Everything will be alright. Just lay back down, we have everything under control." He tells me, his voice slowly soothing me but also making me want to yell more, oddly enough.

I try my best to lay back down and be comfortable, but nothing seems to be working. Ryland begins to play with my hair, sending shivers down my spine and calming my nerves. Hearing his breathing and feeling his presence is enough to reassure me.

It's shocking that he isn't worried about others watching, not even his friends who I know are watching because I can see them out of the corner of my eye. Yet, they don't seem to judge, because I see a faint smile on each their faces and them exchanging glances between themselves.

Maybe they are laughing at us, but I don't think they would do that, or perhaps I am paranoid.

To ease my anxiety, I try my best to focus in on his breathing more, but the noise around me only irritates me more. Why can't it just be me and him? Why can't this situation stop and why can't people just be quiet for once?!

I just wish I can be with him alone in a cozy bed with no worries and no rushes--just me and him. Maybe on a rainy day, or in the serene atmosphere of Reno's coffee shop. I would give anything for everyone to be safe and for me and Ryland to just be alone for as long as possible. Maybe we can make time stop.

I feel a soft but heavy earmuff-type of object cover my ears. I open my eyes to see Ryland with an iPod in his hand and one in my lap. I quickly realize he had put headphones on me.

He pulls up one of the ear covers from my head to say, "Pick a song. Don't worry, they are all peaceful."

I smile at him and begin to turn on the iPod to find a song. I click the first one I see and it turns out to be piano music.

After a little while I begin to drift off.

***

I awaken to find myself in a different room--a very dark room. All I can hear is the clanks of what sounds like chains and all I can feel is my bottom in a chair and tape on my wrists. I can only assume that that's what I am feeling on my ankles as well.

"The human is awake." says a woman with a monotonous voice.

"Great. So, Dillan is it? Ryland's little mate." says another woman with a fruity voice.

There's that word again, mate. What the hell even is that word and what does it mean?

"You look confused. I suppose Ryland is too chicken shit to tell you, huh?" says the woman. A light is turned on, revealing the face of a middle aged woman.

"A mate is a-" begins a boy, slightly sounding annoyed. The woman gives him a glare, shutting him up instantly.

"I mean, this isn't going to matter after we kill him." says the first woman I heard.

"What?" I shout, my heart racing with fear.

"Oh shut it. Keep your shouts for the pain. Ryland will need to hear them all." says the middle aged woman in front of me with a crazed smile on her face.

"Where is he?" I ask, my voice slightly shaking.

"You don't need to know that. You'll hear his shouts and curses later anyways. Maybe even his sobs." says the woman in front of me nonchalantly.

"Why? Why would he be crying? What are you going to do to him?!" I ask impatiently.

"All we have to do is hurt you, that way he can't heal the wounds of seeing you hurt. He'll be hurt for a long time indeed." says the woman.

"But why?! What did he do to deserve this?!"

"You're his mate. Human mates are a threat. There should only be mates of the same species, that's the rule." says the boy.

"What even is a mate?!" I ask, frustration growing stronger with every mention of the word.

"Yep he definitely didn't tell him anything." says the woman behind me with an annoyed sigh.

"A mate is your 'one true love' as a shifter. We are trying to find a way to stop shifters having mates like...you." The woman in front of me gives me a look of disgust. "That's why we took you and Ryland's family."

"Do they even choose their mates?" I ask.

"No, but we can only hope that soon they will." says the boy.

"How do you even know I'm his so-called mate?" I ask with a scowl.

"We're high up in the shifter world. Therefore, we can tell by one look." This response by the woman truly surprises me. But there is no way this is true, right? "Bring in Ryland!" shouts the woman with a smirk. I have a very bad feeling about this.

I see Ryland in a much worse condition than me. He notices me and struggles against the men holding him back. He looks as if he will turn into the hulk at any moment. He has duct tape on his mouth, but it is soon removed with strong force, earning a sharp grunt in pain from him.

I hear something behind me, but before I can identify it I feel a sharp pain in my side that make me feel faint. All I can see now is the floor and all I can hear is Ryland screaming and growling loudly--very loudly.

My heart races with fear. I can feel his anger radiating off of him and his growl sends vibrations throughout the whole room.

Before I can lift up my head to look at him and the scene in front of me, I feel a sting in my leg that seems to slowly travel down to my knee. Once again, I can hear Ryland scream followed by the breaking of glass objects. All I can see now is my leg. My vision is blurry but the bright crimson seeping out of my leg surely can be seen even by a blind person.

"Please stop it!" I hear Ryland sob. "Please!" He sobs for a while before speaking again, "God, I love you, Dillan! I'm sorry...so so sorry" I turn my head slowly to see him with his hands covering his face, laying down with his knees up to his chest and his front facing the ground.

"Oh its so precious." says a woman. It sounds familiar, yet I can barely even identify the words.

My energy seems to seep out of me much like the blood that is slowly moving down my leg. I can only assume the liquid pouring down my side is blood as well.

"This is what happens when you mate with a disgusting human." said a woman. Her voice seems more muffled than last time but Ryland's sobs seems to be remain as clear as day, as if he is sobbing right next to my ear. I wish he was right beside me, but I know he won't be--at least not right now.

"Let him go boys." says the muffled voice. I hear heavy footsteps grow more soft before I feel one more sharp pain in my arm. I hear a door close loudly with a lock. The sharp pain this time feels like cold metal hitting my skin, yet the warm liquid pouring down my arm doesn't make it any warmer.

I can hear Ryland sobbing louder before someone grabs me. Warmth begins returning to my cold body and traveling through my stomach. I shakily grab the mystery person's hand. I don't know who they are, but they feel familiar.

"I promised I would take care of you. I failed you. Fuck I'm horrible. Now they're going to kill you. You're probably already dying." I hear Ryland say.

I love you, is all I can think of saying, but I can't even manage to get it out of my mouth. I feel something touch my lips. I know then and there that it is another pair of lips.

"I'm sorry. I miss your smile, you know. I wish you could smile." says Ryland with a soft chuckle as he squeezes my hand, "You're gorgeous, I hope you know that. I suppose we were always destined for each other even when you seemed to hate me. I remember looking in your eyes in the coffee shop. Damn, I've never felt something like that. Everything felt so new. Sure, you being my mate was fucking terrifying but I just denied how amazing it felt to look into your eyes and have my whole life change. I still remember that night when we snuck out. You looked amazing in the moonlight. I could see the reflection of the moon in your eyes. I'd much rather look at the moon that way every night, right in your eyes." He admits.

I smile softly with struggle. "You smiled!" He exclaims then sighs, "Damn its hard to look at you like this. I wish I could heal you."

I soon feel a pleasant warmth against my wounds. Was I dying? Does everyone feel that type of thing before they die?

I then feel lips against mine again, making the warmth spark throughout my whole body like a firework. I'm dying.

My now blackened vision seems to return back to vivid images. All I can see is Ryland holding my hand as he cries beside me. I feel the sharp pain remaining, but that was the few only remaining memories of the unknown weapon being lashed into my skin.

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