Chapter 16| To Fix What Isn’t Broken
Since Amina appeared in my life, there had been too many first times. Right now, I was experiencing what it was like to be at a loss of words.
I was somewhere between shocked and skeptical, but angry? No, even Maverick was calm. Too calm.
I'm sorry, Alpha. I had not anticipated Cirini's true aim. I thought holding off on the intel was the best move. You needed to focus on him, and telling you would only di-
"Malachai?" My eyes snapped to her, severing the mind link between me and Balfore.
"What the hell just happened, how the hell is any of this real?"
I didn't answer, I just kept staring at her, my mate, and the former fiancee of the leader of the brotherhood. What were the odds? Is this what it's like to experience karma?
Selene. Fuck you, and fuck you again. I would never tire of saying those words, the Goddess had fucked with me one time too many.
I didn't ask for another mate. Until I met Amina, I was fine. I was getting by the best that I could in her absence.
When Elaine was murdered, everyone thought that I would crumble. Doubt crept in like the opportunist that it was and leaders of packs and covens alike followed suite.
In truth, I thought I would lose myself, and for a moment I did, I was ready to go to the moon, but I had found purpose in her death.
The Brotherhood had taken too much from me beginning with my mother and ending with the light of my life.
Before I joined her, I was determined to end those who wronged her, and by extension, me.
Elaine wouldn't die in vain, of that I was certain. The annihilation of the Brotherhood of Knight became my sole purpose.
It was the one true way to honor my mate, by ending the people responsible for her demise.
One greedy leader after the other came to claim their stake in what was mine, thinking I'd be too weak. Too broken by grief to fight back. I proved them wrong. Every time.
This pack proved them wrong; from the ashes of my late mate's death, Shadowfang emerged stronger than it had ever been.
I missed Elaine, I always would, but I had finally reached a place where I could carry on without her. The pain was bearable, but I didn't need a replacement.
"Will you answer me, or will you keep staring?"
She crossed the little patch of earth that separated us and grabbed my hands, willing me to return to the here and now.
Her delicate fingers glided across my cold callous ones, settling themselves firmly in between mine.
I absorbed the warmth she emitted, letting it course it's way through me, slowly dissolving the shards of shock that froze my system.
Softly, she cupped my face with her other hand, "Where are you?" she whispered as she searched my eyes.
I could get used to this, truth is I already have, I shook the thoughts out of my head, no, I didn't ask for this.
"I need to go."
I had to tear my gaze away from her because all that reflected back was the worry and pain I'd brought her.
If I kept looking, I would lose to the urge to soothe her pain, and I couldn't do that.
Balfour, you will take her back to the packhouse, and await further instruction. She'll need to be protected, I want the best around her at all times. She sleeps in my room until I get back. Ensure there is no way for her to escape, I don't put it past her to try.
When will you be back?
I haven't the faintest-
"Malachai, look at me!" she shouted, and the mind link ended.
Slowly I brought my gaze to her, "I am," was my simple, monotonous reply.
"You aren't," her voice broke off before continuing, "Not the way you usually do."
I was hurting her. I felt the bond twist itself tightly, folding upon itself, demanding me to give it the nurturing it so desperately needed, but I wouldn't act on it.
I didn't ask for this. Neither of us did.
I watched her shiver as my free hand made contact with the soft flesh of her face.
A rush of warmth and comfort surged through the both of us. I sighed in content as she closed her eyes, nestling her cheek into my palm, savoring the feeling.
The tight coils of the bond came undone, relieving the both of us of the pain I inflicted.
"Where are you going?" she asked, as a traitorous tear spilled from her eye.
I leaned down to her as she reached up to me, our lips connecting in a passionate kiss. With my teeth, I tugged on her lips, demanding that she let me explore her.
I wouldn't take this moment for granted for there would never be another. To memory I committed all; the feel of her lips, the taste of her mouth, the sound of her moans, her whimpers. The feel of her body pressed up against mine as if she had molded herself to me.
We had been one, but its expiration date was set from the moment I met her. Reluctantly, I pulled away from her embrace, "I have to go, Amina. Balfore will look after you until I get back."
"Can I come with you?"
I couldn't help but notice the irony, she didn't even want to come here in the first place. Now here she was just hours later, not wanting to part from me.
"No, I need to do this alone. I'm going to fix this," I said before I laid one last kiss against her forehead.
Her eyes were closed, fighting so hard to hold back tears. My lioness did not want to appear weak, and the sight alone hammered at me, threatening to reopen old wounds long healed.
For her sake as well as mine, I would grant her reprieve. I had intended to take away so much more anyway. She could cry when I left.
I was gone before she could open her eyes.
I had reached the edge of my territory in record time. Although given the circumstances, I did not need any more motivation than I had already.
I had not been fortunate enough to escape the deafening sounds of her sobs. Even if they weren't loud, her pain alone resounded in me, clawing at my heart.
I brushed my hand over my chest in hopes that it would dull the pain, it didn't.
Hell hath no fury like a bond scorned. It was raging, threatening to burn me where I stood less I returned to my mate's side.
It hadn't been like this with Elaine, I thought to myself.
"Did you ever try to sever your bond with her?"
"Touchè," I turned to find the old woman emerging from the forest with firewood.
I made my way over to her hobbling form and bowed before her before rising to relieve her of the heavy load.
"I have seen many moons my boy, but the wolf is still as strong as ever. Don't ever doubt Griselda, to go beyond the tides is no small feat, I'd never make it without her!"
I laughed, and I had meant it, then I realized that the effects of the bond didn't weigh me down as much as they had before.
"You don't look a day over 50, Freelah."
"Correction, I don't look a day over 25, you little shit. Split the wood, will ya? Give you something to take your mind off other things?"
"Always one step ahead as always."
"I am an oracle, " she paused, "Also, I don't live under a rock."
"Ah. The Shadowfang grapevine is back at work again, I take it?"
"When is it not?"
We walked towards her cottage in comfortable silence. When we got there, she handed me the ax to cut the wood before heading inside to prepare tea.
From outside I could hear the tea kettle's whistle. I expected it to stop but the sound persisted longer than it should have.
Setting the ax down I went inside to find the whistling tea kettle, two cups of leaves waiting to be steeped, and no sign of Freelah.
I turned off the fire and moved it to a cooler burner. Where had she gone?
"Freelah, are you alright?"
"She's here, no one else except us," Maverick said, and I settled down.
I pushed further into her small cottage, following the sound of her breathing.
When I entered the living room, I found her sat cross-legged in front of her scrying bowl, head down.
"Freelah?" I called out once more as I inched closer, "Are you al-"
Suddenly her head snapped up, her eyes void of the deep amethyst hue they once held.
The lights in the house went out and the bright outdoors that once enwreathed the cottage, imbuing it with natural light, was no longer visible.
It was like we had entered a void; deafening darkness engulfed us, with the only source of light beaming from Freelah's glowing white eyes.
With one snap of her fingers the candles around the room were alight with fire.
Still, her eyes remain fixed on me, never once diverting her attention, never once blinking.
Freelah wasn't here any longer.
"She can't give you what you seek, Malachai."