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Chapter 17| It Just Is

"Many a time you've cursed my name of late. If I lacked empathy this meeting would have happened far sooner and under very different circumstances. Mothers do not tolerate disrespect."

Selene. I should have known, when does the moon goddess ever opt for a more subtle entrance?

"And mothers shouldn't torture their children either, but alas here we are."

"I'd watch that mouth, Malachai," she said in warning. However sharp the rebuttal was, I did not care. I waited too long for this conversation, too many times I asked, and she ignored.

I prayed that she'd respond to the many questions I had howled at the moon in my agony, to the point that I had given up. After many moons passed with no reply, I turned my back on her as she had done me.

Yet here she sits, posing yet another obstacle in my path as I try to keep myself sane, so I could care less about her warning.

"Or what? You'll take my mother, kill my mate? Oh wait, you've already done that. Can I just ask you why?

I could almost understand my mother, every child must confront their parents' mortality, but Elaine, I cannot.

Why give so much only to take it all away? Why would you make me open my heart to love and then just take it away from me?

You know the strength of the mate bond better than anyone else, you knew what it did to me...what it does to me."

I could feel the old wounds reopening as images of the pain I had suffered flashed before my eyes.

The pain of loss, the pain of abandonment; I served her and when I needed her most, when Elaine needed her most she was nowhere to be found.

I felt betrayed.

"And yet you overcame it, did you not?"

"So, what? Because I did not crumble under the weight of a severed bond, you've granted me a second chance mate? Is it your hope that I won't survive it a second time?"

"No, that is not what I wish."

"Then what?!" I didn't have the strength to scream, I, Malachai Rendell was pleading before the Goddess herself, begging to understand how such cruelty can live in someone's heart if she had one.

"Malachai, did I kill your mother? Did I kill Elaine?"

I took a step back in surprise, "No, the Brotherhood did."

"Then why do you blame me so?" she questioned as she cocked her head to the side.

"Are you not all-knowing," I asked as I took a step forward in her direction, "Did you not foresee this?"

"Everyone's path is their own to take, even mates. Yes, you two were fated, and for a while, your paths converged, but that does not mean they are the same.

If they were your choices and your purposes would be the same. More importantly, you would have joined her would you have not?"

"Yes."

"And why didn't you?"

"Because I wanted to kill those who took her from me, and I did."

She nodded, "And why didn't you go to her after that?"

"Because my pack needs me."

She nodded again.

"You are serving your purpose Malachai. You may feel like you've been left behind, but you chose to stay behind because your path continues here.

Elaine's simply led elsewhere, your mother's as well.

The ability to choose, Malachai is all we have in the end."

All this talk about your choices and your path being your own and here she was trying to prevent me from making mine. Selene had a way about words, I would give her that, but I wasn't to be taken for a fool.

For every question posed, she answered with another question, it was infuriating, to say the least.

If the Goddess wanted me to curb my sharp tongue, she'd be in for quite the disappointment because I had no intention of doing so.

"And yet here you sit, trying to take my choice from me. Why is it that Freelah cannot help me?"

"Bonds are not meant to be broken," she said with even more warning than before.

Bonds are sacred in our world, regarded by all creatures of the moon as a blessing directly from the goddess herself. I had once held such notions, but these days I'm beginning to think that they are a curse.

"And yet mine was broken once before."

"And through you, the Brotherhood incurred my wrath did they not?

I would have no more of this.

"I cannot love another."

"Silly boy," she said with laughter. "What makes you think you haven't fallen already?"

"Stop."

"Will you kill Amina, then? Death is the only means by which a bond can be severed."

I shook my head fervently, "I would never," I replied as I twisted the ring adorning my middle finger left and right.

"Ah," she said as her eyes widened in realization, "I should have seen this coming. It won't work this time," she said as she eyed my ring.

"The ring helped you cope because it carries a small fragment of Elaine's essence, with her consent, of course. Surely, you felt the effects wane upon discovering your beloved? Now that you've mated, it no longer works. "

Fuck.

"I will not replace her."

"She isn't a replacement, Malachai, nor is she your second chance mate. Amina is just as much your true mate as was Elaine."

"That isn't possible."

She shook her head as she assessed me, "Oftentimes I love how much you humble yourself, truly I do, but I hate that more often than not it comes from a place of self-loathing.

You detest your hybrid nature, but the day will come when you grow to appreciate it, love it even. Just as you are doubly blessed in your nature, you are equally so in love.

Elaine was your mate, Amina is your beloved. "

Silent, she remained awaiting my response, but I had none to give. For a brief moment, her words fragmented my mind, barely managing to register.

Luckily, the functioning parts managed to grasp the echo of her words in time. It seems Cirini may have been onto something.

Still, the disbelief remained, "That cannot be true, I am more werewolf than I am vampire."

"It's easy to think you are, you were born and raised in a pack, but answer me this, since you met Amina, have you not craved her?"

Shaking my head, I took a step back, this cannot be.

"The urge to taste her life source hasn't overwhelmed you?"

I didn't answer.

"That is your vampiric nature calling you to claim her."

No.

"Then why is Maverick so hellbent on claiming her?"

"I need you to stop looking at yourself—your nature as two separate entities. There's no Jekyll and Hyde here, my boy. You are one being."

"This doesn't make sense!"

"Does any of it make sense? There's only one thing I want you to understand—it just is. When you were with Elaine, all of you accepted her, just as all of you now accepts Amina."

"You don't understand. I can't do this."

I bent over gasping for air, I felt like my chest was caving in. This was the weight I was sure to crumble under, I was certain of it.

"You can and you will. Dark times are ahead of you, and you will need your mate just as much as she will need you. She's in your world now, pushing her away will only hurt you."

Freelah's eyes fluttered closed and the candles went out as dark clouds receded, giving way to sunlight that filled the room soon after. Freelah remained seated, hunched over as she tried to grasp her bearings.

"The goddess decided there'd be no scrying this day, I see?"

"It would seem so."

She let out a breath of exhaustion, "Tea would be soothing to the joints right about now."

"You almost burned the house down with your last brew."

"It would have been your fault if I did, and in light of that fact, you owe me, Little Shit. Big time," she said in between the dry coughs that shook her.

"I owe you?"

"Yes, and you can start by putting my tea together. Get on with it!"

~~~~

We sat in comfortable silence enjoying the honey hibiscus tea I would like to say I prepared, but then Freelah would just attempt to knock me upside the head since according to her, all I did was "pour water."

Whether or not it soothed her joints, I hadn't the faintest clue, but she seemed quite relaxed. As for me, I found that it helped alleviate the tightness in my throat.

I was on the verge of a migraine sure to split my skull in half during my earlier discourse with Selene.

She had excavated too many memories, too many emotions that I preferred remained buried.

Skillfully she extracted answers from me while hardly giving me any.

Who did she think she was?

Maverick snorted, "Moon Goddess, that's who."

I rolled my eyes.

"I have a question to ask you Freelah."

"I would have thought you had many."

"I do, but I didn't think you'd be in the mood to answer all of them."

She nodded, "You know me well, Little Shit."

The deadpan look on my face sent her into a burst of hysterical laughter that I tried my hardest to ignore.

Nevertheless, a smile cracked on my face and ultimately a light chuckle, but that was all I was determined to give her.

"Seriously," I began as she dried her tears, "Why won't the ring work this time around?"

"You hard-headed boy, did you not hear the goddess? There's no way around this!"

I didn't reply, I just kept staring at her, hoping that she'd answer my question.

She sighed, "For the ring to work, a part of the soul must be imbued into it. It was easier to do it with your previous mate because I took the part that once dwelled in you-the part that you lost when she died and put it into the ring.

It won't work this time because Amina lives, I can't just take a part of her soul while she lives, it would kill her."

"What about the part that binds with mine, can't you take that?"

She shook her head, "You have not yet marked her, therefore the transference of souls remains undone. Besides, it wouldn't make a difference."

I was confused, "Why not?"

"Because the ring is meant to help wolves cope with the loss of their mate. The part that is lost in the death of a mate is given back in the form of a ring.

When you wear it, it becomes a part of you, providing your soul with as much comfort as it can, given the circumstances.

It's why I told you to never take it off, it's the closest thing there is to a remedy. In short, it will not work because Amina is not lost to you."

She left me in the living room with only my thoughts to keep me company. Only the moon goddess would think of a way to make the bond foolproof.

Of all the things Freelah said to me, only one thing played over in my mind.

It will not work because Amina is not lost to you.

Isn't she?

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