Chapter 23| Ego Tripping
Quite honestly, I think you're pathetic...
For the umpteenth time this week, her words replayed themselves in my head. They played on my conscience, bruising my ego more than I cared to admit.
She played me, and like an idiot, I fell for it every step of the way, and now, two weeks after our infamous hate-filled sex, I'm still pissed, and I crave her.
Not once have I seen her-no Amina wouldn't grant me such a reprieve-but the traces of her scent linger everywhere, and it was driving me mad.
Save for my office, it was as though the packhouse had been drenched in her intoxicating mixture of honey and cinnamon.
Everyone had the chance to see her, to speak with her, everyone but me. The more I deprived myself, the worse it got, it was like I'd entered a trance under which I swear I could taste the sweet caramel of her skin.
More often than not I'd find myself at her door, nearly succumbing to the urge to break it down. The savage part of me was answering the siren's call, and with each passing day, it was gaining on me.
I was fighting a war on many fronts-Amina, Maverick, myself-and it was tiresome and frustrating. Sleep evaded me with the same vigor as my beloved, and I spent the majority of my days sporting a hard-on that not even a cold shower could mend.
I took a seat by the crackling fire pit with a glass of whiskey in hand; after two weeks of drinking I still held out hope that it would dim the craving, but the sane part of me knew it wouldn't.
"You look like shit," Balfore said as he entered my office unannounced.
"Yeah? I feel like it too," I said as I continued to stare into the flames.
"Will you not speak to her?" He asked as he poured himself a drink.
"She avoids me, not the other way around, Balfore."
"You fucked up, man."
"How?!" I shouted as I turned away from the flames, giving him my full attention.
"I need you to be honest with yourself, what really pissed you off?
"That she put herself in danger."
I hesitated, "That she ran from me."
"And that that asshole touched what was mine!"
"Not good enough," he said, as he shook his head.
"What else then, my ever-wise beta?" I said with as much sarcasm as I could muster.
"Is the mighty hybrid alpha really going to make me say it?"
"Watch it," I warned; he put his hands up as if to surrender, but the smirk on his face told me he had me right where he wanted me. This situation with Amina was throwing me off of my game more than I realized.
Under any other circumstance, I would have seen him coming a mile away, but with her at the forefront of my mind, I couldn't see anything else.
"Was this what it was like with Elaine?"
"No, it was easier."
"Then why the hell do I feel like I'm navigating uncharted territory? I have no clue which way is up or down, I'm a fucking alpha, how can I be in over my head?"
"Different people, different experiences," he said as he patted my shoulder, "You're an alpha, you'll always be in over your head, it's your duty to find a way out, but being true to yourself is one way to unload unnecessary burdens."
I took a swig of whiskey, letting the burn settle in my chest as I came to terms with the truth, the one I did everything in my power to avoid these last two weeks, "Okay, Dr. Phil, I fucked up, you happy?!" I said, my tone accusatory.
I started pacing back and forth trying to quell the anger rising in me.
"I was pissed that she left me, but the panic, that feeling of hopelessness...I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. The news that she left pack grounds exposed, alone, and unprotected," I paused, trying to gain my unraveling composure, "I lost it, I just kept thinking of Elaine, and I...Bal, I can't go through that again...I just can't," I said as a clutched the skin and muscle that housed my erratic beating heart for dear life.
The memory alone was enough to make me come undone. Pain reminiscent of a dagger's blade shot through me, my lungs ceased to expand, scenes replaying right before my eyes of the dreadful day I found Elaine. A growl escaped my lips and I vigorously shook my head, trying to clear it of thoughts long buried.
"There is no danger here, Maverick," Balfore said as calmly as he could, "Just a few days of emotional torment, Malachai is not in danger, he just needs you to help him stay calm."
After a few deep breaths, Maverick receded to the back of my mind and I regained control again. I cracked my neck as I rolled my shoulders to relieve myself of the tension that built up in me.
"Are you okay, Alpha?
I didn't bother answering his question, I needed to get all of this off of my chest once and for all, with a grunt I continued, "When I found her with him...touching what is mine, I never thought I could hate the sound of her voice, but when she moaned for him, I...I can't get the sound out of my head, and I can't help feeling that if she just stayed put this could have all been avoided, fuck!"
I was pacing up and down the length of my office, waiting for Balfore to say something, anything.
"Well?!" I shouted at the man who just stood there, shifting from foot to foot.
"While I understand your frustrations, I do think that some of the blame is misplaced, I-"
"Oh, so it's all my fault?"
"If you'd let me finish," he paused, waiting for me to interrupt when I didn't, he continued, "For whatever reason, that vampire has taken too much interest in Amina, interest that he did not care to extend to your previous mate, why?"
"Well that's easy, her scent, it's like she's in constant heat, it's enough to drive any creature wild."
"To the point where he digs into her life? It took us days to find out why she had that bracelet, Cirini dug up that information in hours. No, there is more, there has to be. And while all of this could have been avoided, you must recognize the role you played in it, and you must realize that Cirini would have inevitably made his move. His aim is to drive a wedge in between the two of you, and you're letting him."
I had no response, this entire time, from the moment he challenged me, he'd been playing me. I thought I knew his game, that I was steps ahead of him, but it was only now that I realized, he'd been steps ahead of me the entire time.
I thought I thwarted his plans of taking Amina when I brought her to Shadowfang, but all I did was rule out a plan. He couldn't take her, but he sure did enjoy revealing Amina's connection to the brotherhood.
And now for the real show, ladies and gentlemen...
His words replayed in my head, his need for her to admit who Aaron was to her, it was all starting to make sense. He knew I wouldn't leave her in fact he counted on it, that's why he came to Shadowfang to challenge me.
That sly piece of shit put contingencies in place so that if I did leave her behind, his goons would come in and swoop her. That horrid scent of decaying flesh didn't escape me the day we left Amina's place for Shadowfang.
"Your facial expressions are quite hilarious, I did not think I would find such amusement in watching you connect the dots."
"When did you figure it out?"
"Oh I've known for some time now, but you've been far too moody to speak to. After I realized you were only getting worse, I felt it appropriate to tell you in hopes that you'd see the light."
"Asshole," I mumbled under my breath.
He chuckled, "Who would have thought a human would have so much power of you? You can't see past her, Malachai, and I think its because you're fighting with all your might to keep her at arm's length."
"She's no human, Balfore. Surely, you must know that by now."
He raised his eyebrow as if to question me. "She smells human."
"She commanded you to stay, and like an obedient dog, you stayed."
"That is not the way that I would paint it, you know that no loyal wolf can defy his Luna's command."
"She is not yet Luna. She does not bear my mark and yet we can mind link."
We both looked at each other, silently searching for plausible explanations, but couldn't find one.
"Its time she and I speak," I said as I walked towards my office door.
"Took you long enough."
I didn't even look back as I threw my middle finger his way.
He chuckled before replying, "Goddess knows you need it, maybe not from me though!"
With a slam, the office door shut behind me and I followed the intoxicating scent that belonged to none other than my mate.