"Ooof," James breathed as Layla threw him to the ground. He stood up and shook his head, "You still have it Luna."
Layla smirked, "Of course I do. Now this time, shift and hit like I told you."
James shifted into his large gray wolf and lunged at Layla. She shifted quickly and dodged out of the way. He rammed into her side, making her topple over. He got her in a hold and made her tap out. They both shifted back and dressed into the spare clothes on the bench.
"Thanks for that. I was having trouble with that last move," James said as they walked up for breakfast.
"No problem," Layla smiled. "When do you guys head out for patrol?"
"After breakfast," James replied, "We brought Thatcher with us so hopefully he will be able to find Hunter for you."
Layla replied with a nod, knowing if anyone could track Hunter it would be Thatcher. He was the best tracker she had ever seen.
James slowed as they walked back to the house. James took her arm and suddenly Layla was being pulled to the side of the house. He pushed her up against the wall and spoke softly, "Layla, I need to ask you something, and I need you to be honest."
Layla looked at James curiously, "Okay?"
"Are you happy here?" James questioned, his eyes full of emotion.
Layla sighed, "I am. It's complicated, but I'm happy now. When I first got here I would have given you a different answer, but Jace and I have come a long way."
James nodded in response, "If you hadn't left, I would have made you my mate."
"I know," Layla said quietly, "I was going to do the same."
James scowled, "He hasn't marked you, you could reject him and come home.. where you belong."
Layla frowned, "I can't do that James. And honestly I don't want to do that now. Jace and I are in a good place. We are friends."
"But mates shouldn't just be friends. Layla, I want to love you," James pleaded. James cupped Layla's face in his hand, "I want to hold you and kiss you and make love to you. Can you honestly tell me Jace will do that?"
Layla placed her hand on James' and looked up at his eyes with sadness, "I don't know. But he's my mate, I have to at least give it a try."
James dropped his hand, "I understand. Just know that in a year or two or five, when he still doesn't want you, I'll be here."
Layla smiled warmly at her friend, "You shouldn't be. You should go out and find yourself a second chance."
James shook his head, "You are the only second chance I want."
They walked into the house quietly, both sad from their conversation. Jace walked out from the office, "How was training?"
Layla looked up at him and put a forced smile on her face, "It was good, you should come out tomorrow."
"I will. I was planning on going out this morning, but something came up," Jace said as he eyed Layla's face. Something was off. Layla was oddly quiet as they ate breakfast and Jace caught her as she walked up the stairs to their room.
Layla turned around at the top of the stairs to see Jace following her, "Hmm?"
"Are you okay?" Jace questioned with worry in his eyes.
"It's nothing.. I just.." Layla shook her head, not knowing how to explain or if she even wanted to.
They walked into their bedroom and Jace sat on the bed as Layla grabbed some clothes from the closet. "Layla, talk to me."
Layla sighed, "You have to promise to not get mad."
Jace frowned, already not liking where this conversation was going, "Okay?"
"James and I had a hard conversation this morning. He expressed his feelings to me and I had to let him down," Layla began to explain. She stopped when she saw Jace turning red. She walked over to him and placed her hands on his chest knowing the touch of a mate could calm him, "Jace?"
Jace looked up at her with a scowl, "What else?"
Layla frowned, "Nothing else. He asked if I was happy and if I was happy having a life without intimacy. He said he wanted me as his chosen mate before I left and that he wants to love me, that he'll wait for me. I told him not to, that I was happy here. That I wasn't going to leave or reject you."
"What else?" Jace glared.
"Nothing else Jace, I promise." Layla replied. She turned to walk away when Jace grabbed her hand, rubbing little circles on it.
"It's not that I don't want that Layla, I'm just not ready. It's too soon." Jace whispered.
Layla looked at him in shock. She didn't think he would ever get to that point, but now he was telling her that there was hope for the future. Layla smiled, "Jace, I'm not going to push you or rush you. You take your time and heal. I'm really okay with us being friends. I'm not going anywhere."
Jace smiled before standing up, forcing Layla to look up in order to meet his eyes, "Thank you Layla. Now I need to go beat up James for speaking to my Luna in the way he did."
Layla pulled on his arm as he tried to walk by, "Ahhhh! Jace! Don't!"
Jace laughed as she gripped him tightly, using all of her strength and will to keep him grounded to the spot. Jace grabbed her waist and twisted her around so that her back was to his chest. He leaned down and whispered into her ear, "He needs to know he can't say things like that to you."
Layla shivered, "Well SOMEBODY should say those things to me. You're just jealous that he got to it before you did."
Jace let out a sigh, "Yes, I am."
Jace took his hands from Layla's waist and let her walk to the bathroom to shower and change. He walked out of the room, angry that after only one day James was already trying to convince her to leave even though Jace had just got her back. It worried him because he knew James could give her what she wanted right now. Love.