The song for this chapter is Demons
by Imagine Dragons
We make our way to Koda and Rhiannon’s house. It’s a cabin like the other homes we pass along the way. When we arrive everyone throws on more clothing which I assume is for my sake. I shudder at the thought they’ve all seen each other naked.
Nik hugs me close on the couch assuming I’m just cold. His lips graze my temple and I begin to relax.
“So Elle, what should be talk about first?” Rhiannon taps her jaw as she thinks. I’m not sure why she called me Elle. No one ever has but I kind of like it. It sounds stronger than Ellie.
“How often do lone wolves come onto your territory?” I ask the first thing that comes to mind. Seeing as how I’m still thinking of those lifeless eyes it seems appropriate enough to ask.
“Not often, maybe a few times a year. Usually they are so far gone they don’t remember they are human so they can be aggressive.”
“What makes a shifter become a lone wolf?”
“Losing a mate, usually.” Koda grimaces and holds Rhiannon closer.
“The ones who attempt to cross into a pack are always hoping for the same outcome; death.” Nik whispers.
“Some also try to kill the alpha in an attempt
to take control of a pack. Obviously, we’d never let that happen.” Rylin says. I’m beginning to like him. He is young which accounts for the fact that he doesn’t try to filter out his words. He is the most open about all this.
After a few hours of learning about shifters and the tribe Nik explains that tomorrow is their tribe thanksgiving dinner and asks me to come.
Koda begins making dinner in the kitchen so Rhiannon drags me outside and tells the boys we need girl time. She doesn’t seem like the type to enjoy girl time so I’m worried about being alone with her.
When we reach the lake I figure out we have walked so far so that no one will overhear us. My legs are achy but I grit my teeth in an attempt to look fine.
“You only have a few hours to learn how to wipe that deer in headlights look off your face. We’ve got some work to do.”
“What exactly should I do tomorrow? How will I win everyone’s trust before New Years? They all see me as the daughter of a murderer.”
“Well, be prepared for me to bring up the fact you saved Nik’s life. That should help. I made the boys stay back when I saw that bow in your hand. Luckily, you didn’t disappoint.” She smiles genuinely pleased when I laugh. The fact she took the chance of
me dying just to prove my loyalty is a little insane. But, I think that’s her style.
“Okay, what else should I be prepared for?”
“You are not well known in the tribe. The council has been quiet about you because they don’t want the tribe realizing you love Nik. They are hoping you’ll leave our tribe behind.”
“I love Nik. I can’t run away from something just because it’s uncomfortable.”
“Good answer. Nik is babying you. He hasn’t told you anything because he doesn’t want to scare you. You need to realize we are born to protect which means sometimes we have to kill to protect our people. We also spend shifts patrolling to keep lone wolves out. That means Nik is going to be spending hours at a time away. He’s the alpha so it’s his instinct to take the longest patrols.”
“Okay, what will I need to do? I mean shouldn’t I be helping the tribe in some way? I don’t want to sit at home all day staring at the walls.”
“They expect you to lead. Don’t ask them how to do anything. Ask us if you need help but try to go with your gut. Fate chose you to be Nikan’s mate which means there’s leadership skills in there somewhere.”
“You don’t think very highly of me.” She doesn’t deny it.
“It’s not because your human. Or even because of your father. I’m just worried Nik won’t be able to focus on his duties if you keep this helpless act up. That can be dangerous for everyone. So, I need you to toughen up.”
I don’t know if I can be who she wants me to be but she has a point. I’ve got to show the people I’m not afraid to be one of them and that I’m not going to be bullied by the shifters. I have to hold my own. It’s time to grow up. I’ll never be as strong as her but I need to be able to hold my own around here. That much is clear.
When we reach the cabin Nik immediately looks at me like a wounded animal. I smile confidently at him and see relief in his eyes. He must’ve been worried Rhiannon would run me off. He hugs me close and I wrap my arms around him.
“You cut off the mindlink while alone in the woods with my injured mate. Never do that again. That’s an order, Rhiannon. She flinches like his words are painful. I recall her words about following a command given by the alpha.
“Nik, She was helping me get ready for tomorrow. I asked her not to answer you unless it was important. We only have a few hours to prepare.” She grins at me and winks. I try not to smile other wise he’ll know I’m lying.
“That was almost believable, Ellie. If I hadn’t known you since we were seven I wouldn’t know you were lying. Ive always known your heartbeat flutters differently when you lie.” I groan and he laughs. Rhiannon applauds my mediocre acting skills. I’m going to crash and burn tomorrow.
Nik excuses us from their place after cleaning and redressing my legs and we walk down a trail. Well, he walks and carries me. At the end of the short trail is a secluded cabin. He pulls a key out of his jeans and unlocks the door.
When I walk in I notice this cabin is laid out differently than the rest. It’s got an open concept with a high ceiling which makes it feel less closed in. To the right, passed the living room we are standing in, is a kitchen and a staircase leading up to a loft.
I notice the house is not furnished as I look down at it from the cedar stairs. When we reach the loft it is bare as well. The windows allow the sun to stream in, making the room glow as the sun sets.
Nik leads me to a set of double doors and we walk onto a small balcony that overlooks the meadow. Just in the distance I can see the lake.
“What do you think?” He asks quietly.
“It’s ours.” He smiles proudly.
“Ours?” He grabs my hand and stares into the distance.
“Yeah. I thought maybe you could help me pick out the furniture. I wanted to start getting it ready so that we can stay here when we are married.” When I don’t say anything his hand slips from mine and runs through that thick, dark hair.
“When we are married...” I repeat still in shock that we are getting married. I smile as he looks at me cautiously.
“Unless you’re having second thoughts...” he looks hurt by my lack of enthusiasm.
“No! I just can’t believe that you’re even real. The fact that a little more than a month from now we will be married is hard to imagine. I can’t believe I actually get to marry you.” I kiss him and he pulls away.
“Why do you do that?” He says bitterly.
“What do you mean?”
“Act like I’m some angel sent from heaven. Like you think I’m so amazing that you don’t deserve me when the fact is I don’t deserve you.” He leans on the rail. His jaw ticks in frustration.
“What has gotten into you? Why wouldn’t you deserve me? Nik, today wasn’t your fault.”
“I’m a monster, Elliana. I’m not good for you. Today you had to kill someone because of me. We aren’t even mated yet and you’ve already had to step into my world. I thought fate calling you home was a blessing and it was for me but for you it’s a curse. For a moment I could forget what I was. I wanted to be a good man for you. But, I’m not a man. I’m a monster.”
The storm in his brown eyes is evident as he fights this internal battle.
“Nik, you’re not a monster. I’m okay, honest. I love you and I’m ready to find a place in your world.”
“No! I don’t want that anymore. I want you safe and happy. You’ll be in misery here. The people hate outsiders and you’ll never really be able to live in peace. I think maybe you should go back into the city and forget me.”
He refuses to look at me. When I try to hold him he steps back. Rejection shoots through me. He doesn’t want me. He finally sees me for who I am. Weak, fragile, plain little Ellie.
“Don’t bother walking me home. I know my way.”
“It’s too dangerous. I’ll take you, besides Winnie said you shouldn’t be putting a lot of pressure on your legs for a few days.”
“Don’t touch me! I’m fine.” He growls and shoots me a dirty look. I stare back at him in anger.
“Fine, Rylin is on his way over. He’ll take you home.” He walks back into the house and I bite my cheek, willing myself not to cry.
“So this is it then?” I whisper. His silence is answer enough. He speaks up when Rylin arrives outside.
“No, I don’t want to lose you again. Please.” I beg. I feel my heart breaking all over again.
“Your dad survived losing his mate. You can too. You’re stronger than you know.”
“Then why are you rejecting me?”
“Because it’s what’s best.”
“Best for who?” I shout.
It turns out I’m no longer the coward in this relationship. I slam the door and Rylin picks me up. It’s humiliating being carried away by a sixteen year old. When I look back Nik is gone. He didn’t even watch me go. With each step home my heart shatters over and over again.