We all make our way into the cabin and the elders become quiet. Kodas father is the first to speak up.
“You may have won over some of the people but the council is unimpressed. It is your duty to protect your mate and the people.” Koda glares icily at his dad.
“You’ll watch your tongue when speaking to my mate if you want to keep it.” I warn. He growls at me and I step closer, pinning him against the wall. He smiles wickedly.
“Already turning on your people for that scum I see.”
“That’s enough! If you want to survive to see tomorrow I suggest you sit down and stop speaking!” My grip on his throat tightens before I let go. He sits down while staring at my mate. The authority in my voice is too difficult to resist.
Ellie stands there confidently. She doesn’t even look afraid of me. I don’t know what’s happened to her but she’s changing already. She’s accepted her role, I can feel it. She is determined to do her best and my heart swells with pride.
“Nikan, Robert is right. It is her duty, however I cannot overlook the fact that she saved your life. You have my blessing. As long as you are mated by the allotted time.” I nod at him. I guess this is my fathers way of saying sorry.
“With the councils permission I would like to begin my time here with the children. I also would like to set a date for the ceremony, now actually.” She speaks up. I stand beside her and our hands find each other.
“Would you like a position at the school? I hear you are quite the author. We could use a full time librarian. We also lack a real arts department if you’re willing to take the time to improve the school.” Lee suggests. Ellie beams.
“I would love to. Thank you.”
“Absolutely not! I won’t allow an outsider to brainwash the children!”
“If anyone is brainwashing children it’s you mother! This place is turning into a cult!” Rhiannon shouts, her short hair and sharp jaw makes her look even more fierce.
“She’s right. This council has turned something sacred into a disgrace. I will not allow you to punish Elliana for an accident that happened before she was born. She is learning our ways but she has a lot to offer from a different perspective of the world. We can’t continue to shelter the kids from everything but other tribes. You rob them of knowledge and experience. You need to let the past go.” I state as calmly as I can.
“I agree with Nik. It’s time to let go of the past.” My mother says. Lee and Rhiannon’s father agree with her.
“I won’t let go of the past. My mate is dead. Someone should be held accountable.”Robert spits.
“I loved her too you know. My sister deserved to live.” My mouth flies open. Why didn’t anyone tell us that Roberts mate was my aunt?
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I stare into my fathers eyes as they fill with sorrow.
“It is too hard to talk about her.” Everyone stares at me waiting for what I will say next.
“It changes nothing. My mate deserves a chance to be happy here with me. And she will be.” She squeezes my hand and my heart goes haywire at the small gesture.
“I don’t want to cause trouble.” Ellie is interrupted by Robert.
“Too late.” I roll my eyes.
“I would like a fresh start. I’m willing to give you everything you’ve asked. I want to marry Nik on Christmas Eve.” I bring her hand to my mouth and I can hear her heart flutter in excitement.
“Then we’d better get busy. There’s much to do!” My mom smiles brightly. The men grow silent which I take as a win for now.
The pack follows us to my soon to be home. We walk in and sit at the kitchen table. It’s currently the only furniture and it’s only here because I made it.
“I can’t wait until you’re the chief. This place is getting out of control.”
“They’re afraid of outsiders. They know it can be dangerous to be known.” Koda reasons with his mate.
“We can’t lead the people through fear. We can protect them while allowing them to have new opportunities for the important things.” I say. They nod in agreement.
“Please forgive my father, Elliana. After losing my mother he has not been the same.” Koda stares into her eyes and she doesn’t hesitate.
“I can feel the pain and the fear they have. I understand and I am not angry anymore. We can get through this.”
“You’re beginning to feel their emotions? You really have accepted all this.” I beam with hope and pride. My beautiful mate and soon to be wife has accepted our messed up world with open arms. I don’t deserve her.
“I have. Thanks to you all I realized I needed to be strong and I need to be ready.” I kiss her chastely and she leans into me. I hold her protectively. Sweet and brave just as when we were kids.
I spend the evening with Ellie’s family as they have their traditional thanksgiving dinner. We end up on the couch making plans for the house and the wedding. She orders some furniture online and has it sent here.
The next day I surprise Ellie by letting her pick out a tree for Christmas. The excitement is tangible.
“I’ve never had a real tree! Mom always uses a fake one.” She commits to a seven foot tree and I drag it to the cabin. We decorate our first tree together and I honestly don’t care so much about the decorating but I didn’t want to miss this memory with my mate.
She happily hums Christmas songs while I decorate the parts she can’t reach, which is most of it. I have a feeling she just likes watching me hang Christmas lights shirtless. When she doesn’t deny it I tell her I’d like to watch her do this topless.
Her face heats up and she swats at my chest as she watches me put the angel on top. I can’t help but laugh. We spend the day settling in with what we have so far. The kitchen is finished and so is our bedroom in the loft.
We are tucked away under the quilt when I can feel doubt begin to run through her. I worry she’s thinking about marrying me.
“You know, once we are officially the leaders of the tribe I’m going to change the rules. You’ll be able to come and go as you please. We’ve all agreed that everyone should have the opportunity to go further their education or see the world. They’ve lived in fear so long they don’t realize it’s suffocating everyone.” I try to soothe her doubt.
“That’s great. That means maybe Winnie can get some help at the hospital.” I nod.
“And you can be free too.” I clarify.
“Thank you. Honestly, I just want to be where you are. I’m more than happy to be here.”
“Then why were you so full of doubt a moment ago? What were you thinking about?” She tucks a strand of red hair behind her ear and sits up so we are eye to eye.
“I was thinking about my life with you. How I am trying to be confident in my place here but on the inside I am scared I will disappoint everyone. Mostly you.” She whispers.
“You could never disappoint me. You’ve already shown how capable you are of being a leader.” She kisses me slowly and I lose all sense of time as we lay there lost in each other. She pins me down on the bed and straddles my waist.
“Don’t stop.” Is all I can breathe out. She groans and deepens the kiss. My hands grip her waist and I pull myself on top of her. As my hands begin their exploration our heartbeats go haywire.
Just as my hands reach the hem of her tan sweater I feel someone pushing their way into my mind. I try to ignore it but the urgency won’t stop. I pull up abruptly, startling Ellie.
Alpha, we have a problem on the eastern border. Rhiannon’s voice rings in my head.
I’m on my way. Fill me in.
Three wolves entered the territory. They are out of their minds. I tried to make them shift so I could speak to them. No use. Koda says as I quickly get dressed.
Rylin, go to the cabin and keep an eye on Ellie.
“I have to go. Rylin is coming, don’t answer the door for anyone but him. I love you.”
I kiss her chastely before leaping over the staircase and I’m out the door. I burst into my other skin and watch the battle through the link.
Three wolves surround koda and Rhiannon. Rhiannon manages to take one out swiftly but the other two are strong. Rhiannon moves to defend her mate when the wolf she thought was dead leaps up and locks it’s jaws onto her back leg.
I leap through the trees and pounce on it, finishing it off. Now that I’m here the wolves cower at the power they feel coursing through my veins. The hair stands up on their necks when I growl lowly.
I let out a fierce bark in warning as they begin to run. They split up and I’m left alone as Koda tends after Rhiannon's leg. She should heal but it was a deep bite so it will take time.
I burst onto the trail following the biggest wolf.
Alpha! We’ve got a big problem! Rylins voice stops me in my tracks.
Where is Ellie?! Is my only question.
We’re in the cabin! Rob- Oh God, Ellie! No!
One thought runs through my being; I’m going to kill Robert. I signal to all the elders for back up. Mother and Rhiannon’s parents go after the wolves while Rhiannon and koda heal. Father gathers the tribe and will watch over them.
My paws dig into the dirt and I run as fast as I can toward Ellie. Kodas thoughts are conflicting. He can’t decide if he wants me to kill his father or show mercy. All I can think of is that Ellie has to be okay. If she isn’t I don’t know what I’ll be capable of.
I burst into the cabin, naked as the day I was born. Rylin lays in a pool of blood and Ellie has an arrow aimed at Roberts heart.