Ellie’s emotions wash over me and my heart shatters for the hundredth time today. She blames herself for this mess and her pain is killing me. I want to take away every heartache but I can’t. I’ve brought her into my world and I’m selfish enough to keep her here.
We walk to the council meeting and find the members already there. I’m on edge because I don’t know how they will respond to the situation. Koda is mourning and yet he still has chosen to side with me.
Luckily he has always been the rational one and when I filter through his thoughts I feel his relief that his father is finally reunited with his mother in the spirit world. The pack has collectively decided to embrace new beginnings. We have seen for too long what can happen to those who can’t get past a single mistake.
Ellie’s heart begins to race frantically when we enter the room. All eyes fall to her and I can’t help but instinctively put myself in front of her like a shield. My body easily hides her small frame. She grabs my black tshirt and my entire being goes into high alert at a simple touch from her. My fathers frown mirrors my own.
“Come, sit. There’s much to discuss and not much time.” He says. We all sit and they begin.
I grab Ellie’s hand and she holds onto mine tightly. Rhiannon puts a supportive hand on her knee. They communicate silently and Ellie sits straighter in her chair.
She doesn’t want to look weak. Stop shielding her and let her be her own person. She will thank you for it.
Rhiannon’s voice reaches into my mind and my brown eyes meet Ellie’s. She shakes her head as if this unspoken thought has reached her and I reluctantly let her go.
“Let’s begin. First, we need to know what happened at the borders.” My father says.
“We were the first ones there.” Koda begins. His hair creates a curtain around his face so I focus on the councils expressions, trying to read them.
“Rhiannon and I intercepted three lone wolves at the eastern border. They were some of the most crazed I’ve ever seen.”
“One got my flank when I was helping Koda. Rylin had just arrived and got himself hurt almost instantly, that’s when Nikan asked him to watch over Elle.” Rhiannon tells them.
“When I was made aware of the threat I immediately went to the eastern border. Rylin linked me that Robert was at the cabin and was cut off so I went back to protect him and Ellie. When I got there Robert was in a rage and Ellie was upstairs while Rylin laid in the living room floor in a pool of his own blood.” I tell them.
“Elliana, please tell us what happened in the cabin.” My mother coaxes gently. Ellie’s face is flushed and she squirms nervously.
“Well, uh, Rylin was bleeding from his side when he came to the cabin. I helped him clean the wound and it healed quickly. He was still weak so I made him something to eat. Robert burst into the cabin while I was upstairs and Rylin tried to s-stop him but Robert was stronger. He put his fist through Rylin and that’s when I grabbed my bow. I begged him to leave him and kill me...” she chokes up and looks at the floor.
“Take your time.” mom reassures.
“Robert was hoping to kill me so Nik, I mean Nikan, would kill him so he could be with his mate but he died before anyone could do anything.”
“I vote you leave and never return. The tribe would be better off with Nikan having a suitable partner. There’s a girl, Wawetseka, who is willing to become your partner, Nikan. She’s the most beautiful girl in the tribe.” I scoff. The woman is delusional.
Rhiannon’s mother gives me a wicked smile and anger bubbles up inside of me. How dare she disrespect her future alphas. My first instinct is to snap her neck.
“If that is what the council wants I am willing to leave. Nikan deserves a chance to find a more suitable partner.”
Ellie whispers and my heart shatters. I lose all ability to breathe. She sees the look on my face and avoids my eyes.
“You would give up my son just like that?” My father asks curiously. Suddenly I hate them all.
“If it meant a chance at a life of happiness and an easy path for him, yes. I believe he is strong enough to fight off the sickness that takes over some. I would still be alive so I think he would not face the problems Robert and my father have.”
Rhiannon gasps and starts screaming at me through the link. I can’t focus on anything. She’s trying to leave. She has made up her mind before this meeting. I think death would be easier compared to this betrayal I feel.
“Your father?” Lee asks.
“Yes, he is very ill. He has been for awhile but the sickness is becoming more physical and he’s becoming brittle. I believe it attacked his body because he had my mother to keep his mind from madness.”
“And how can you be sure it’s from losing his mate?” Rhiannon’s father is next to speak up.
“Because every doctor he saw found no evidence of the sickness in his body. We believe it is because it was his heart that was sick and it has created a toll on the body.”
“You’re saying your father will soon die? Of a...broken heart?” He scoffs. She shrugs as tears form in her eyes.
“Why not? My father did.” Koda tells them.
“The same fate could be yours so why would you leave my son?” Mom seems genuinely curious.
“Because Nik deserves a chance to lead without me complicating everything. The tribe deserves a shot at happiness and peace.”
“Then we are all in agreement.” Rhiannon’s mom says triumphantly.
“No, we are not. You may be the council but I have found my mate. I am the rightful chief and alpha and I will not allow you to disrespect my mate any longer. Either accept her or I will make your lives miserable. You know good and well I have allowed you all to continue this game out of respect for you but I’m done. You will respect my mate and treat her with kindness. That is an order!”
Everyone except my father flinches at my command. A rumble rolls through my chest and my hair stands on end. I feel the electricity of the alpha blood course through me. Rhiannon and Koda stand next to me in solidarity.
“No need to get feisty boy. We have seen the courage of your mate when she protected the people from the lone wolf and we have seen her kindness when she forgave Robert and would not harm him. I have decided you are right. Though I am angry at the loss of my sister I have come to see the blame does not rest on Elliana.”
My father shocks me with this admission. I nod in thanks and the others agree with him. All except Rhiannon’s mother. Spiteful witch. I smile at Ellie and she smiles wistfully at me. I feel her pride and my ego goes through the roof.
“We have a request.” Lee speaks up and I shoot him a look. He chuckles.
“We would like you, Miss Elliana, to attend the ceremony of Robert. The people need to see you care about our culture and our own. We, of course have kept quiet about the events Robert orchestrated and about the incident on the cabin. We don’t want to tarnish his memory. He was good to our people.”
Ellie looks shocked and nods quickly but I can tell she’s uneasy about going. I don’t blame her. She stands to her feet and I crush her into a hug to shield her from her pain.
“The ceremony is in two hours. Go prepare yourselves, and son?”
“Tomorrow you all begin your ascension to leadership.” His eyes fall to Ellie and I smile.
I never wanted to be a leader but it is my duty. So, I will spend everyday undoing their mess and creating new beginnings for my people, for my pack and for my mate.