The song for this chapter is When the party’s over
by Billie Eilish
I smooth out the black dress I borrowed from my mother. She puts my auburn hair into two braids that fall behind my back. Dad told her I should wear it like that since most of the women will probably do the same for the ceremony. On them it always looks stunning but I feel like I’ll just stick out even more.
She wraps ribbons into the braids since it’s the custom of Nik’s tribe during the ceremony. The other women will wear moccasins since this is a time of meeting with all those passed on. I decide on a pair of black ballet slippers. A knock on the door signals Nik’s arrival.
My fingers tremble and mom grabs my hands. I let out a shaky breath. I stop by dads room and kiss him on the cheek. He smiles softly.
“When you’re out there and they call out to the ones gone to the great spirit think of my Raven. Let her feel your presence. I want her to know that you are there and you are better at being a mate than I ever was.” He whispers so quietly I have to bend down to hear him.
“Okay daddy. I promise I’ll be back after and we will spend time together.”
“Still leaving?” He asks softly. I haven’t told anyone here so how did he know?
“I had that same look in my eyes the day I took you away from here.” He answers the unspoken question.
“It’s best for the tribe. They are safer without me there causing trouble. We can go back to the city and enjoy our time together.” I try to reassure him.
“Baby, I can’t go to the kitchen without a wheelchair let alone travel back to the city. Besides, I want to die here, close to her.” My eyes burn and I bite my cheek to stop the tears.
“It’s okay. I’m ready, just promise you will stay. Not just for me but for Nikan. He needs you. And you need him just as much.” I sigh and his hand holds mine.
“I love you dad. I finally understand why you did what you did.” I need him to hear that.
“I love you too. But, you should know I regret my decision. It was wrong and if I could do anything it would be stop you from repeating history.”
I meet Nik in the kitchen where grams is stuffing him full of homemade pecan pie. She whispers something and he laughs. His smile makes my heart do odd things. I haven’t seen that smile for a few days and I forgot how beautiful he can be.
That smile can change the atmosphere. It can destroy you and make you whole all at once. He either hears my heart racing or senses I have come into the room because as I’m just staring, memorizing every detail of his face he slowly looks up and meets my eyes.
My face turns pink and he smiles again. His eyes roam over every stitch of fabric and I feel like I’m under a microscope. He clears his throat and thanks grams for the pie. He hugs her and she sends him on his way. I follow him out the door to that same worn path.
“You still leaving?” He asks bitterly.
“I...” I don’t what to say. I don’t want to leave but I know I should.
“I’ve not been fair to you, Ellie. I’m sorry that I got so caught up in having you in my life again that I forgot what’s important. I hope you’ll stay...”
“I just want you to be the best you can be.”
“I know. I love that about you. If you stay I’ll stop trying to change so much about my world. I’ll teach you anything you want to learn about my tribe and about shifters.”
“Let’s start with right now. Tell me what the ceremony will be like.”
We walk to the west side of the tribe’s borders where the ancestors graves are. Almost the entire tribe has arrived already. We join Rhiannon and Koda at the front with the council. Rhiannon grabs my hand and kisses it. As much as we got off to a rocky start we’ve become like sisters.
Rylin makes his way slowly to us and I instantly throw my arms around him. I feel so small around the pack. They all stand at least six feet tall nevertheless I hold him like he’s my child. Nik gives him the evil eye and shimmy’s between us.
As the ceremony ends people throw gifts into the casket and it begins to drizzle. The cold rain makes me shiver and Nik presses against me, the heat from his body eliminating the cold.
Nate begins speaking about mates and begins using their tribal language. I can’t understand what he says but goosebumps form on my arms. The sage creates a fog around us and I’m amazed at what happens next.
The smoke splits in half and then twists together forming a knot. It hovers above Robert’s body and doesn’t evaporate. As Nate continues Nik whispers in my ear.
“He’s calling out to Robert’s mate so their souls can unite and be taken up to the great spirit. Soon you’ll feel the presence of the ancestors. It’s kind of amazing.” I begin to get nervous but soon peace washes over me and I realize it’s not mine but the tribes emotions. They aren’t afraid.
I close my eyes and mentally call out to Raven. I feel something wash over me and behind my eyes I hear a faint voice call to me and I’m no longer afraid. She’s not a ghost. It’s her spirit.
Sweet child, I feel your father calling to me. Tell him when he sees the river I’ll meet him there.
I’ll tell him. He misses you so much.
And I miss him. I have one thing to ask of you if you will.
We cannot reunite without the ceremony. Convince the council and the people to let him be buried here. It’s the only way he’ll find me.
I’ll try my best.
Thank you. I have watched over you. You are very beautiful and bright. Don’t leave them, they need you as much as you need them. You’ll make a wonderful alpha.
A tear escapes as Raven’s spirit leaves me. Nik kisses me gently on the cheek.
“She came to you didn’t she? Your fathers mate.” I nod and smile softly.
“Yes, she did.”