He aged well.
I’d reckon that he had to be at least twenty-eight. His dirty blonde hair was combed back, his handsome jawline was sharp and masculine, and his tall nose was slightly crooked as if it had been broken several times in the past. Everything about him called to me. From the way he moved to the way he talked. I found myself unable to look away. To me, he was perfect. This was my mate, the answer to all of my prayers.
The ballroom music faded and the entire room dimmed until I could only see him standing before me, mesmerizing me to the point that I couldn’t remember where I was or who I was supposed to be.
As if he noticed my gawking, he turned his head to me and our eyes caught and held for the first time, causing the mate bond to flex between us and tighten to an almost uncomfortable ache, pulling me toward his tall build with magnetic force. It was something I had never felt before.
Smiling at him with excitement and wonder seeping from my eyes, I quickly made my way over to him. But my excitement was short-lived when my mate lowered his gaze and looked away, his eyes filled with what looked like remorse.
He watched me come closer but remained frozen in his spot with a deep frown painted on his thin lips and wrinkles in between his eyebrows.
I had a feeling something was wrong. I didn’t know what but it was making me nervous.
Most males didn’t stand stock-still like my mate when they found their other half. He should have gathered me into his arms and hugged me to his chest, happy beyond words that he had finally found his soulmate, especially at the age that he was. Yet he did none of that. He only avoided me like I was the bubonic plague.
“Babe?” a feminine voice called from behind him. Before I could process that one term of endearment, I saw a female with a head full of red curls come up to my mate. Her manicured fingers curved around his muscled forearm, and she leaned into his chest, taking up the position that was supposed to be mine.
It took me a full minute to see the blonde-haired baby in her arms, clambering up onto my mate and drooling on his shirt. The picture they made quickly etched itself into the deepest recesses of my mind.
I frantically looked at his hand, and—sure enough—there was a golden band on his ring finger that had caused my whole world to collapse.
He was married.
My mate was married to another woman.
Everything went quiet in my head. Though I was standing in the middle of a boisterous party, I couldn’t hear anything. It was like someone had cupped their hands over my ears and trapped me in a room with four white walls.
The complete disbelief and sheer horror showed clearly on my features, painting an image of my extreme distress. The heartbreak was real at this point.
“Do you know her?” his wife asked, snapping me out of my thoughts and forcing me to choke back a sob that was halfway up my throat.
He didn’t answer immediately. His eyes darkened and he turned his head to kiss her soundly on the mouth, glancing at me from the corner of his eye. I could tell that he didn’t want his wife to know about me. The look in his eyes was almost pleading. He wanted me to leave and stop bothering his perfect family. Yet I could only stand there gaping, waiting for his reply with a smidgeon of hope still burning inside me.
What was I hoping for, though?
He had a happy family, a beautiful wife, and an adorable baby boy.
If I did anything, I would just be a homewrecker. No one would know that I was the mate he had abandoned.
The pain and betrayal could not be undone.
While he was busy building a perfect life for himself and his family, I was left burning in the depths of hell, suffering from the horribly painful attacks caused by him sleeping with another woman. It was only now that I realized this. Had I known this earlier, I would have rejected him a long time ago instead of letting myself suffer like this.
“No,” he said. That one syllable caused my heart to shatter into millions of pieces.
His wife looked expectantly at me as he wrapped his arm around her waist. The way he protected her made me envious. And the green-eyed monster in me urged me to destroy that little thread of happiness he so desperately clung to. Yet when my eyes flashed to his baby, I found myself unable to. I stood stunned in my spot.
What could I do?
“Pup, is there something you wanted?” she asked, raising a quizzical brow at me, waiting for me to do something. Anything. They were probably tired of me blocking their path.
Pup? Was I a child? Was that what they took me for?
My mouth opened but nothing came out. I was too busy trying to cover all the bitterness and hurt with a blank expression on my face. But who was I trying to kid?
My chin trembled as some members of my pack laughed and pointed their fingers at me, watching our exchange like it was good entertainment on a Friday night. I felt humiliated, and I couldn’t hide that or the burning tears collecting in the corners of my eyes.
“Alpha, Alpha Female, we are ready for your speech,” the new Beta of our pack interrupted, making me realize that the couple in front of me was our new Alpha and Alpha Female.
I didn’t wait for them to reply. Instead, I swallowed down what little fight and pride I had left and walked away, leaving them all unscathed, unlike the murderous thoughts that were crossing my mind.
You are too cruel, Alpha Liam Bane.
I had thought of death many times when I caught sight of our new Alpha and Alpha Female. It made me sick to my stomach, and the pain I had been feeling for years escalated until I felt nothing except for eternal damnation. I was so tired, so… exasperated, and desperate for an ending that I knew was coming soon.
After meeting Liam for the first time at the ceremony to merge our two packs, I did everything I could to stay out of his way. I didn’t want to see how happy he was without me. I didn’t want to see him act as if I were nothing except for another pebble in his path.
But it was so hard to ignore the instinct infused into my DNA by the Moon Goddess herself. It made me want him and want to be loved by him, to be buried in his arms and bathed in his wondrous scent every morning and every night.
Too bad my mate didn’t feel the same. He was probably ashamed of our bond. He wanted to cut me off and abandon me in a place where no one would ever know, before I could even have a taste of what being with my soulmate felt like.
“Rose,” Liam called, stopping me in my tracks.
I froze in the middle of the hallway and felt like a deer in the headlights.
“Can I talk to you for a minute?” he asked, his voice soft and husky, deep and smooth.
I gritted my teeth and nodded my head, turning my body to him after slapping a look of indifference on my face.
He gestured for me to go into his office, but didn’t wait for me. It was probably because he didn’t want our mating bonds to stop him from what he wanted to do next. If he came too close to me or touched me, our connection would solidify and make it almost impossible for him to reject me. He would want me just as much as I wanted him. With just one touch. Tempted, I looked down at my trembling hands and curled my fingers into a fist, trying to hold myself back.
As the door closed behind me, I took a seat on the cushioned chair in front of his work desk and swallowed down the lump in my throat. My hands were super cold but sweat lined my back. Despite trying to look as strong as I possibly could, the urge to cry like a broken dam came in unison with the frantic beating of my heart. But I needed to confront this head-on. There was no turning back now. No more cowering.
With a shaky intake of breath, I raised my eyes to his handsome face.
“You’re going to reject me, aren’t you?” I asked, my voice dry and raspy like I’d swallowed a bucket of sand or chewed on chunks of charcoal.
Liam sent me a guilty look, and the disappointment swallowed me whole. It was like an anchor had been dropped to the bottom of my stomach, and I could barely hold myself up.
“I never wanted this to happen, Rose. My pack needed an Alpha Female and I needed an heir. Tera was my last optio—”
“Just get it over with, Alpha,” I near snarled out, my eyes set into a vicious glare.
I didn’t need any damned excuses. He could just shove it if he thought he could say that and everything would be rainbow and kisses again. It was not and it would never be.
Liam seemed taken aback by my anger. His shoulders stiffened and the veins on his arms became more prominent. But he didn’t comment on my hostile behavior. Instead, he took a deep breath and steeled himself, as if he were preparing for the pain his words would cause.
I narrowed my eyes and waited for the final blow.
“I, Liam Bane, Alpha of the Forusk Fang Pack, reject you, Rose Amari, as my mate.”
Any pain I had felt before paled in comparison to the agony I felt right now. It ached and choked me as if someone were stabbing me in the heart over and over again. Though tears threatened to shatter my strong façade, I tried not to let it show. My hands shakily pressed against my chest as my heart burned painfully from our bond’s separation. It felt like my soul was being dipped into acid and torn into tiny shreds. A pain so overwhelming it made my wolf whimper and cry loudly like I’d never heard her cry before. Not that I’d heard very much from my wolf these last couple of years.
I breathed heavily and fought to stay conscious as darkness threatened to engulf me in its embrace. I had to finish this. I had to.
“I, Rose Amari, daughter to Alpha Damien Amari, accept your rejection.”
The last thing I saw was Liam with his hand braced on the table and sweat raining down his pale face. He looked like he was on the verge of fainting.
I guess I’m not the only one hurting now, am I Alpha?
Feeling quite satisfied with his suffering, I quickly left his office before I could face plant onto the floor.
Not one single tear had fallen from my eyes because he wasn’t worth it.