Never Ago (Book 1)

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What's It Like

The adults of pack were immediately warned about the safety of the minors. The backup arrived shortly after word got out. Things seemed to settle to an environment were the fear left the heart of the pack but the tension was definitely there.

Two days rolled painfully slow into the third one. Lily had yet to learn about mind link and Marie was nowhere to be seen. Which was expected because she was over the moon for the annual mating event. As much closed off as Lily was, as much as she denied it, she longed for someone to just be there and understand without her telling what's wrong. Even she herself had no clue.

She crossed path with Ezra more than a couple times. No words, no glances, no secret smiles, not even acknowledgement passed between the two. The last time they spoke, he went to the bathroom and Lily left. Maybe it was paranoia that Lily realized he didn't even try to reach out. Her heart shrunk little by little every time he passed by as if she wasn't there. He was always accompanied but the superiors of the pack. Lily hung to that little excuse that he had company, he was just being subtle.

But was he? Worst was, she didn't remember doing or saying something to deserve that cold shoulder.

For just a moment, he let her inside her bubble. His guards were down enough to peer over. Then slam. A shield went up. They were an inch apart. And that inch was an unbreakable wall. So close yet so far.

She left. He let it.

There was constant ache in her chest she woke up to. And then ache in her entire body along with her chest she went to bed to. Her training was going surprisingly well. Cole hadn't mistreated her after that incident and she'd learn quite well how to control her dodge reflex and her defence stance. It wasn't much but it was something.

Not enough to take him off her mind though. Perhaps that's why she missed it when a basketball flew her way and smacked her off her feet. Her head spun and the ringing in her head threw her into a pond of dizziness. Somewhere across the gym, people heard the railing cracked under Ezra's clenched hands where he was surveying warriors. His back and his jaw turned to granite yet he refused to acknowledge that little shriek.

"Zeke!" Cole yelled as everyone paused while Sam bee lined for Lily. She hissed when he helped her up.

"Sorry, man." Zeke held his hands up from where he threw the ball near the boxing ring. "I missed my shot. Gabe was supposed to catch it but she walked right into it."

Cole hard eyes snapped to Gabe who rushed to Zeke after the commotion. He nodded vigorously. "He'd been practicing his muscle power and I was helping him. And don't throw a fit over this. She's supposed to react faster than that. I guess she's slacking on her training."

I know what you did, asshole. Don't even think for a second I'll let you bully my students. Don't cross your line. Cole warned Zeke via his mind link.

What's up your ass crack? Zeke quipped. I told you it was a fucking mistake. If Ezra has no problem with it, why the hell do you?

Cole refrained from throwing a punch at him and dragging his ass across the gym. He knew as well as they did that Zeke's eyes were veiling his smirk. Cole had been around his friends enough to know Zeke was pretty damn good at aiming.

While he didn't give a rat's ass about the girl, he was surprised at Ezra's indifference. They were mates. His wolf was supposed to tear them apart.

The least you could do was give a shit about that one girl who isn't after your title or your dick! Cole snapped at Ezra in his rage.

Lily could hardly see when Cole barked orders at the others to run their laps and came over to where Sam held a wobbly Lily. Her cheek was dark purple and it was swelling near her eye. She was lucky if her teeth were intact or even her cheekbone. He gave them the rest of the day off.

Sam had taken her to the pack's doctor in less than a minute. Cole was surprised at the concern he saw on the boys face and even more surprised to see Ezra rooted to his previous spot. He hadn't moved a muscle. He wasn't sure if the guy was even breathing.

-

"There's nothing to worry about." The doctor examined her face, his glasses perched on the tip of his nose. "The bruise will heal and fade in about a day or two. In the meanwhile, you should rest. It'll help with the process."

He suggested painkillers for the throbbing pain in her cheek and left. Sam helped her take her medicine then adjusted the pillows behind her back in her bed. He was mad at Zeke for what he did to his friend even if it was unintentional. If his entire future in the pack's warriors didn't depend on that moron, he would have floored him.

"Does it still hurt?" He held her sand in his, sitting on a chair beside her bed.

Lily slowly shook her head and winced when her cheek stung. "Not much." She croaked.

"I'm sorry I couldn—"

"Sam." Lily gave him a look. "Apologize one more time and you're out. Understand?"

Guilty, he nodded. He felt helpless against those who had a high rank in the pack. Sure most of them never misused their superiority. But there were minor that did.

"But where were you lost?" He wondered. "I've been watching you and you were getting better in the sessions."

Lily gulped and let her head fall on the pillow. Where was she lost? Or was she losing something? Or was there something lost on her? There were so many possibilities, so little answers and even little options. Her stomach was in knots yet her heart was beating like it didn't. He was there. Like always, he avoided her. She kept hoping to see him burst through that door, rush to her side and... Just be there.

"Sam..." She whispered but she knew he heard. Because his hold on her hand tightened.

It was one of those moments of solace between two friends. It's how they confided in each other. The reason why they were friends was so simple yet so complex. It was because they weren't joint at the hip. They didn't need to see each other daily. They never even shared their secrets. Not because they didn't trust each other but because they both knew their secrets where rusted knives stabbed in their hearts. They both understood pulling it out would heart and leave a wound behing. But they knew when the knife moved and it hurt them.

"I'm here." He said, looking at his friend sadly. "And I'm not leaving."

"Sometimes you want something so bad, it becomes more your life than life itself." She told him, her eyes closed, her breaths long. "You hang onto like you'd die if it slipped your fingers. You hold onto it terrified of losing it. It makes you so desperate, you lose yourself in the process of preventing it from escaping your clutches. In a way, you're dying little by little inside... because a part of you thinks it's ready to slip and there's nothing you can do."

Sam knew that feeling all too well. He sat there, staring at her face, her tense jaw and strained lips. He knew what she was doing. She was trying to soak her tears back. Refusing to let them fall. It's what she did when her parents died. It's what she did when her sister died two years later. It's what she does every time her sorrow hits her. It was her way of coping. And no matter how hard he tried to break that toxic chain, she couldn't.

"Lily. If you asked, I swear to goddess and to everything dear to me, I'd tear the entire pack apart. For your sake. I'm always here. I always will be. We both know that."

She nodded. Of course she knew. It was the first time he said it out loud but she knew all along. It's how their friendship was. They knew without knowing. It was like a mutual understanding. She'd do the same for him. And he knew that too.

She worked her throat on swallowing the bitter taste in her mouth. She wasn't angry at what happened. She wasn't even concerned about how pathetic it was to not see something so big flying your way. It was, however, heartbreaking. Her wolf was calling out her mate and he didn't bother even asking in the past hour if she was okay. Especially when he was right there when it happened.

How desperate can I get?

"What's hurting you?" Sam tried. "I know what it usually is but I feel like it's different this time... Is it?"

"Yeah." She managed, her closed eyes fluttering. She took a deep breath then opened her eyes. They were damp. She decided it was time to talk about something even more important.

"Do you think they noticed the ketchup stain on my hoodie when I fell?"

Sam's face broke into a slow smile. He huffed and then said, "Are you sure it's a ketchup stain though? It looks like you ran out of toilet paper."

They both laughed.


"The fuck you looking at me like that?" Zeke quirked a brow at Cole from across the table after he took a swig of his beer. They were gathered in Ezra's house bar again. Gabe was sprawled on the couch beside Zeke and browsing throug his phone.

Cole wasn't in the mood to get drunk tonight. "My eyes, my choice. What you gonna do about it?"

"Jeez," Zeke kicked his boots off and rolled his eyes. "Don't rape me, that's all I ask."

"I'd rather die than touch a skank like you."

"Aww," Zeke taunted him. "You used to hug the shit out of me."

Cole draped his hand over the back of the couch. "It was easy since you're full of it."

"Fuck you," Zeke sang.

"You probably will if I ever decided to throw pity fuck your way."

"Dude," Gabe looked at him like he grew a head. "Why are you so cranky tonight?"

Zeke snorted. "His mother—"

"I wouldn't complete that sentence if I were you." Ezra walked in, saving Zeke from a fuming Cole. "You seem to forget what he does every time you joke about his mom."

Zeke instinctively straightened up and looked away from Cole's challenging eyes. "I don't know what crawled up his ass and died neither do I wanna know. Where were you?"

Ezra shrugged and dropped beside Cole. "Last minute work. Nothing unnecessary."

"What about that chick?"

Ezra suppressed the funny feeling swelling in his chest. "Which one?"

Gabe perked up. "The one you're gonna dump since you're claiming Maddie as your mate."

Do you ever have those moments when dread makes you feel like your fingers are dead? Ezra experienced it when those eyes and the big bruise that's probably near them flashed before his eyes.

"What about her?"

"That's what we're asking. What about her?"

"The ceremony is in two weeks. For some reason dad didn't even ask if I have a mate. In fact, he's more enthusiastic about it than I am. It won't be a surprise if it's sooner than that. I'd have to reject her sometime before it."

"Why not now?" Cole snapped. "Why not right this moment?"

Ezra almost crushed his teeth with how hard he clamped his jaw. "Cole, I told you before. I'd do what I want. She's my mate."

"You don't give a shit about her and you're going to dump her anyway. What's your excuse of staking a claim?" He mocked.

Ezra's temper flared. "Don't even dare use that tone with me again. I'm your Alpha. Know your fucking place. As for her, she came to me. Not the other way around. I'd do whatever I want. Nobody asked her to be a disney princess. If anything, I'm doing her a favor."

Zeke smirked at Cole. "Enjoy the show. She's learning the lesson of her life. Who gives a nut about how she's feeling. The way she's acting all love sick and shit, I'd say she's screwed up in the head."

Ezra almost flew across the room and rammed into that bastard. His heart raced, hair stood and eyes turned but he caught himself ladt minute. The insult supposed to be amusing splashed over him like acid. His skin burnt. It made him resent the bond even more.

Cole ignored Zeke and turned to Ezra. "Look, all I'm saying is at least give it a shot. You want Madaline, you have Madaline. But what if your mate changed that? Her feelings for you are geniune. Whatever those maybe."

"She thinks it's love." Ezra scoffed. "Falling in love just because there's a bond is not love anyway. Love fools you. It makes you submissive. It makes a person your weakness. I'm not going to let my pack down. She may be my mate but she's too frgaile and frail to stand beside me."

"You're judging her based on—"

"No," Ezra interrupted. "I'm comparing them. She's housewife material, not Luna material. And I'm not about to cuddle and eat chocolates."

The picture that sentence made in his head frustrated the hell out of him. It wasn't supposed to be sappy and delusional! He growled and walked up to the bar counter and angrily plucked out a bottle of scotch. He chucked it down like water.

Gabe and Zeke brushed his agitation off like a pest. Gabe said, "She could barely move after she got hit earlier and it was just a ball. The hell is she gonna do in a real war. Pass out?"

Ezra couldn't for the life of him grab a hold of his senses. He knew what he wanted. And he was gonna bloody get it. The pressure in his chest bothered him so soaked more alcohol.

Cole walked up to where Ezra sat. "Okay. You proved it. The bond is useless. I even get that love is a sick twisted game of chess. What I don't get is why are you torturing her for something she had no part in."

He waited for his response but it never came. All he heard was his raged breathing. "She was in love with the idea of someone to love. Not you. Unfortunately, it was you who she bonded to. If it was someone else, she'd loved him the same—"

His mate in the arms of someone else, giggling, smiling, her warm brown eyes glowing like he meant the world hit him like a truck. His patience ran thin, his insides burned and he erupted like a valcano. His wolf took over and like a deadly beast, he roared as he smashed the bottle in his hand.

"Get the fuck out of my house!" He stumbled off his tool and his burning black eyes zeroed in on all the three of them.

They had known him enough to get the message. They left. Cole gave him one last look before he slam his front door shut.
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