Never Ago (Book 1)

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Hold Me Together

The moment Lily's eyes fell on the arm holding Madaline's waist, she knew something in her moved. Her trust and belief was shaken. All the signs, all the clues, all the hints were there from the beginning. How could she not see them?

Oh, right. She put a mighty rock on it. The flood of truth she'd been holding back released like a broken dam. In her mind, her heart, her dreams Love was a healer. It was pure, peaceful and divine. It held you together, it made you stronger. She always chose to see one side of love.

That's what she felt between her mother and father. That was exactly what she wanted.

But suddenly, the coin was flipped. Lily stood there watching her city of love crumble down like a sand castle. A believer of sunshine exposed to a thunderstorm.

Love made you weak too. It broke you more than it healed you. It took everything from until you didn't have even your own self. There was always a bigger, most destructive part of love. Pain.

Crestfallen and heartbroken, Lily painfully witnessed the reality of her love. Ezra tried, sure he tried, to salvage what was left of it. He scooted over to the armrest of the leather couch and let Madaline take his place. The world around them was a blur. Ezra drew in a breath that stung his chest.

Sam missed the beginning of an end.

"Lily, hey!" Zeke shouted from where he sat beside Gabe on one of the couches. He had a brunette on his arm. "You came!"

Sam sauntered over to their group, followed by Lily was walked she was carrying a mountain on her shoulders. Sam sat on the empty spot on the couch adjcent to the one Madaline occupied. Ezra whistled to a waiter near the bar pointing at a chair, he beckoned to fetch it.

"Here." He spoke softly and placed the chair near his leg. "Sit."

All pairs of eyes gawked at Ezra. Lily timidly sat on the lone seat and scooted her chair away from him. The action, as innocent as it was, felt like she ripped his thumb out.

Ezra scratched his neck absently and paused when he noticed the heat looks from the others. "What?"

The gazes scattered away quickly, some cleared their throats while others coughed.

"Hey, uhm, guys." Zeke straightened up. "Meet Lily. She shifted recently. We got into a little misunderstanding so I invited her over. Hope you don't mind."

The guys fell over one another, shaking her hand eagerly. None of them noticed the crushed cane in Ezra's hand. Sam was ecstatic with the higher guards of the pack. He hit it off with them like they have been best buddies. Lily wanted to leave but seeing him mixing with the people he wanted to be part of held her back. She avoided Ezra at all costs.

His presence was a like torn in the heel of her foot. His scent, his scorching gaze and the pull he had over her intensified the burning in her chest. She was dying a slow death.

"Hi." A redhead with freckles and big hazel eyes gave her a side hug. "I'm Stacy."

Lily returned her hug and waited for her to take a seat. Stacy plopped down in the lap of the man sitting near her chair. She saw her kiss his jaw then left him howling with his friends.

"I've never seen you before. Nice dress by the way, you look super cute." Stacy propped her head on her fist, her elbow on the armrest of the couch. "Are you dating one of the these"– she jerked her thumb over her shoulder–"idiots?"

"No."

Madaline scooted to the edge of her seat and reached out to shake hands with Lily. "I'm Madaline. Pretty sure you must have seen me around."

Lily nodded and tucked her hair behind her ear. "You're dating the Alpha."

She heard Ezra choke on her drink while Madaline beamed at her statement. "Yeah, it's been a while."

Stacy looked at Ezra with concern. "You okay?"

He looked like he was out of his breath. Madaline had no time to react when his hand shot out, gripped her wrist and dragged her with him to the bar. Lily could hardly swallow, her eyes stung and her throat felt like she had just swallowed shards of glass.

"Weird." Stacy muttered then shook her head returned her attention to Lily. "Anyway, how are you? You don't look like you're enjoying hanging out with the these guys."

"Zeke insisted I come. He said it would mean I accepted his apology."

Stacy cocked her eyebrow. "Zeke?" She pointed to him. "That buffoon?"

"Yes."

The confusion maring her face morphed into disbelief. "Woah. That's a first. He bullied me throughout high school and never once apologized for it."

Lily looked over at him but remained quiet. If her heart wasn't falling apart with each passing second, she would have found it suspicious. Humans don't grow overnight.

Madaline retured to her seat and smiled brightly at Lily then handed her a cocktail. "Sorry for the interruption. Here."

Out of politeness, Lily took drink and sipped on it slowly. The taste was fruity and bittersweet.

"Thanks."

Ezra dropped a stool beside Lily and sat on it. Being an Alpha meant being the center of attention. He always loved it, revelled in it. It fed his ego but for once in his life, he wished he was part of a shadow. His mind was frantically brainstorming for a way to turn the night around meanwhile his heart sang a wounded melody.

"–Even Ezra agrees. Ask him!"

Ezra glanced at Gabe who was pointing to him and then at the pairs of eyes waiting for him to speak. "Ask me what?"

"Dude. Are you deaf? Kyne has literally withdrawn himself from us. It's like he doesn't give a fuck he grew up with us. It's all because of Stacy."

Stacy's jaw hit the floor. "Me?!"

Some of the guys gave her a pointed look. "Obviously."

Kyne jumped in. "Hey, hey. Why is literally everyone rubbing my mate in my face every time I show up? It's like none of you is happy for me. I agree I don't hang out with you guys as much as I used to but that's because we grow up, we have responsibilities, we pace with the world. Life happens."

Zeke scoffed. "Life happened after you met Stacy? Man, Ezra was right all along when he said it turns you into a sucker. Love and mates are bullshit."

The revelation slapped Lily across her face. Her tiny gasp dissolved in the heated argument.

"What?" Kyne scowled at Ezra. "Why the fuck would you say that?"

Before Ezra could speak for himself, Madaline cut in hastily. "Don't be surprised Kyne. Ezra had always been logical and practical. He never believed in love and bonds. Just like he said, it fucks with your head. It's just a manipulation to let someone control you."

"Yes I said that b–"

Stacy shot up from her seat angrily. "Coaches only guide you because they can't play shit. And if you have never been in love before, you don't have the right to get all philosophical over it. And one more thing. I never asked Kyne to cut his ties with you. It's his decision, not mine."

Zeke added more fuel to the fire. "That's the point, Stacy. You never asked. He's turned into your puppy. I don't get what he sees in you."

Kyne grabbed him by his collar before he could utter another word. The commotion gathered a crowd around the couches as the rest of them tried separating them.

"Don't you dare, Zeke." He snarled in his face. "I've had enough of your shit. One more word against Stacy and consider yourself dead." He shoved him and allowed Stacy to tug him out of there. Before disappearing, he shouted. "The least she does is respect me. Which, apparently, none of you motherfuckers do. Ciao adios!"

"Zeke!" Ezra snapped at him. "What the fuck is wrong with you?!"

Zeke raised his hands in surrender. "Don't come at me, dude. Someone had to say it, I did. And none of it was false. You might not have said anything against Kyne but your theory of the fucking pathetic mate bond proved to be right."

His blood ran cold when he noticed Lily had vacated her seat. He let the group behind and dashed past the crowd in panic. His knees were threatening to give out under him. His already sore heart was ready to combust. Having no clue why he was looking for her, he still searched the crowd like a madman.

"Fuck. Fuck. Fuck." He gripped his hair with so much strength, his scalp stung.

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