Never Ago (Book 1)

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Vile or Vital

"I can't help but think it's all my fault..."

Amelia, the Luna, slid closer to Lily on the bed in the guest bedroom. She insisted on feeding her before she let her lie down in bed.

Seeing the tiny little girl grow up into an admirable woman all on her own without parental guidance had always fascinated the Luna. She loved all her pack yet Lily possessed a very special place in her heart. It iced her blood to know her own son had caused her the greatest pain of her life.

"It's not you fault, hun." She swiped her hair off her cheek and tucked it behind her ear tenderly. "Your dreams were a little too pure for this world. This generation don't follow good and bad anymore. It follows what they want and what they don't."

"I'm sorry I ruined your dinner." Lily croaked, her vocal cords exhausted.

Amelia gave her a stern look and curled her legs up on the bed. "You did absolutely nothing wrong, Lily. The root of evil here is my foolish son. I assure you I have never dropped him on his head in his childhood."

Lily offered a weak smile. "Maybe he dropped on his own."

"Yes," she nodded. "He tends to do that a lot."

"I never knew you and the Alpha are chosen mates."

Ameila sighed and clasped her hands in her lap, her eyes slowly sweeping over the room flooded by the dim lamplight.

"Nobody knows. It's too personal for us. Even my own son barely knows. Now I get why some people believe little knowledge is dangerous."

Lily slid up from under the blanket and leaned against the headboard. "Is she still here?"

Amelia picked at her nails, her head downcast. "We grew up together like twins despite being born out of two different wombs. We were neighbors back then. They would call us 'Diamond-Dio' in high school. Everything we did, good or bad, we did it together. It was the world against us. We applied to the same university outside of the pack. On the day we met the Alpha to sign our clearance papers, she found Ben. They were mates. The connection was instant."

Lily moved closer to the Luna and lied her head on her shoulder. The glinting remorse in her eyes was not foreign to either of them. The Luna smiled and tapped her cheek playfully.

"I'm going to be honest and say I was mad jealous. Her mate was coming between us. She divided her time and cancelled our plans of leaving the pack. I blew a fuse and told her if she didn't come with me to the university, our friendship is over. We both cried, she didn't want to choose and I was hell bent on proving to her mate that she would always choose me if it came to it. The disaster was explosive when she said her mate needs her more. I left and cut every sort of communication between us."

The strain in her voice and rigidness in her shoulders was instant. Lily silently took it in without interrupting. Amelia was glad because she had her family accuse her and question her motives when she first told them. It was painful but Lily proved to be a lot more patient.

"Months later, an investigator found me. Apparently my best friend Nancy wanted to meet me. I was bitter, unforgiving for the friendship she threw away like meant nothing but I was also broken and miserable without hearing a word from her. We arranged to meet in a restaurant near my university. That's when I came to know she had tumor..."

Lily marveled at the strength Amelia possessed. The news pricked her chest, stirred images of her own sister whilst Amelia took a deep breathe to muster up her resolve.

"I... I was shocked. Hurt. Confused. The grudge I held against her vanished like it never existed. She said she tried to reach out to me earlier but I was nowhere to be found. I remember her asking me to do her a favor for the sake of all those years we spent together."

"What was it?" Lily asked.

Amelia spoke after a long, tormenting pause. "She said, 'Take care of him for me. I love him, I love you and both of you love me. Tomorrow when I'm not here anymore, you're going to find me in each other.' I have no clue what she meant by that but she definitely wanted me to get along with Ben. I moved back, I dropped out of university. She had last stage tumor. I later found out she was shot with a silver bullet in a battle she stubbornly fought alongside Ben. We tried everything to save her... Nothing worked. She was right though. Ben and I found her in each other. I never met my mate when Ben chose me. Yet I couldn't have asked for someone better. He made me realize my best friend made the right choice when she chose him over me."

Lily lifted her head, the hollowness she felt in that moment was much greater than pain. Losing a beloved was perhaps the only wound that never healed.

"You fell in love with the Alpha?"

Amelia's creased lips stretched into a smile. "Not at first. The reason why we mated was because he needed a Luna and I wanted to feel my best friend around me. It was a compromise, a medicine. Then he revealed to me what Nancy saw. His loyalty, his honesty, his beautiful heart. Nancy always used to say she prioritized respect more than love. No wonder Ben turned out her mate. We gradually found love in each other and for each other."

"Does the Alpha..." Lily trailed off, hesitating. Her question curled up in her throat. The Luna, however, sensed it.

"He will never love anyone the way he loved her and that makes me proud. His feelings don't jump, they grow. That's exactly how I know Nancy is still alive, in him."

Lily stared at her in wonder. "That's beautiful."

"Losing the ones you love?"

"No. Knowing they're still alive in people who love them."

Amelia sighed heavy, in pursuit of shaking off her sorrow and cracked a smile. She stood up from the bed and kissed Lily's forehead.

"Thank you for staying with me. Sleep tight, dear. I'll see you in the morning."

The lamplight turned off. Instead of darkness rushing into the room, moonlight peeked through the windows. Lily had no grasp on peace or comfort. The roaring fire in her heart threatened to consume her in silence.

Without her own acord, her feet sneaked her out of the guest bedroom. The house was eerily quiet and cold. She soundlessly drifted up the stairs and drew in a shaky breath when she reached her destination.

The scent immediately tingle her insides. To escape her torment, Lily slipped in through the door and timidly approached the bed. The scent grew stronger, more dense in the air, wafting over her senses. The whimpers of her wolf died down right after she inhaled lungful of it. It soothed her. She knew it would never heal her but in that moment all she needed was to put the pain she felt to sleep.

Hesitantly, she curled up on his bed and covered herself up with his blanket.

Her heart stammered.

"When should I challenge Luke for his rank?" Zeke piped up, a beer nestling between his fingers.

Ezra rolled his head back on the recliner and puffed out rings of smoke. His raging heart refused to let him breathe even after he got drunk. The only possible way he could see was inhaling wolfsbane with his joint. Cole allowed only a pinch of it, of course, yet the brown eyes vengefully remained on his mind.

"I'd suggest you don't." He burned the joint before laching onto it's other end. A haze of smoke entered his mouth, disorienting his vision for a split second.

Gabe snorted, taking a swig of his beer, his eyes fixed on his phone. "Luke isn't going to let you win, we all know that."

Cole noticed the darkness in Zeke's smile. "Who gives a fuck as long as Ez makes the decision in my favor. I want that title."

Ezra worked on swallowing, his throat burning like he was consuming glass shards. "You see, I'm not. If you won, you get the title. If you failed, you don't deserve it."

Zeke slammed the beer down on the table in front of him. "Excuse me? You chickening out now?"

Ezra inhaled another puff in a haze. "No. I prefer Luke being incharge when I'm not. Nothing you say will change my mind. I know what I said to you, I take it back. Fuck me if you can."

Gabe drew his eyebrows together. "Ez, dude–"

"Nope. Earn it or leave it the fuck alone. I'm not responsible for what happens in your lives."

Zeke glared at the indifferent cockiness of his so called friend in fury. Madaline had warned him this would happen. The fucking bastard retracted!

All because of that stuck up bitch.

He kicked the table away and stormed out. Cole sipped on his coke, unfazed, watching as Gabe followed his angry friend outside. Ezra rolled his eyes.

"She handed you your ass." Cole concluded.

The she in question undoubtedly did so. His own parents kicked him out like a bitch. As he deserved of course. Her words were stabbing his insides like ninja stars on a roll.

"And my dick." Ezra commented with his eyes closed. "All my efforts are going down the drain. I guess blaming the bond for everything is a safe heaven for me."

Cole's eyes flashed. He knew Ezra could get unreasonable when something doesn't concide with his wishes but this frustrated the hell out of him. "You've spent almost a month with her. The excuse that it's the bond sounds old. You know her now. If you don't like her just say she's ugly. Don't say it's the bond you don't like! You fucking retard, your obsession is coming from your heart not your bond which is already broken."

Obsession. Is it, really?

Ezra ground his teeth, his jaw almost creaked with the crushing force. "What else do you want me to believe in? I couldn't just fall in love the moment I met her and my theory was solid about blind love–"

"Her blind love gave you the confidence of believing in yourself. It assured you, you'd win in the end because she herself gave you that power."

Ezra let the joint fall from his hand. She'll never leave my mind anyway. Stupid useless drugs.

"I don't want to win this time." He craned his head to the side, peeking at his friend from under his lashes. "I don't want this victory."

Cole studied his friend before taking the final swig from his beer and swiped his lips with the back of his hands afterwards. "I think you do. It started with you proving to us that you'd never fall in love but what I see now is you proving to yourself that you don't need her and failing miserably. It's you against you."

Ezra let his words sink in his disoriented mind as his eyes trailed to the entrance of the bar at his home. The click click of heels sounded distant but when Cole grunted and stood up, he knew who it was.

"I need a nap. See you when your head is out of your ass."

Madaline passed Cole in a stupor, worry etched on her face. She could sense the repulsive smell of wolfsbane in air despite it being deficient.

"Baby, were you smoking wolfsbane again?"

Her pretty face, smooth skin, seductive auro and alluring eyes failed to get a reaction out of him. He lazily sprawled in the recliner and gestured her closer.

Madaline dropped her handbag and climbed up his lap, catching onto his dark lips. She wanted the reassurance that they were going to happen. Ezra couldn't find the desire to reciprocate the kiss. It only intensified his longing for Lily. Her kisses were different. They were warm, fuzzy, electric, meaningful, blazing and without intentions of ending up in sex.

His hands griped Madaline's shoulders and carefully detached his lips from hers. Her eyes flashed with something he couldn't quite catch in his state. For a moment he wondered if Lily had branded him because Madaline's shoulders slumped, her gaze flickering with recognition.

He didn't get hard for her.

Madaline stared at him, long and hard, crestfallen and heartbroken. Her hair fell forward on his chest as she whispered, "You're breaking your promise."

"That's repairable, bargainable," He gathered her hair in his large hand and played with it absentmindedly, his lost eyes half open. "I can make another promise... but I broke her heart." He looked up, "I can't make another heart."

Madaline understood his underlying decision. "You love her?"

Ezra paused, his eyes flashing. "I don't know."

"You're changing for something you don't know?"

He nodded, a ghost of a smile on his face. "I don't know why I'm changing. Perhaps because I realized it wasn't a mistake, it was a sin to break her holy heart." His voice was sharp, a dangerous edge to his laughter. "I feel like a fucking murderer."

"I'm sure it's not that bad. Does she know that you feel ... " Madaline struggled with her vocabulary.

They had been in a relationship where they both said 'I love you' only because it was customary and they both knew they didn't mean it with all their hearts but never touched the subject.

This time though, the fire in his eyes and the weight in his words squashed all her chances.

"What do you call it?" She asked, her curiosity swelling.

He called it compromise when he gave her the right to become a Luna.

The end of his lips quirked, his head lulled back. "You can call it madness." His tone was playful yet his eyes pained, "...and it's consuming me."

Madaline sniffled, her eyes sour. "Are you sure?"

Ezra stroked her cheek sympathetically. "I'm hers. She showed me I'm just a blabbering mess of confusion who is taking refugee under a facade. I want to come out of my shell and her voice is the only sound I can hear in the dark."

Madaline clutched his hand, she knew it was useless but her eyes pleaded anyway. "What if she refused?"

Ezra let out a bitter chuckle. "She already did. It's not about what I want anymore. It's her or nothing. The period at the end of my life sentence. She utterly owns me and it's not in my hands to escape."

Tears welled up in her eyes. It reminded him of the pain he witnessed in the brown eyes which had started meaning more to him than a mere pair of organs.

My heart is fucked sideway.

"Now if you'd kindly slide off my lap, you're sitting on claimed territory."

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