4 years later
“I know you’re annoyed,” the female huffed both tired and impatient. “I swear, sometimes it’s like you forget that I can feel your emotions.”
Seth turned his back to the girl with a heavy sigh; this argument had been a regular occurrence for a while. He knew it was entirely his fault, he had not thought of the complexity of their situation in the moment and still he was trying to deal with the fall out. He was glad that he saved her life, he would make the same choice again in a heart beat if he had to; but marking her didn’t mean it solved all their problems.
“Why can’t you just drop it little star?” Seth’s voice grew sharper, his wolf getting impatient at the girls insistence. He would have thought he had gotten used it by now- she had been particularly chatty in her younger years.
“Because it makes me angry. What was the point in saving my life, if you just want me to sit around here alone for the whole day!”
Orion felt like she was going to scream- he drove her crazy. Her hands bunched into her curls, fisting them into her palms until it stung her scalp gently. The pain had always been a comfort to her, she had learnt from a very young age that pain was a constant, it was reliable; now she was not afraid of pain, it grounded her.
“Do not speak of your life ending so lightly!” Suddenly the man had spun around, stepping closer until he was little more than a hairsbreadth away, his face contorting into something just shy of fury.
She could see the dangerous glint in his eyes, a wildness there that threatened to awaken his beast; she knew there was a darkness in him, hiding below the surface of his caring human display.
If he had been anything less than the man who had raised her- that had been there for her every time she had fallen over, held her after every nightmare, and distracted her through every rainstorm- then perhaps she would have been afraid.
“Don’t growl at me!” She retorted hotly, her anger burning like a fire within. She wasn’t one to back down, especially when it came to Seth.
She regretted shouting at him, she knew that they never got anywhere but yelling at one another. It had seemed to be all they had been doing lately, and she was tired of it.
“You know I didn’t mean it like that. That happened 4 years ago and you still treat me like I’m a liability.” She let out a small sigh, the fire in her fading a little. Her hand moved before she even thought about it, caressing Seth’s face for a moment though it last long as Seth moved away. She tried not to be dejected, she really tried but it still stung. “Seth, we can’t keep avoiding each other like this. I’m not a child anymore and I-”
“Shush,” He hushed the girl suddenly, his entire body springing up in alertness.
“Yeah right, that’s not going to work!” Orion huffed with a roll of her eyes. For a man nearly twice her age, he often acted more immature than her.
“Orion I’m serious, be quiet!” He hissed in a whisper, turning up his nose to sniff the air close to the doorway.
The girl immediately obeyed, his tone was stern— the one he would use on her whenever he told her off. She always knew to listen when he used that voice, and when he called her by her name.
Orion bit her lip, straining her own ears to see if she could catch whatever mysterious sound it was that Seth could hear. She knew it was in vain, his wolf man senses were over ten times more sensitive than her human ones.
“Stay here.” Seth turned to her, the glint in his eyes was wild, feral; the other part of him coming out with an unrestrained fire, ready to protect his home and his mate.
Orion nodded, going over to corner on the opposite side of the small shack to curl up in a small ball. She hated when he left her, but she knew that he would be back— he always came back.
Seth turned to glance at the girl once more before leaving, the mix of fear and sadness on her face twisting his heart painfully. He hated having to leave her, but he struggled to be alone with her.
She was so fragile, so small; whenever he looked at her he would be taken right back to the moment he found her in that wrecked car on the side of the road. To him, she would always need protecting, and he was more than happy to do whatever it took.
Protecting her was the only way that he would ever be able to show his bond for her, he wouldn’t allow himself to do anything more.
The smell of her lingered on his cheek still, the nauseatingly sweet smell a reminder of his silent torture. It made him angry to think that the Goddess had pulled this trick on him, to make her, his little star, his soulmate.
But it angered him more that he wanted her to be his.
But he couldn’t think about that, not right then. He had to deal with the intruders, and to do that he needed to focus- Orion’s safety was on the line, which to Seth was not something he was willing to debate.
He could smell them from where he stood. They smelt wild, though not like rouges. It was strange but it didn’t matter, they were a threat and he would end them.
The man shucked off his clothes, allowing the painful shift to take over his body. Claws, fangs and fur breaking their way through until he was a beast shaking human skin from its fur.
As soon as the male stepped through the curtain of flowers that separated their clearing away from the rest of the forest, he pounced. Claws and fangs attacking in a vicious flash of fury; his mind blank as the pure instinctual need took him over to protect his mate. They would not get near her, he would stop them or die trying.
His jaws snapped savagely, aiming for his vulnerable neck; the stranger was brave enough to clamp his hands around Seth’s jaw and push him away from the tender spot. A small group of wolves burst through the curtain, they looked as if they were going to intervene but one command from the man below Seth had them halting in their steps.
“No, stay back.” His grunt hit Seth’s ears with a tone of such authority it made the beast pause for a second. This man was powerful, was he another Alpha?
The split second rush of distracted thoughts was enough to leave an opening for the stranger, his leg shot out and he landed a powerful kick to the side. Seth’s side sparked with pain, the kick was enough to wind him. In fact he wouldn’t be surprised if his ribs had been cracked with kick. This man was most definitely an Alpha; but why would an Alpha be so deep into no-mans-land?
Seth stumbled back, disoriented from both the hard kick and the confusion of thoughts flooding his head. They could be allies of Damien, and that would mean that Orion was in danger. But Seth had been careful, he had covered their tracks, even when there was no evidence that Damien knew they were alive. How did this man know that he was here?
The thought brought panic to his heart. He had never dreamed that his past would catch up to him, he had hoped that he could live with Orion in the wild for the rest of their lives. In retrospect, he knew that such a thought was both naïve and unrealistic.
He was selfish when it came to Orion, and he knew it was wrong but he couldn’t imagine leaving her. He didn’t want to. He had made a promise to the moon that he would look after her, that he would cherish her, and he hadn’t held up his end of the deal yet. He truly was a piece of shit, to think about how things might end with Orion upset with him.
No, he wasn’t going to die. He was going to end them all, then he would fix things with his little star. The wild beast that was in control, zeroed in on the stranger before him. How dare he infringe on this life that he had made? He had left behind pack life, he had sought a safe haven, he was looking after his fallen star; now this stranger had shown up and was threatening all of that? Not on his watch.
He thought of Orion, curled up in their hut waiting for him to come back, to tell her that she was safe. That was enough to spur his muscles into action, his body charging forward before his mind could tell it to.
The man braced, as Seth’s large head aimed to ram string into his core. He stumbled at the force, Seth growling with effort as he tried to push even further, only he couldn’t because the man caught his large wolf head in a headlock.
He tried to thrash about violently, barely even hearing the man as he tried to reason with him. “I’m not here to hurt you. I came to find you. Please listen to me.”
Seth tried to struggle free, his beast in panic mode now that he had managed to get himself in a vulnerable position. He thrashed, his beast threatening to take over completely as his instinct began to consume him.
“Please stop!” The man roared; if Seth had not been of an Alpha bloodline, he would have been kneeling on the floor by this mans feet. Even the wolves that had come with the stranger had been sent to their knees by the sheer force of the dominance in his command.
A vicious roar ripped from Seth’s throat, something between a howl and a growl. The sound a mix of anger, threat and pure desperation as he felt the strangers grip tighten around his neck. He wanted nothing more at that moment, to run back to Orion, scoop her up and run as far away as he could. He would run to the ends of the world if that would keep her safe.
Then Seth’s heart dropped. He was certain the damned thing had fallen straight out his ass and onto the grass below him.
The door to the cabin was flung open, the small frame of Orion came tumbling out. Her curly white afro, bouncing wildly as she barrelled towards the two men locked in combat with tears streaking down her cocoa cheeks.
“Seth!” She sobbed, stopping a few steps away from the stranger. Her caramel eyes, filling with fear and a sternness that she didn’t know she possessed.
She took in the strangers, they were all big- much bigger than her. For a second she almost regretted disobeying Seth, but easily pushed the thought away. Hearing him in pain, in panic, she moved long before she could consciously decide to; he needed her and she wanted to help in any way that she could.
He had always protected her, but she was strong too. He had taught her to be strong. Maybe if she saved him, he would see that she was no longer the frightened little girl that he had pulled out of that wrecked car 17 years ago.
She squared her shoulders, and pushed down her fear, steeling her nerves to look the stranger in the eyes with as much conviction and command that she could muster.
“Let him go!” Her panic crept into her voice, as the man just stared at her with wide eyes. Her eyes flickered back to Seth, struggling in the strangers hold. “You’re going to kill him!”
Please, she pleaded in her mind, please...
After a second more of staring at her, the man let the wolf go. Orion couldn’t help but hurtle towards her beast as he began to change. The sound of his bones snapping always made her cringe but she couldn’t bring herself to care this time.
She smiled brilliantly at him, expecting him to thank her or be proud. Instead he growled, “I told you. Stay inside.”
She wanted to rebuke him for growling at her, but with all the strange eyes on her and the remnant of her panic she didn’t feel up to it. That didn’t stop her from arguing back though.
“But I could hear you—”
“No! What if it was a rogue?” His hand feathered a touch to her collarbone, where they both knew a nasty scar was hidden. The reminder of her terrifying encounter with the bear that had almost killed her two years earlier.
The softness in his tone hardened, a flicker of anger lit up his features as he thought back to that day; it was one of the memories that plagued his dreams.
“Next time do as you’re told.”
The girl looked as though she was going to argue again, but his glare made her rethink it. She huffed, pouting gently in obvious disagreement but she still nodded obediently. Once Seth was satisfied with her, he turned his withering glare onto the stranger.
“Who the hell are you, and what are you doing here.”
“I’m Alpha Vincent Russo, and I’ve been searching for you. I really need your help.”
The male looked suspiciously at the stranger, Vincent, sizing him up. The girl looked between her rogue the strange Alpha carefully, not fully understanding what was happening.
“I can’t help you.” The rogue grunted, standing from his position on the grass in all his naked glory.
Orion blushed, her eyes dancing around the clearing. Every so often they would take a glance at her naked rogue, but she tried to focus on something else. She had never seen him naked before, he was always especially conscious not to shift around her. Her imagination had clearly not done him justice, he was far larger in every aspect; his scars far more numerous, and far more beautiful than she ever dared to imagine.
“Orion, come on. Lets go back inside.” He motioned her to the door of the small wooden cabin. She stood for a moment, giving the strangers another glance before walking back over to the door.
“If you don’t help me, Damien will wage war on my pack. Aren’t you the rightful Alpha? Doesn’t it make you sick to think about how he’s been abusing your pack?!”
Orion took another step until she realised that Seth had stopped. She didn’t understand any of what this stranger was talking about, she just wanted to go back to the life that they had and pretend that none of this ever happened. Their life wasn’t perfect but it was good, it was safe, and most importantly it was theirs- theirs alone.
Orion looked to Seth, a mix of desperation and confusion colouring her features. The man’s heart thumped wildly in his chest as he looked to her- she didn’t deserve to get caught up in this mess, but because of him, she was.
“I’m giving you a change to take your birth right back. I’m giving you a chance to end Damien.” Vincent’s voice sounded once more, steeled with his conviction.
The man stopped in his path, he stood with his back to Vincent for a moment as thinking through the proposition. The time had come for him to make a decision.
Seth looked back to his mate. She nodded towards their cabin, with a small comforting smile; it was the epitome of their existence. Her beautiful smile, in their little corner away from the rest of the world, it had been his solace. But he knew that he couldn’t now go back to their everyday life knowing that his people, his rightful pack was in trouble.
They were his responsibility, and he had already let them down for long enough. It was his duty, to go back, to take his rightful place as Alpha and to lead his pack.
He hoped that Orion would understand, because he couldn’t do this if she wasn’t beside him, but he had made up his mind. He turned, a dark ferocity in his eyes as he studied Vincent carefully.