Sure I have questions, but I have no idea where to start.
“Lots, but I can’t remember them all. I think it would be better if you just started talking, and I’ll ask them as they come to mind,” I say, wanting to see where he takes it.
Jude nods and takes another sip of his coffee before he turns those keen blue eyes to me. “What happened to you Jess?” My heart stops as the question leaves his lips.
Wow, the direct approach. I thought my past would come up later.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I whisper, dropping my gaze to keep him from seeing my shame.
He grabs my hand for reassurance, drawing my attention back to his kind eyes. “I know you don’t want to, but you need to.”
I look away as my chest tightens.
I refuse to talk about this.
“Jess, something, anything, it’s important,” he presses on, squeezing my hand. I can feel his gaze is locked on me, waiting for something, anything.
“Trish was right,” I mumble in defeat. As my admission registers, his usual soft blue eyes turn hard as he ticks his jaw.
“What did he do to you?” He asks softly, barely hiding his anger.
“Isn’t it enough to know that it happened?! Do you really need ever sick, twisted detail?” I say lowly, unable to control my voice. As the memories flood back I’m overwhelmed by guilt, shame, disgust and fear which in turn just feeds my anger.
“Something happened, more than just him cheating on you to cause this kind of damage,” Jude reasons. He’s like a dog with a bone, he’s never going to drop it until I give him something.
“Just assume you’re right and he wasn’t Prince Charming. Let it go or this conversation is over now,” I snap. There’s already too much on my plate to be digging around in the past.
My threat hangs in the air a moment before he relents. “I’m sorry, I’m not trying to upset you,” Jude says as his face falls. “I hate seeing you suffer, and understanding what has happened would help me to explain the next part.”
Jude finally moves on when he realizes I’m not budging. “What do you know about mates?” He asks with a guarded expression.
“Just what Claire and Xavier told me.” I pause, trying to remember it all. “Something about wolves being paired up by the Moon Goddess, like marriage I guess.” I can’t help but scrunch up my face at the foreign concept.
He sighs as he leans back in his chair. “There’s a lot more to it then that. The Moon Goddess does make the matches, she sees into their souls to make sure they are perfect true matches. You only get one mate in a lifetime, that’s why they’re so precious.” A sadness falls in his eyes as he no doubt remembers his own murdered mate.
“On rare occasions high rank wolves may be blessed with a second chance mate, but it’s rare. A pack is nothing without it’s Alpha, so the Goddess may bless him again if his mate were to die or reject him.”
“Why would mates reject each other if they are supposed to be perfect?” I ask, furrowing my brow.
“Rejection is rare. I don’t know why someone would ever reject such a precious gift.” He looks confused and disgusted as he reflects on that point before moving on.
“The Goddess forms a bond between the two that lets them know when they’ve found each other.” He pauses, considering what to say next.
“That’s the mate bond Jace was talking about last night?” I ask with a frown. “The one you guys say I’m fighting?”
He looks more than a little uncomfortable. “The mate bond is a sacred thing. It connects two people as one. Through it, mates can recognize each other. Their touch sets off sparks on your skin. Their scent is like a drug that you can’t get enough of, just being near them can settle your emotions.”
“Does any of this ring a bell?” his eyes search mine for any signs of recognition.
I give a slight nod. “So I have no free choice in any of this? I’m just supposed to, what? Fold to his will?!” I snap, trembling in anger. I’ve moved right past denial and sailed right into anger.
“Do you feel nothing for him?” Jude asks, the shock is clear on his face, with sadness in his voice.
“It isn’t real,” I mumble. “I’m just some puppet on a string.”
My heart feels heavy, as it registers how the feelings that have been growing in me for him aren’t real.
It’s all some celestial joke and I’m the punchline.
But they feel so real...
“Is that how you think it works?” Jude scoffs. “Jess,” he sighs, rubbing the bridge of his nose in frustration. “The Goddess doesn’t force anything. The mate bond doesn’t automatically make people fall in love. It’s like a beacon from one soul to another. It may make you look and take notice of someone you might have otherwise overlooked, but it can’t force you to fall in love.”
I sit there digesting what he’s saying, trying to keep my own assumptions at bay.
Do I love Chris?
I don’t know. What I do know is I have stronger feelings for him then I’ve ever had for anyone else.
“It freaks me out, the effect he has on me,” I practically whisper. “I’ve never been around anyone before who consumes me like he does.” The effect he has on me shakes me to my core, I’m terrified to end up like I did before, just a shadow of myself.
“It may be hard to believe, but you have the same effect on him,” Jude says with a soft laugh.
I scoff at that notion.
Chris has always been in control of the situation whenever he’s around me, whereas I’m a wind swept feather.
“Why me? I don’t want this, any of this. I had a plan, I was fine alone,” I trail off.
He eyes me skeptically, “How much of that do you actually believe?”
I can only grumble.
Less and less every day.
“I can’t be what he want’s me to be. I’m not even a wolf, how the hell will I be a Luna on top of a mate.” I drop my face in my hands to hide my shame.
If he knew the truth about me, then he’d never want me. Nothing I can do will ever be good enough.
“And what has he asked of you?” Jude asks with a brow raised.
“He hasn’t really said anything about any of this, to be honest,” I admit with a blush. “He hasn’t brought up being mates or anything. He’s just always there whenever I’m around.”
“That’s just a difference of cultures I guess,” he laughs. “Wolves are brought up with bedtime stories about mates, much like humans are with Prince Charming. It’s introduced early and is something we grow up looking forward to. We look for the signs and aren’t scared when it happens. Our wolves often sense our mates before we even set eyes on them.”
“Now what?” I ask, feeling a bit defeated.
“You know, finding your mate is one of the biggest gifts in life. It’s not a death sentence,” he chides, giving me a small reassuring smile. “You could do worse than Chris.”
“Since when are you on team Chris anyways?!” I cross my arms on my chest, feeling a bit betrayed.
“Relax,” he laughs. “I’ll always be on your team, and as much as I hate to admit it, he makes you happy.”
I scowl at that.
Lots of people make me happy. Chris frustrates the fuck out of me half the time.
“You may not see it, but we do. Every time he’s around, you visibly relax and melt into his touch. The way you blush when -”
“Okay Romeo, that’s enough out of you,” I cut him off but blush, as if to prove his point. My voice sounds bashful when I ask, “So what happens?”
“What do you mean?” Jude replies, cocking a brow.
“You guys said something about marking and claiming...” Blush further burns my cheeks as I trail off.
He’s not faring much better, as he now flushes scarlet. “Uh-um that’s more a conversation between you two,” he stammers.
I sigh and drop my head in my hands.
Talking isn’t Chris’s strong suit.
“Marking is very intimate. A wolf bites into his mate’s neck here.” He gestures to the point where the neck and shoulder meet. “I know it probably sounds barbaric, but it’s actually quite exquisite.”
Jude looks lost in thought as a smile creeps onto his face.
My heart flutters as my fingers brush the spot he’s talking about. “Oh, he’s already done that,” I whisper. Memories play back as I remember the intense sensation it brought me when he bit down in the caves.
Jude’s shocked eyes lock with mine as he searches my neck. “Not sure what he did, but you’ll know when he marks you. His fangs will break the skin leaving a mark, his mark. It’s a warning for other wolves to steer clear and also solidifies the bond. It establishes a link between you more intense then a regular pack bond. You’ll feel each other’s emotions in addition to being able to link.”
“You’re not marked yet.” His matter of fact attitude leaves me confused and embarrassed.
“I guess not but when he bit me there, the feeling was like nothing I ever experienced before.” I blush, embarrassed further by the heating in my core as my mind wanders back to the cave.
“Marking is like that but ten fold. In all honesty, this is all stuff you guys should talk about.” He rubs the back of his neck, clearly uncomfortable.
This feels like having a sex talk with teens.
“I don’t know how I’m going to talk to him about all of this. There’s just so much to process. It’s all new to me, it must frustrate him to no end that I’m not a proper mate and acting accordingly.”
“Stop it! There is no right way, every couple is different. Some meet and and fall in love the same day. Others take time, maybe years even.” He reflects before speaking again, “Just try to give him a chance, happiness is worth everything.”
Why is everything so complicated?
Mid week means a visit and, sure enough, Jace texts to give me a heads up. Like clockwork, he pulls up in their dark SUV an hour later.
“’Sup lil elf?” he greets warmly, his grey eyes dancing with mischief.
“Oh, I’m no longer an evil pix then?” I challenge, raising a brow.
“You’ll always be my little elf,” he teases.
“Somehow I doubt Chris will appreciate you saying that,” I say with a frown.
He shrugs, scooping me up in a big hug. “Fuck him.”
My eyes go wide at his words, earning a hearty laugh. “All male wolves are possessive, maybe I’m reading you wrong but you don’t strike me as the shrinking violet type. He can puff his chest out all he wants but you actually hold all the power. If you want Jude in your life, he can’t stop it.”
His statement brings me a bit of peace since I have no intention of cutting Jude out of my life. That being said the tension between them is stressing me out.
“Are you even allowed to say that about your Alpha?” I question, raising a brow.
“You may have noticed we have a different dynamic,” he laughs. “He’s like a brother to me. We can beat the piss out of each other and go for beers an hour later.”
I can’t help but laugh at that. I have noticed they can go from fist fights to friends in ten seconds flat. They all seem to have short fuses but for the most part they get over their disagreements quick.
“So what are your plans this weekend?” Jace asks as he shuts the back of the SUV.
“Jude’s taking me to the carnival Saturday night.” I shrug.
“Good, we’ll see you there.” He smirks.
“W-what?” I stammer.
“I was going to invite you to come with us, but we’ll just meet you guys there.” That troublesome glint is back in his eyes.
“I don’t want a repeat of last weekend,” I say, trying to get out of it.
“Relax, Chris has had time to cool off and we’ve had a couple long talks. Really it was more me talking and him grunting, but whatever. He may not understand or like it, but he’s coming to terms with the fact that Jude isn’t going anywhere,” Jace says with a triumphant wink.
“Speaking of talking, you sure do talk a lot,” I say lowly. He gives me a quizzical look. “You shouldn’t have told Jude about my panic attack. It wasn’t your place.”
He’s completely taken off guard and drops his gaze. “I’m not sure what Jude told you but I -”
“He didn’t have to say anything, I heard you talking that night,” I say, cutting off his redirect before he has a chance to spin it. The realization dawns on him as a look of guilt settles on his face.
“Jess, I -” he starts before I cut him off again.
“Jace stop. It’s my life. It’s my business and past. You have no right to dig around in it. If I don’t want to talk about it, or let anyone know about what happened, why can’t you respect that?”
“Because you’re hurting! It’s slowly killing you but you just keep burying it. You need to get rid of it Jess. It’s toxic.” How full his eyes are of concern shows he means every word. “You are a good person, you deserve every bit of happiness that life can give you. But by burying it, it’s staying with you and getting in the way.”
“You don’t know anything about me,” I say, practically a warning.
“I don’t know what happened but I know you,” he says, poking my chest. “I know you’re brave, and selfless. That you’re humble and loving. That your loyalty to your friends is unwavering; you’d sacrifice your own happiness and even your life for them,” he trails off.
The sincerity in his words catches me off guard and sucks the life out of my fire.
“I don’t need to know anything else about you to know that I want you in my life,” Jace says with a soft smile.
I stand there, stunned. His kindness blows me away. He spoke with such conviction it makes it impossible to dispute. I don’t even try to talk, I just give him a hug that he returns tenfold.
“So we’ll see you guys at six Saturday night. The band is supposed to be good,” he says as he heads out.
Great, a carnival and drinking with Chris and Jude. Big crowds and lots of noise, what could go wrong?