Heads up! | Heavy content warning ahead about abuse.
Flames on white snow and a crimson sheet stain splattered on its soft top layer, and an angel holding a dagger with her shaky hands. Those were what greeted him when he turned, following a scent unlike any other. A scent that raised the drums in his heart. Her raven dark hair was a sharp contrast against the backdrop of falling snow. He didn’t know that yet, but her name was the blazing word that touched the cold in his depths.
He never expected to find his mate on the battlefield, wielding a dagger. She was a delicate wolf, that he knew from the start. Though she was soft at first glance, she was strong-willed and burned with passion.
Nathaniel could only think of her name now. She was what he needed and longed for, but to touch her without feeling burnt by his promises was impossible.
Selena was only now a dream he needed to let go of.
He gulped and opened his eyes to meet Katie’s concentrated gaze. Her lips were formed into a tight frown as she stared at her laptop’s screen.
Daydreaming, he breathed heavily. He could now only see her in moments of lucid dreams and solitude where he could control what he wanted to see and do.
“I stop working for two days and I get three-hundred eighty emails regarding one simple task.” She groaned.
Katie was not Selena, but Nathaniel had to fulfill his promises and though his heart broke, he pulled himself together to approach her and planted a kiss on her forehead.
“How are you feeling?” He asked.
“Good. My wolf’s back to work as usual…so I guess I’m not dying anytime soon.” She giggled.
“Don’t be so crass, Katie.” He groaned. “Well, the doctor says you’re well enough to go home.”
“Finally! I’ve been wanting to take a shower. But, you’re going to help me encase I slip.”
Katie winked, making him smile lopsidedly.
Some people wake up and choose violence and Selena was sure that Francis was one of those people. He was sitting beside her bedroom window, on his feet was a sniper-rifle while he grasped the hilt of his dagger. She wasn’t even sure if he was awake. His eyes were half-closed, half-opened.
Selena tried to find a reason to get mad but try as she may, it was hard. After what he said last night, she only wanted to check up on him if he was okay. Who was she kidding? Of course, he was okay. Francis could get shot in the head and he’d still be okay.
“Wake up, bootlicker. What are you doing in my room?” She got up from her bed slapped his cheek lightly.
He groans to consciousness and glared at her.
“Haven’t ever anyone told you not to wake up someone holding a knife? I would have stabbed you.”
Selena sighed. “I could have stabbed you too seeing as though you snuck into my room without my permission.”
“I got lonely in my room. I thought you would entertain me with your tears but I found you sleeping and I found myself disappointed. So I slept.”
His voice was overflowing with tardiness. He almost made her want to glare at him. Her eyes averted to his rifle, haplessly resting on the floor.
“What’s with the rifle and the dagger? Were you planning to shoot and then skin me?”
He smirked. “I was hunting some ducks before I came here.”
“Ducks? It’s December, Francis. There are no birds in winter.” She knitted her brows. “And who in their right mind would use that kind of rifle to hunt ducks?”
Selena had her suspicions that Francis may have been sent here for more nefarious reasons and maybe she was right. Oddly, it all seemed too suspicious that her cousin would be walking around with a rifle slung around his body and especially in pack Morris.
“I don’t know, maybe I’m not in my right mind?” He shrugs.
“This isn’t funny, Francis. Did you use that on someone?” She cautiously asked, her voice breaking slightly.
“Hmm, no. Though I wish I did. Your brother talked me out of it.” He grimaced.
She sighed, relief flooding into her system when she looked at Francis. Maybe she jumped to conclusions too quickly? But it wouldn’t be an odd event if Francis did shoot someone. If they annoy him enough, he was known to blow a fuse and doing so overdramatically.
Francis stretches his arm and legs, standing up and flopping down on her bed.
“Your bed is much cozier than the one they gave me. I felt like I was sleeping on a pile of bricks.”
He murmured against her blanket.
Selena was quick to repel him with a kick to his side but no matter how hard she tried to push him away, his massive body that seemingly weighed like a ton was as immovable as a mountain.
“Moon! The least you can do is be thankful. I stood guard the whole night to protect you. You either let me sleep or pay me.” He grumbled.
“Protect me? Who in their right mind would come in here? And besides, I never told you to guard me. Now get off my bed! We’re not kids anymore, Francis. This is getting weird.”
Suddenly, Francis chuckled. His green eyes locked onto her. Selena was taken aback by his lack of care. He truly never changed. Still rash and very stupid, but charming and always aimed to make the people around him smile. She grimaced, regretting the time she spent hating and pushing him away.
“Selena, why do you hate me so much?” He asked.
She looked down at her hands.
“You know why…”
Selena felt torn. The last thing she expected to happen was to have this talk with Francis.
“Hmm,” he pursed his lips. “Maybe I do. I was kinda hoping I was wrong. You still don’t forgive me for what happened, right?”
“Yes, you’re right.” She answered.
“Cousin, whatever happened was out of my control. I was a twelve-year-old brat, forced to move to pack Remmington. Do you wanna know what they did to me?”
She shook her head. When her mother and father died, Francis’ family was nowhere to be seen. Years ago when they were still friends, Selena’s heart broke to find out that Francis moved to pack Remmington conveniently after the event that forever changed their lives happened.
It was the first betrayal she had ever had and never once had she forgiven him for it.
Francis stood and turned his back to her. He reaches his shirt and exposed his back, making Selena gawk at the terrible scar that marred his body. It was in the shape of Remmington’s insignia, the mark that indicates something belongs to them. Or in this case, someone. She trembled, speechless as she remained frozen in her bed.
“I tried so many times to escape and come back to pack Highcliff. I was met with silver chains. When I persisted, I was branded as their property so that if and I ever escaped, I’d have a reminder that I am of their blood. A Remmington by birth.”
“You tried to escape?”
“Multiple times, actually. Each time they caught me, the punishment increased exponentially.” He smiled. “But it was nothing. I liked the pain. It reminded me that I’m alive and that I can still get going.”
“Francis, I never expected for them to be so…”
“To be so monstrous? I was a kid, Selena. You should have seen what they did to adults. Some were maimed, their bodies were beaten to a pulp, and some killed.”
Francis lowered his shirt and returned to the bed, sitting straight while staring at Selena. She felt ashamed all of a sudden. She was wrapped in her anger and was blinded. So much so that she failed to see what Francis was going through.
“How did you escape them?” Selena asked.
“I killed the guard on my cell. I managed to swipe a piece of plastic and carved it into a shiv. I used the shiv to stab her eyes and I ripped out her heart from her chest.”
Selena widened her eyes. The way he said his words, lacking with remorse.
“Don’t you think you went too far?”
“Too far?” He chuckled humorlessly. “They took me away from my mother the first time I tried to escape. The same day, I was locked in a cell. I was twelve then, and I escaped three years later. I thought that would be the worst of it all but I was mistaken. Sometimes, on cold nights and when everything is quiet, she would sneak into my cell and touch me. She came back multiple times over those years but when I refused, she would sedate me, and every time I wake up, I would feel like the dirtiest person to have ever been born.”
“Sh-she abused you?” Selena murmured.
“Yes.” He answered. “One day it just dawned upon me. Like I was struck by lightning and all I wanted to feel was nothing. She started to smell different. To smell like my child.”
What was she supposed to say? Outside looking in, he wore such a bright smile that she never even considered a darker side to it. Shame washed over her like an ocean wave, taking away her guard and crumbling in front of Francis. The act of defiling someone's body, her cousin’s body, embroidered Selena’s will to stay stronger. Now, she had one more reason to fight back. It was never okay to touch someone in a way that causes them to think less of themselves. What they did to him was simply despicable.
Pack Remmington were no strangers from shady acts of crime against wolves and humanity but what they did to Francis was a step far greater than what she anticipated. Selena's lips trembled.
“I’m sorry that happened to you and I acted like an asshole. I guess, I always thought I had it harder than you. When I see you smile, you don’t seem like the type that has gone through a lot.”
“I found recluse in pack Highcliff, with Talon. When I escaped, I brought my son with me. He’s with Mr. and Mrs. Rosewood, living with a new name. He thinks they're his grandparents and me as his older brother.”
Selena unearthed her memories, trying to remember who those people were. The names were indeed familiar. She instantly froze after a minute of contemplation.
“Sebastian Rosewood...he’s your son? I take care of him in the nursery every weekday. Why would you hide him from me?” She narrowed her gaze into him.
“Because I asked Talon to keep his existence a secret. I feel like a shitty father for hiding him but I'm just protecting him. No one can know he’s my son, a Remmington. If the wolves ever found out he was, they will look at him with vitriol instead of seeing the innocence in his eyes.”
Selena bit her lip. He was right. Not many wolves appreciate that Talon decided to take back Francis and a child born on the grounds of pack Remmington too. It would be utter chaos and Talon might even lose his credibility as an Alpha if this got out.
“I know what you mean. Even I wanted to get you out of pack Highcliff when Talon announced your return. But I didn’t know any better.”
Francis nodded. “I understand but keeping Sebastian safe is my priority as his father and choosing to keep him a secret was my only option. And besides, I have someone to love and take care of now. I won’t let what happened to me take me down. I'm still the same Francis. Only this time, I'm now a twenty-year-old with a four-year-old son.”
She wondered why he decided to spill his secret now. After Francis returned, all she did was push him away, yell, and even publicly denounced her familial relationship with him. This was the first time where the both of them have truly spoken to each other from heart to heart and it pained her to think that she would have known about his son if she only let him back into her life sooner.
Selena breathed softly.
“You’re so strong, Francis. You have it in you to fight back and not crumble.”
“Perhaps it's the Highcliff in our blood?” He answered. “But, what say you, cousin? Why are you really holding yourself back? You know very well that you can tell your brother anything and everything but you choose to keep this a secret.”
She grimaced, not ready for the instant shift of topic. Maybe the reason was stupid and maybe she was even full of herself. But she wanted to keep standing on her feet by not relying on anyone.
“My brother doesn’t have to know about this. If Alpha Stormwind finally accepts my rejection, I’ll lie to Talon and say the Alpha and I didn’t work because of me. If he gets wind of this, my father’s hard work to build ties between packs Highcliff and Morris will be severed. I can't have that happening.”
Francis’s disapproval was very obvious. He didn’t need to say a word. All he did was take a silent stature with a very passive expression. His displease became more apparent when he looked away and grumbled a few incoherent words that Selena failed to pick up.
“You’re letting him off the hook too easily.” He says.
“He was never on the hook in the first place.” She replied sullenly.
“Cousin, meeting your mate is like a contract. The moment you set eyes on each other a bond is created and it’s not easily replaced or removed. He made a contract to you when he took you away from pack Highcliff, so he was on the hook.”
Selena shook her head.
“It’s different for me. I did feel it. I felt my heart open and I thought I could touch him and be with him, even just for a while. I don’t believe he felt the same way.”
Francis flattened his lips.
“Regardless of his emotions, I can’t say I can hold myself accountable for what I can do to him when you finally get rid of him.”
Selena draws herself back and stared at him.
“Don’t do anything stupid.”
“Revenge is not stupid, cousin. It’s justice.”
He spoke seriously.
“Thank you, cousin but I don’t want you worrying about getting revenge for me.”
“If that is what you wish then I guess I’ll try to resist the urge to shoot him in the balls.”
He sounded much more disappointed than she had expected. It terrified her.
“Listen, Francis. I don’t want to piggyback my escape through my brother’s behest. I need to leave pack Morris with every string cut and loose by me.”
She groaned at him.
“That’s stupid. I mean, you’re strong by doing that but you’re also stupid or maybe you’re just a masochist. Either way, I guess I’ll just have to sit in the sideline.”
Selena felt light with her cousin. It was just like when they were kids. Everything was okay as long as everyone was together. Those days were over and yet every time she remembered it like the pain was from yesterday.
As the heavy atmosphere in the room settled in a calmer one filled with solace, Francis reached for Selena’s leg and pulled her off the bed. She thudded as she fell, hitting her bum first on the wooden floor.
“Thank you for graciously giving me the bed, Selena. Now, get out and let me sleep.” Francis grinned and completely took over the bed.
His brawny physique made the bed look miniature in size. He takes her pillows, fluffing them up, and placing them under her bed. Selena only stared at his dirty boots, staining the milk-colored duvet with mud. There was no use in arguing now. She knew better than to fight on a losing fight and the asshole made his choice to be a ginormous childish prick.
With a stomp, she stood and grabbed the pillows under his head. A loud thump chimed in the room and Selena smirked victoriously after Francis’ head collided with the headboard. She threw the pillows back to him.
“You’re welcome, cousin.” She cocked her head and laughed.
Though inside she felt the brightest of colors with her cousin, that feeling was cut short when a knock on her door entered her ear. Immediately, her pulse quickened.
And this feeling.
Selena failed to fathom the rate at which her heart ran. The only thing she understood was why it did what it was doing. Once she passed the lump on her throat, she slowly walked over to the door and opened it.
Her fingers were electrified as she reached for the doorknob. She breathed deeply and raised her chin, telling herself to be strong as she opened the door and faced the wolf on the other side.
Nathaniel’s solemn eyes seemed to be much darker than usual. She took a sharp breath and cleared her throat.
“Alpha Stormwind.” She let his title roll off her tongue.
The Alpha stood in front of her. His scowl was the thing that draws her the most. Even when he looked dark, it was when that Selena found him more mysterious. It seemed like he was hiding something but she was scared to ask or try to solve what it was.
“Good morning, Alpha. You missed the show. Selena enjoyed banging my head against the headboard. If you know what I mean.” Francis winked.
Selena closed her eyes, wishing she murdered Francis then and there.
“Good morning to you, too. To the both of you.” Nathaniel takes his gaze away from Francis and turned to Selena. “I need to speak with you regarding your pack membership. Meet me in my office if you’re done whatever you’re doing.”
He turns away and walked, his shoulders slumped and head hanging low.
It was a stupid lie if she were to say she didn’t feel anything. Even now when he walked away, Selena had the urge to explain herself. She looked at her hand, anticipating what she wanted to come.
“Oh, wow. He seems like a keeper.” Francis murmured. “Good luck with your meeting.”
Luck, maybe that’s what she needed. As she gave Francis one final glare, Selena braced her heart.
A one-on-one confrontation, a chance to reject him.
An hour later after meeting Selena and seeing the wolf she was with, Nathaniel was reeling himself in. It didn’t do well that he was still being torn apart and all he could do was nothing.
He made sure to keep calm and look at it from another perspective. Selena had moved on and that was a good thing, at least for her it was.
Nathaniel grimaced at his phone screen and sighed. His morose reaction caused Katie to knit her brows together.
“Nate, what’s wrong?” She sat on his desk, leaning forward to kiss his forehead.
Katie’s worried mask made him uneasy. She was still recovering from her recent accident and the last thing he wanted to do was repeat what happened by giving her something to worry about.
But that was inescapable. Whatever was going to happen, he had to risk everything. He dreaded sending the message he composed while his finger hovered over the send button.
He lopsidedly smiled at her.
“Why don’t you take a look?”
She takes his phone and reads the message out loud, smiling at every word.
“To all my comrades in battle, to pack Albrich, pack Highcliff, pack San Ignacio, and pack Waterford are all welcomed to the coming nuptials between Nathaniel Morris and Kayla Marie Smith. A momentous occasion held strong by love and patience, immovable by time but grows brighter by the second. Witness the occasion by the twenty-fifth day of January.”
Nathaniel gulped. “What do you think?”
“It’s good,” she smiled, biting her lower lip. “It’s beautiful that you’ve already set up a date. I wasn’t expecting that, especially with what happened recently. With…”
“Katie, it’s time.” He says. “We’ve avoided this topic for so long and it’s time that we settle down.”
Katie jumped from his desk and sat on his lap, burying her face between his head and shoulder. He felt her breath, the feeling it brought was not was it used to be.
Now, he felt disgusted with himself.
“I love you, Nate. Thank you so much for everything.” She kisses his lips sobbed against his ears.
His heart broke into shards. Hearing Katie like this made him freeze.
“What are you waiting for? Aren’t you going to send it?” Katie asks.
Nathaniel breathed. He struggled to move his finger, contemplating the magnitude of the events he knew were going to transpire. Suddenly, Katie takes the phone from his hand.
“Here, let me help you.”
Katie pecked his lips again before pressing send.