The ride home was inexplicably calm, though she understands why that was. No one dared to speak a single word as the heavy atmosphere that Talon created in pack Morris was carried throughout their travel home.
She felt choked, stifled, and crushed by the weight of her emotions.
This was all her fears coming true to one, swift moment. She stilled and promised herself that rejecting Nathaniel would not affect her too much. But she was gravely mistaken.
There was still that part that pined for him and she hurt herself just thinking of him and how his expressionless mask haunted her.
For a moment, she stopped. It was not only her that was hurting now. Both Francis and Talon were under a storm of contemplation.
Her cousin who only just woken up two hours ago had become mute, tapping the tip of his boots in the air while Talon sat behind the wheel while his eyes were glued in the road in front of him.
Luckily, the tension soon dissipated when the gates of pack Highcliff entered her vision. Immediately, a group of wolves welcomes their arrival. Most of them, she knew as their loyal pack members, some oddly foreign.
Talon parked the car in front of the packhouse and waited for a few seconds before he spoke a word.
“The both of you meet me in the solarium.” He commanded softly and exited the vehicle.
Selena and Francis sat side by side in the back seat, barely making a move. She knew full well that it was her fault why Francis was caught up with Talon’s wrath and it pained her to think he was upset with her.
“Francis…” She whispered.
“Not now, cousin.” he sighs, turning to her. “Let’s just try and survive this.”
She nodded, feeling a little more assured. Though that was only an inkling of her relief. In the sunroom or the solarium as her brother preferred to call it, Talon was there waiting for them.
She wasn’t prepared for this. A mouthful of reprimands was okay, but this time it was different. Talon had ultimately decided to cut pack Highcliff from pack Morris. That meant several things but all of them fell woefully short of what she witnessed earlier. Katie’s plan and will to not get hurt was foiled and her efforts were useless when Talon cast his cold gaze towards her.
She was his mate and Talon quickly severed their fate by slicing the palm of his hand.
Selena wondered if during the car ride, did he at the very least regret rejecting Katie so brashly? Without a word just by impulse, her brother lost his chance on his mate.
She grimaced. “We better go before he decides to come back and get us.”
Francis nodded and jumped from his seat. Selena followed, her face marring the same despairing look that her cousin wore. It was her priority to keep her head down while she trudged towards the foyer.
But sadly, her hopes of not bumping into someone were put onto hold when a hand blocked her way. She veers her gaze upwards and met the owner of the muscly arm. A pair of blue eyes looked at her with sympathy.
“Joseph?” She spoke. “Ah—ah, I mean, Alpha Albrich. Good evening.”
The man smiled.
“Selena, we’ve grown too much together. It would be insulting to me if you persisted in calling me that.”
She knitted her brows in a rueful stare.
“You’re as informal as ever.”
“I’ve been accustomed to my friends calling me Joey. It’s weird when you call me that.”
“Because you’re an Alpha now.” She nervously spoke, finding the urge to quickly come and speak with her brother. “It was nice to speak with you but my brother is expecting me to meet him right now.”
“Oh, right. Silly me.” He shook his head. “Your brother also wanted me to come and talk with him. Let me come with you.”
His hand signaled for her to go ahead while a toothy grin was spread on his face. Selena realized that he might not have heard the news yet and his sunny demeanor was owned to his obliviousness of the current situation or maybe he knew already? Joseph was never the one to care about the current atmosphere.
Selena obliged and walked beside him. Joseph was a wolf freshly appointed as Alpha. It was only months ago when his brother stepped down from being the leader of the pack and the responsibility of being the Alpha was passed down to him.
But what could he be doing here and more importantly, why did Talon want to speak with him?
She put her thoughts aside as she entered the sunroom. There, Francis was already sitting in the furthest corner of the room, far from Talon who stared vehemently towards the window.
“Hello,” Joseph greeted. “Francis, you look ghastly. Did you get sucker-punched?”
Her cousin only glared. Joseph’s brows rose, his interest piquing after Selena cleared her throat.
“Joseph, it’s good that you are here.” Talon stood, greeting the other Alpha with a firm handshake.
“Yes, as you requested. My services are at your behest.” Joseph smiled. “Though, if I may have the liberty to speak to freely, I am very surprised and excited to know that pack Highcliff is now training their wolves to fight.”
Selena’s heart jolted from Joseph’s words. Her eyes landed on Talon.
“Change is needed, Albrich.” Talon’s brown orb took a peek at a frightened Selena. “Especially because of some new events. We shall convene in my office right after I settle a family matter.”
Joseph nodded, finally catching wind of why everyone wore their hard masks.
“I see, in the meantime, I guess I’ll have to entertain myself. By your will, Talon.”
After Joseph left, Selena was confronted by the coldness of Talon's voice. She was caught up with Talon’s sudden decision to train his wolves. Did this mean Talon had hopes of building his army?
Pack Highcliff was significantly weaker now with no support from pack Morris’s presence guarding the borders but to train wolves for combat was not the Highcliff’s way, not tradition. Their father would be horrified.
“Sit,” Talon muttered.
Selena obliged, terrified of her brother. She placed herself in the chair next to Francis, leaning back while she waited for Talon to start his interrogation. Though it never came. Talon was sitting on the opposite side of the room, his resting posture was only a veneer for the beast that he was.
While he was quietly frozen, Selena felt the strong energy he emitted. The commonly reserved brother she knew him as was no longer there. She saw the fire of anger in his eye and she couldn’t help but wonder if it was because of her or maybe he was thinking of Katie?
Either way, she was thoroughly fucked with the number of facts in the pot. She betrayed her brother’s trust and involved Francis all because she wanted to protect the agreements and pacts her father built.
Looking back at it now, Selena wondered if it was all worth it when everything still failed.
A loud sigh brought her out of her thoughts. She brought her attention to her brother and hardened herself, wishing he would just come and scream at her.
“I trusted the both of you.” He finally spoke and caught her off guard. “You don’t know how useless I feel. Desperately, I wanted to protect this family. This family, you Selena, Francis, and the little one, Sebastian. The three of you are the most important people to me and it hurts me to think that the people I love don’t trust me enough to voice their worries. Especially you, Selena. My sister would hide from me and fail to send me a message or phone call to tell me her distasteful state. I admit that I have a part in keeping you staying there but to continue your pain was not my intention. I was under the impression that Nathaniel Morris treated you well.
That’s why I entrusted Francis to oversee and cleanse my doubts but instead of reporting the truth to me, you lied and continued a ruse. Tell me, am I a joke to the both of you? Do you despise me? What kind of wolf am I if my sister and my cousin would go as far as to lie about their current state? Am I not worth your honesty?”
It was the tone of his tone that grabbed Selena’s attention. She expected him to scream and shout, but no. His reserved tone hurt more for some reason. Maybe because it was completely not what she expected.
Talon’s eye was guilt-ridden as if he was taking all the blame. Even more, a tear slid down his cheek. The last time she saw her brother’s tears was when her parents' caskets were lowered down the ground. Since then, she thought her brother’s tears would never grace her again but she was wrong.
It ripped her apart, knowing she was at fault for it.
“These are just some of the questions that torture me. What if Nathaniel didn’t send me that email? Are the both of you just going to continue lying and for what? He parades himself with his chosen mate while you watch on the sideline, Selena and you Francis. How could you betray me like this? In all the wolves in my life, you’re the first one I would ever come to for help but now I guess I have to rethink my judgment.
Nevertheless, I blame myself for this. This oversight shouldn’t have happened if I was more competent. This is all my fault so I wish you will forgive me for not trying hard enough.”
Selena bit her lip, even Francis who she roped into her predicament had no escape.
She gulped and stilled herself. She promised Francis that she would explain everything if her brother would ever found out. Though just as about she was making her move to speak, Francis stood, taking his dagger out and lowering his head.
Softly, he sighs and knelt to the floor while he raised his blade to Talon.
“My Alpha, I deem myself unworthy. You are within your rights to strike this blade through my heart for there are no other wolves that I trust to—”
“No,” Selena stood. “I forced him to not tell you.”
She looked at her brother, determined to make everything right. She knew that Francis was fiercely loyal to her brother and because of that, Talon was questioning his fealty. The sight of Francis on his knees prepared to lose his life was overwhelmingly painful and paralyzing.
It should be her that was kneeling, not her cousin.
“I never meant for you to find out because I knew you would react like this.”
Selena couldn’t muster the courage to tell him everything without breaking apart. But Talon paid no heed to her words again, only, he looked at her with an empty stare and approached Francis.
“Francis, I beg of you, get up.” Talon took the dagger from Francis’s hand and threw it on the floor.
Her cousin’s shock was very obvious. After everything that happened, Talon showing his kindness was not what they expected.
“But cousin, I’ve failed you,” Francis muttered as he wore a very confused face.
“No, I failed you. I struck you without listening to your truth and that was very unfair. I know what happened to you and the pain you’ve gone through. You don’t deserve more suffering, not from me, not from your family and I am a fool to question you, so please, I ask for your forgiveness.”
Francis’s mouth remained ajar, even Selena was quite stricken to see her brother act so softly after all that had happened. Talon took his blade and placed it on his cousin’s hand.
“I am ashamed to have acted so stupidly. I’m no Alpha if I can’t assure my family’s safety therefore to better myself, I ask that you bleed me with this blade if that is what you wish.”
“I don’t wish that,” Francis immediately spoke in a panicked haze. “Your acceptance is more than enough for me, Alpha.”
“Then promise me, never easily offer your life to anyone. You may be a wolf but you are also a father first. Never come to me again and forget that, understand?”
“Dear Moon, Francis! No buts!” Talon exclaimed. “No one is more important than family and your son comes above all else. For what is a wolf who can’t see the importance of loyalty?”
Francis trembled, confused and very unwilling to answer. For four years, Francis split his time between finishing the tasks Talon had given him and going to see Sebastian and making sure he was well and happy.
Did that mean he was doing something wrong? He asked himself.
“If you still haven’t realized the answer, it’s a useless wolf. But we both know you’re not useless. Only, you are lost. You never expected to become a father this young but you didn’t run from it when most wolves would have gone through a much darker route. Dedicate your heart only to Sebastian, your family and not to pack Highcliff.”
He flattened his lips. “Pack Highcliff is my family. It’s all I’ve ever known.”
Talon sighed and sheathed his dagger, tightly pressing his lips together as he patted Francis’s shoulder.
“But the pack will not give you the type of love that comes from a real family. So promise me. Sebastian always, understand?”
“No,” Francis murmured. “How about, Sebastian first then pack Highcliff later?”
“If that is by your will.” Talon nodded.
Selena felt torn. On the one side, she was more than thrilled to see Francis’s small smile once Talon embraced him. The hug they shared had words left unsaid but on the other side, she was afraid that Talon’s silence towards her meant a punishment that was almost surely out of scale.
Talon took a step back and looked at Francis proudly.
“Now, go home and give my nephew a hug for me.” The Alpha offers him an assured nod.
Just as the moment had warmed, Julius passed through the sunroom’s door frame.
“Sir, forgive me for this intrusion but Beta Harlan of pack Waterford has sent a message. He says it requires prior importance regarding the pack’s alliances and he would greatly appreciate it if you were to come and speak to him as soon as possible.”
Talon quickly grimaced and glanced at Selena and Francis.
“See you tomorrow, Francis and Selena, go to your room and you are not to leave there until you and I have our conversation.” Her brother’s ominous voice captured her heart in a tight squeeze.
“Yes, Talon. I understand.” She hung her head.
Just as expected, Talon was not letting her off the hook that easily.
Talon quickly marched out of the room and left her and Francis, both completely baffled. Though the truth is, Selena had already thought and hoped as much. Francis didn’t need any more problems and she was glad he got off scot-free but she could not say the same thing for herself.
Selena did what her brother had said. She walked to her room and quickly jumped to her bathtub. She wasted no time turning on the shower despite her not removing her clothes. The warm water that kissed her skin momentarily washed her prior thoughts away and all that she could think of was home and how familiar everything around felt.
The dimly lit halls of pack Highcliff, the soft gentle breeze that whispered outside, and the calmness brought by the familiar smells wafting all around made Selena’s heart swim with uncapped happiness. Even though that some things have changed and some were completely gone, nothing made her afraid.
Home was home and she reveled in the idea of it knowing that now, for sure, Nathaniel was just a memory she hoped to completely erase from her mind.
When Selena had settled down and dressed into familiar clothing, she quietly smiled and held herself in her bed that was kept neat, the covers freshly washed with the pillows fluffed just as she left it. It was the little things that had made her happily smile. She laid on her bed, facing the ceiling. For sure, Talon wasn’t going to spare her and she needed to put her head in the right place.
Talon was furious and terrifying, that she could not afford to simply forget. Her smile was quickly washed away when she remembered that. But as the minutes ticked by and her will to stay strong remained still, there was only a deafening silence.
Hours later, when everything had seemed to have become quieter, Talon opened her door and entered silently. The beat of her heart spiked and rattled as she prepared but still, she remained quiet.
Although she faced the wall, she was sure of Talon’s scent. In her bed, she laid unmoving and waited until Talon had said a word. But that didn’t come. Instead, the side of her bed sunk and Talon’s hand suddenly cupped her cheek.
“Ah, Selena. Always spurring trouble and trying to fix it yourself.” He whispered. The bed moved along as Talon squeezed himself in the bed. “Are you just going to pretend you’re asleep or do I have to push you off the bed?”
Surprised by her brother's quip, Selena slowly let go of her fear and started to breathe a little softer.
“Oh...Like how a pirate pushes someone off a plank?” She asked, still not facing him.
“Oh, how original. I thought you would have grown enough not to make fun of my eyepatch.” He says. “But I guess you haven’t.”
Sighing, Selena relaxed. Maybe he was just easing in his punishment? At this point, she wasn’t sure of anything. Talon proved to be extremely unpredictable today. She felt trapped and didn’t want to assume anything. For all she knew, Talon might have already arranged her stay to someplace hidden.
She turns around and faces Talon. It has been too long since they’ve found solace in together’s presence. While Talon was busy with the pack, Selena was plunged into her studies and working with the nursery.
“Aren’t you going to punish me?” She looked into his brown eye, wondering what he truly had planned.
“I was planning to but then Francis talked me out of it. It seems like you two made it up.” He says. “Maybe that’s why the both of you agreed in keeping everything a secret.”
“It was solely my decision not to tell you.” She answered.
“Francis already told me but I want to hear it from you.” Talon turned his gaze to the ceiling.
“Because father took great pride and joy when he and Alpha Jacob made an alliance and if that alliance was broken because of me, I’d never forgive myself. I remembered how he bragged about it and mother scolded him for it. I didn’t want to lose that memory when they were still alive.”
Talon’s deep sigh made her wince.
“The alliance didn’t break because of you, Selena. Don’t place the burden on yourself when it was Nathaniel who did it.”
Her heart prickled with the thought. Maybe Nathaniel shared the blame for ruining their connection but Selena wondered what would have happened if she let Nathaniel mark her.
Would he accept and choose her just as he said he would? Before she could think of it, Selena quickly dismissed the question. The question was only trouble waiting to fester and blossom.
“I don’t want the pack to change because of this.” She says.
“But it already has.” Talon released a heavy breath. “I signed a contract with Joseph to have his men train us while they protect our borders.”
Selena grimaced. “I thought as much but father would be devastated. Fighting is not our tradition and it’s not what he would have wanted.”
He shook his head.
“What father would have wanted is his children’s safety and since I’ve already gone and cut ties with that demon, there’s no backing down now. A storm will no longer watch over us.”
Her brother was serious with this and finding a reason or a loophole to convince him otherwise was impossible.
So that was it? All the effort she went through was truly all for nothing. Hopelessness devours her as she closed her eyes and sobbed.
“I know this is not what you wanted and you want to keep our father’s legacy alive. But what good is father’s legacy when we are gone? We know the Remmingtons are relentless and I know father would have wanted us to become stronger.” Talon spoke in the air.
“But to go as far so to train the pack to dance with blades, isn’t that too drastic?” She reasoned.
Talon raised himself and sat on the bed. His one good eye glazed with a sheet of tears. She watches as Talon curled himself into a ball while keeping a silent mask. Perhaps all of this was too overwhelming for him? But that couldn’t be it. He was no stranger to strenuous jobs and tasks. Though, another reason was Katie.
Just like her, Selena also couldn’t feel the overbearing presence of Talon’s wolf. It had only meant that the rejection weakened his wolf also.
Selena retreated to herself and thought it through. She had so many plans of fighting back and when presented with an opportunity to do so, she needed to step away. She wanted to believe that the wolves around her should not be involved and it was her duty to fight for the pack. Her glaring contradiction made her lose hope.
If she couldn’t stand on her own feet and decision, how was she going to go against pack Remmington?
“We can’t keep on relying upon others. If we kept on watching and needing wolves to protect us, someday, we’ll run out of wolves who can fight. That is why this decision is heavy to take but needed because the blood Nathaniel caused on your hand has warranted a change.” Talon reached for her hand and held it. “Do you really think father is devastated right now?”
She pursed her lips and sat up. “Father always did want what was the best for us…I just contemplate if this is the right move but I also know that father would have wanted us to be safe.”
Talon smiled kindly. “Thank you for understanding, Selena. I need your and Francis’s support on this. Quite frankly, I’m terrified. A father’s shoes will always be dauntingly terrifying for his child to fill in.”
Selena felt the kindness in his tone. It was the same kindness his brother always exuded. She melted in his hold and leaned closer to him. This was the brother she knew him as. Calm, kind, and most importantly, he listens.
“I’ll be there for you even if I’m afraid.” She offered him a smile.
Even though her room was dark, void of any light, she saw how his eye sparkled with happiness and relief. But with one blink of an eye, his face darkened.
“That woman,” he murmured. “The one who rushed to Nathaniel, her name was Kayla Marie Smith, right?”
“I thought as much. The way she looked at him, I thought my heart was going to explode.”
She rested her head on his shoulder. With the position Alpha handed down to him on his eighteenth birthday, Talon had no experiences with dating or girls for that matter which also meant he too was an adult virgin. Could it be that Selena and her brother were in the same boat?
Unlike her, Talon had many female wolves hot on his tail and if they discover his rejection she wouldn’t be surprised if they flock around him and he was none the wiser when it came to avoiding women.
“A lot of women in the pack say your eye-patch makes you ten times more attractive.” She tried to smile. “They say that you’re a handsome pirate. Maybe you can find someone you can pillage and plunder?”
Talon chuckled as he glanced at the cut on his hand. Just like hers, the cut had not yet healed. Her attempts to try and lift him were all in vain.
“When I looked at her, I felt happy that after all these years I’ve finally found her. I guess, all that time of me hoping and waiting was all for nothing.”
Selena grimaced and wondered how Katie was doing. Knowing her and her affliction, she might be bedridden just like her brother. Katie’s brother, Lukas died because of a broken heart, and with Katie’s fragile state, things might become a bigger problem. And what of Nathaniel? Was he feeling the same thing?
A certain hollowness that Selena was afraid to never fill.
But he has Katie now and she was sure they’re happy together or at least she hoped to. Katie will be fine as long as she had Nathaniel.
Now that she thought of it, Lukas’s mate returned for him but he was long dead and buried. She wondered if Talon will ever regret rejecting Katie without an explanation.
“Kayla Marie is sick, she’s a quarter human and her wolf can’t heal her properly, and with her rejection…”
“What kind of sickness?” Talon turned to her with a serious tone.
“Cancer…I’m not sure but I think it’s leukemia. A type of blood cancer.”
He lowered his head and breathed deeply. “So without her wolf…she might die?”
“That’s a possibility but Nathaniel’s there for her and their bond is strong. I’m sure she will be alright.” She says.
“You’re right. After all, they chose to be in this position. We can only hope that they find true happiness together. Good night, Selena.”
He smiled and pecked her forehead, giving her a tight little squeeze before walking away.
Talon didn’t have to say it for Selena knew and felt the same way. A heavy cloud of pain draped over their heads while the unknown sat behind the fog just waiting for them to come near it.
Three days after Selena had left with her brother, Nathaniel had proceeded to explain and reveal what truly happened to his pack. It was expected that he was going to lose a lot of things and it hurt to see so many familiar and friendly faces turn their back on him with disappointment marring their faces.
But he needed to stand firm and be strong. He might have lost their graces but none of them left the pack. It’s as if they have expected this already. Maybe because what was happening to him was only a reflection of the past, his mother’s past. And as history repeated itself, they’ve already braved that this would happen.
At the very least, he was glad.
Glad that it was over and things were starting to get quiet.
Jacob still hasn’t spoken to him after their fight and Eliza had seemingly locked herself in her room. His family was falling to pieces and we didn’t know where to start fixing it.
With a heavy breath, Nathaniel sat his pen down and closed the ledger in front of him.
He thought that drowning himself to work would help his mind relaxed but he thought wrong. For three consecutive nights, he had not slept a single peep. His dreams were consumed by Selena and her tears. He feared that he might never find peace but he too knows that peace was the last thing he deserved.
During his thoughts, Winston entered the office with Letty in his arms. His blue eyes look at Nathaniel with worry as he walked closer to him.
“Good morning.” Winston greeted.
“Winston, good morning to you too.” He answered, trying to keep a smile for Letty.
“Lively says I shouldn’t take Letty to see you but I think Letty misses her uncle so…”
Winston let Letty walk across Nathaniel’s desk. For a moment, Nathaniel felt sheer happiness holding his niece. He embraced her and genuinely smiled as Letty started to gently and repeatedly slap his cheeks with her tiny hands.
“Thank you,” He glances at Winston. “But why are you doing this?”
Winston shrugged. “I thought you needed some pepping. You haven’t obviously asked for help but that’s just you. Grumpy Nathaniel pretends to have his thoughts all gathered or whatever my wife told me.”
He stared at his brother. “She said that?”
His brother nervously chuckled. “Yes, but less politely.”
Nathaniel pursed his lip again now looking a lot more assured. Winston coming here of all people was odd. Especially when he was supposed to be in town at work.
“Is something up?” He asked.
Winston’s face fell into a deep frown.
“Anna, the doctor that’s in charge of Kayla Marie said something I overheard.”
“What is it?”
His brother took in a heavy breath before speaking.
“I overheard her talking to one of her assistants that Kayla might not last a couple more days if her wolf fails to wake up. She might die, Nate. I fear that if we don’t act quickly then we might lose her.”
A stone landed on his shoulder, weighing and crushing him down. When he visited her this morning, the doctor assured him that Katie was doing fine and would only need a lot more time to recover.
Nathaniel didn’t want to push himself knowing that if Katie wouldn’t wake up, there was one solution to quickly solve it.
“What are you proposing?” Nathaniel dared to ask though he already knows the answer.
“Take her to pack Highcliff and hope Alpha Talon will mark her.” Winston answered.