The blistering stagnancy of the current moment had done so little to keep Katie sane. All she needed was a piece of silence to help her think of an excuse, a proper play of words to convince their Alpha to let her go.
But thinking was an arduous task already when the wolf that made her shiver and pee herself was still looking at her maliciously.
His fear-inducing blue orbs were pinned only to her and she could only think of what was going inside of his mind. No doubt he was plotting something too. Her death, most probably.
It had only been minutes since he had issued her a warning or to put it more cleanly, he threatened her. And how, Francis haplessly spun his unsheathed dagger in the air, just observing her.
The only protection Katie had was Talon’s mark. She knew as long if she remained affable towards her mate, then she wouldn’t have a chance of leaving and going back to Nathaniel. She needed to lower her defenses first and let Talon in to guarantee her safety and in the end, maybe she could convince him to let her go.
That was the only way and Katie willed herself in order to do it.
It became silent when Katie felt her heart bloom with a rush of feelings through her veins. Her wolf had woken up, its attention peaked. The beating of her heart persisted as heavy footsteps entered her ears.
The legs of Francis’s chair scraped against the wooden floor as he stood and walked to the door. He opens it, revealing the man that caused her to have all the different emotions she desperately wanted to get rid of.
“Cousin, welcome back.” Francis smiled freely.
Talon’s eye was stuck to her, his bereft and stunned expression causing her to mirror it. He took a little longer to respond.
“F-Francis.” He stuttered as he entered the room.
Katie felt his nervousness, his fear of the moment. It radiated from him. Though what he was afraid about? She was the one being held against her will here. If anyone had any right to feel frightened, it was her.
“I see that our guest has awoken.” Talon approached her. Katie gazed at how dark his eye was. It rendered her speechless with how many unsaid words were inlaid on the strands of his captivating gaze.
She had to remind herself that Talon was the reason why she was stuck here and above all that, he marked her without her permission.
But she couldn’t stop herself from being struck with awe.
He pulls back and stood, removing his shirt from his body. She watched him as he crossed from one side of the room to another, opening his drawers and grabbing a shirt and pair of trousers. In a matter of minutes, Katie had seen all of him except the parts that were hidden under his underwear.
He had a tall and very fit body, muscles that were shaped all too smoothly, and his legs and feet looked sturdy. She saw how immaculate he was, a view of perfection under the veil of unspoken words.
Katie had seen many men naked before, right after they shifted from their wolves, even Nathaniel and she was drawn to Talon most.
But why? Her wolf’s emotions were starting to betray her and she hated it.
“How long has she been awake?” He asked.
“About ten to fifteen minutes, cousin.” Francis dutifully answered.
Katie’s eyes glanced at Francis, seeing him glower at her. She widened her eyes and immediately stared at her hands.
What would happen if she told Talon about what Francis had said? Katie thought of the repercussions. If she knew anything about the Remmingtons, then their words should be taken seriously. Additionally, she needed to gain their trust, and telling on him would lessen her chances of escaping. For now, she needed to be quiet.
“And you didn’t tell me, why?”
“Because you hadn’t eaten in days. I had no plans on disrupting your meal.” He lowered his head.
By now, Talon was fully clothed. He wore a wife-beater that shows off his masculine physique, his shoulders, and arms. The shirt managed to mold his body, trapping his more than ample muscles.
She held her tongue and pressed her legs together, unsure of the swirling sensation in her stomach. She gulped.
“Thank you, cousin. Can you tell Mrs. Hall to bring us something to eat and a pitcher of cold water would be nice too.” He instructs, patting Francis’s shoulder.
“Yes, right away.” He replies with a smile, so calm and smug that Katie wanted to scream.
He acted so well in front of his Alpha right after he made a promise to murder her if she made the wrong choices.
“And make sure to tell Mrs. Hall to make the meal hefty, lots of meat and maybe soup of any kind.”
Was that all for her? She wondered what his plans were. Maybe he wanted to ply her with food and then punish her once she let her guard down.
“Yes, cousin.” Francis smiles again. “By the way, cousin. Your nose can’t smell well enough without your wolf, can it?”
Katie jolted, fully aware of where the conversation was going.
“Yes, why? What’s the matter?” He asked worriedly.
Francis’s eyes darkened as he smiled. “Your mate, she pissed herself in the bed. I was about to tell you but then you arrived.”
She wasn’t looking at him but she felt his intense stare and heard him sigh. The disappointment in him was too obvious not to notice.
“If that’s the case, Sir Ross is somewhere in the building. Tell him to get us a clean mattress and while you’re at it, please get someone to take away the old one and someone to change the pillows, sheets, and duvet. Get Anita, the majordomo to do it as quick as possible.”
Her cheeks become bright red. If it was possible to melt into a puddle of shame, she would have done it already. Sadly, the human body couldn’t perform such an act, and Katie was forced to suffer.
“Understood, I’ll take my leave now.”
“Thank you again, Francis.” She heard her mate speak softly.
After a moment, Katie felt Francis leave. The weight of the room’s atmosphere soon became a heavy burden as she realized she and Talon were the only ones left. She shuddered to think that maybe he was worse than his cousin. After all, the minion is only second to wicked after his master.
Inside of her, she felt her wolf again. It cried for her to look at him, to see his face, and to touch his skin. But doing so would betraying Nathaniel. She believed that she belonged to Nathaniel and no one else. She had dedicated her heart to him and looking the other way now was out of the question.
She knew now what making him promise her safety had caused him gravely and if she were to dip her feet into the sea of emotions Talon made her feel, then Nathaniel’s sacrifices were all have been for nothing.
She would have only ruined his life for nothing.
“Kayla…” She heard him speak her name.
Just the mere mention of her name caused her lingering desires to quadruple.
Katie didn’t offer any response. She thought she was strong enough to deny her heart of emotions but she was by far still the weakest. Weakest at everything.
The side of the bed sank because of his weight. A turbulent rush of fear pierces through her as his finger lifted her chin. She was forced to look at him. The unmistakable feeling of unwanted warmth spread within her as her heart began to beat loudly and fast.
“Don’t be afraid, wolf.” He whispers.
She draws a sharp breath and opened her eyes. She felt his warm breath fan her cheek, his closeness setting wildfires of intoxicating flames. At this close, he looked even more ethereal. The softness of his gaze, the sides of his hairy face, and his touch. All of it she wanted.
The Moon had given her a man so perfect.
A man she could no longer have and should not want.
After all, who would want her? For many years, Nathaniel was enough for her. He was the one that put her through college and helped finance her overseas ventures and businesses. He even gave her love, or at least for her it was. Everything she had, was all thanks to him.
And in turn, all that she gave him was nothing but trouble. She wanted to repay him, that’s all that she could do.
To fall for him is not what she could afford.
“You don’t have to speak to me. You can nod if you want to.” Talon releases her chin. “Is it true what my cousin had said?”
She looks at him, confused. “W-what?”
“That you had an accident on the bed.”
Katie was terrified with how easy it felt to be next to him and how eager she wanted to hear him speak.
Talon pulls the covers off her body. The wet spot on the bed caused her to wince. She drowned in her embarrassment. Katie stared at the clothes she was wearing. Her dress, neither her bra and underwear there. Instead, she wore a cotton blue shirt and a pair of boxers that had Talon’s scent. Her embarrassment soon turned into anger as the thought of him touching her without her permission made her fume.
“You undressed me…” She says. “How dare you?”
He simply sighs.
“The dress you were wearing was drenched in blood after I marked you. I didn’t want to let you wear it so I had someone change you.”
She flattened her lips.
“Where are my clothes now?”
“I sent them to be burned.” He answers with nonchalance.
“Burned? B-but they’re all I have here.” She bit her tongue back, trying to regain her composure. “I have nothing here.”
“And it’s fitting.” He says.
“Fitting for me to have nothing?” She widened her gaze in disbelief.
She watches the bulge on his throat bob up and down before he finally gave his answer.
“Yes,” he says. “Nathaniel and I have made arrangements.”
Her breath hitched. “What kind of arrangements?”
Talon fell silent but the grave expression he woefully wore only made her fear for the worst.
“We shouldn’t talk about it now.” He averted his gaze to her neck and grimaced. “Your mark still hasn’t healed.”
She narrowed her eyes at his aversion but let go of the thought for now. She surmised that pushing on him would not be that wise of a decision when her main goal was to be on his side, sadly it was the opposite was happening. As he moved so effortlessly, he managed to ensnare Katie’s attention.
She dammed herself and her wolf.
Talon leaned and placed his nose on her neck.
“I wish I could smell. I wouldn’t know if you’re well into recovery or not.”
Katie bit her lip and closed her eyes, bracing her body for everything that was going to happen.
“Kayla…” He says her name, his lips touching her ear. “You need only to say no if you don’t want me to touch you.”
She was hopelessly out of breath when he spoke. When the words under her mind failed to surface, he leaned closer until his lips kissed the tender part of his mark. She felt his tongue glaze over the wound, the pain when he started was only temporary and was quickly replaced by ease and comfort. The blissful sensation caused her legs to shiver. She released a long breathy sigh as his warm tongue left her skin.
In her shock, she was left speechless, staring at nowhere as she basked on the lingering feeling brought by his touch.
“Thankfully, it’s not as bad as yesterday. It’s probably because you’re awake now.” He stood and stalked towards his drawers.
Yesterday. That meant he was cleaning his mark ever since she was out.
The sound of his feet moving against the floor snapped Katie back to reality. She wanted to speak and feint her disgust. She didn’t like how comfortable she felt around him.
She felt disgusted and abhorred seeing Nathaniel in Talon, their kindness was the same. So willing to help.
All her previous assumptions may not be true at all. Still, she begged the question of why he would agree to mark her after what she had done to Selena and Nathaniel. Even if how content she felt, she had to remember that Talon was a stranger, her mate.
Talon fetched a fresh pair of jogging shorts and a clean shirt, placing them neatly on the bed table.
“I need you to wash yourself. I don’t own any feminine products, obviously and there’s only shampoo and soap in the bathroom. The towels are somewhere in the drawers. And rest assured, there’s nothing in there to hurt yourself. If you need anything, I’ll be outside.”
With the string of instructions he just uttered, Katie had no time to react as he pulled her out of the bed. The moment her feet touched the floor, she crumbled onto him. Her legs had felt numb and she had lost control over them.
Talon gripped her body, holding her while her face rested against his chest.
“My wolf still hasn’t settled in yet?” He asked.
Katie wasn’t sure. When mates mark each other, they exchange wolves. Most mates mark each other days after they meet but in Katie’s case, she wore his mark but she was yet to give him hers.
Her body was adjusting to the newness of her surrounding, the newness of having her mate’s wolf inside of her.
A terrible thought runs through her mind.
For Talon to resume his duties as Alpha, she needed to mark him too. But if she does mark him, she would be his Luna and become a Highcliff. She might as well give up everything and marry him.
And in the end, she had truly betrayed Nathaniel. That was why she couldn’t mark him. He deserved someone better. She grimaced after knowing that her situation was far harder than she previously thought. And somewhere down the line, she needed to make a decision.
“Kayla?” He took her attention back.
Nervously, she pushed herself off his body and stood on her two shaky feet.
“Katie, my friends call me Katie.” She says.
Talon scoffed. “Well, I’m not your friend am I?”
His answer surprised her. The calmness in his eye before lit up with anger.
“No,” she shuddered. “But, you are my mate.”
She saw a flash of hurt cross his eye.
“Does Nathaniel call you Katie too?”
It was instantaneous. The shroud of pain covering her started to invade every part of her nerve.
“I’m not a fool, Kayla Marie. I know that I’m not Morris. I’m not the Stormwind whose name you keep saying in your sleep. Neither am I Lukas, another man’s name you uttered multiple times. Two weeks and I was prepared to wait for years.”
She took a step back, feeling her heart was about to burst from seeing the pain in his pale face.
“Lukas is my brother.”
Talon huffed, his exhaustion showing through his posture.
“And what of Nathaniel? Screaming, crying, and begging. Begging for him to come to you. I was here, waiting for you to wake up. Wiping every tear that fell from your cheek. And where was Nathaniel? At home, recuperating from what you’ve done to him, to my sister, and me.”
His jaw was squared while the blazing fury in his eyes persisted to shine brightly. But Katie had a lot of things to say too. Her fears, her pain, her will to come home and atone for the mistakes she did to Nathaniel.
“You wouldn’t understand.” She held her tears back.
“Understand what, Kayla?” He bellowed.
The magnitude of his voice shook her, making her feel small. Her gaze stared him down, not willing to sway off her ground. Though right from the start, she was aware that what she was doing was ultimately wrong. She did not fight, because, at the very start, she was wrong.
“Understand that I was alone. I had no one left for me and I was scared, very scared. That what if my mate does come, they’ll only hurt me just like what they did to my brother. He ripped himself apart after he was rejected.”
Talon shook his head. He approaches her. But with every step that he took forward, Katie took a step back. His ferocious glare caused her to tread carefully until her lower back was pressed against the drawer.
Her heart palpitated, chest heaving, and throat dry. His sweaty smell, though earthy and foreign, was like a drug that she refused to stop using.
“And so what? You were desperate?” He asks.
Her unprepared heart couldn’t fathom the words that had become jumbled up in her mind. Though she was fighting a battle she had already lost, she wanted to stand on her feet. Because to crumble easily, meant she had surrendered herself already.
“Deathly, hopelessly, and irrevocably so. But I did it to survive. That’s why people lived. Desperation is what kept us moving forward.” She gulped.
Talon pressed his frame on hers, effectively trapping her.
“And you think that’s enough reason for you to ruin the lives of the people around you?”
She breathed, raising her chin.
“No. No, it wasn’t. But that’s why I need to go home. I’ve already ruined Nathaniel’s life and I don’t have anything to offer you. I’m just a weak wolf that has lost her virtue.” She says through gritted teeth.
A humorless chuckle escaped him.
“You think your virtue matters to me?” He asks as he wore an incredulous expression on his face. “I am indeed a conservative man to some extent, but a woman for me will always be a woman despite the many lovers she has had.”
“And you’re still willing to accept me?”
Nervously, he gulps.
“I don’t want to, Kayla. Rather I feel like I need to. I didn’t accept to mark you because of the feelings in my chest. I did so because my mother and father would have done the same.”
Katie was right to hold her heart. Now that his emotions were out of the question, she had hope that her freedom was easier to reach. Still, after knowing his true feelings, it affected her more than she expected.
“Then that’s it, huh?” She asked, staggering to keep her breath as Talon’s warm body had completely pinned her down. “If that’s how you feel, you can let me go. If you need me to mark you, I will. All that I ask is that you let me go back to Nathaniel.”
She jolted as his calloused rode up her arms, the tingles it brought down her spine produced a shaky sigh, escaping from her lips. He was dangerously close, his face mere inches away.
She feared that her plea had completely fallen on deaf ears as he wore a serious face. His daunting expression caused goosebumps to appear on her back. Talon to her was a predator and she was her prey. He drags his soft, moan-inducing lips over her cheek and brought them to the side of her face. She closed her eyes, too afraid to suddenly move.
“Do you really think Nathaniel will want you after you mark me?” He whispered.
The cocktail of emotions barreling deep within was unwanted and very welcomed at the same time. Everything started to confuse her. It was because he was her mate. The overwhelming scent of his power and strength despite the absence of his wolf and her failure to say the words she wanted to was what lead to this.
It was wrong to covet such feelings. This feeling of lightness, the thundering spikes on the sole of her feet, and the fast-paced beat of her heart. The poison Talon’s nearness offered was slowly becoming addicting.
“He always understands. Maybe he will.” She answered.
He chuckled, his deep voice sounding dark amid the bright colors of blissfulness she was suffering through.
“Don’t you hear yourself, Kayla? Desperation dripping off your voice. It's suffocating and very sad. You allow yourself to be blinded by fantasy. Be taken by a man who was never yours, to begin with.”
Every word, that came out of his mouth caused sirens to blare warnings. She tried to push him away but his broad shoulders were immovable mountains.
“With Nathaniel, I know what’s going to happen.”
And with Talon, she was afraid. Even now, as she helplessly braced herself against the emotions he gave her, she was most terrified with how intense everything felt with him. Unlike Nathaniel who only gave her peace and normalcy, Talon gave her everything that she was afraid of.
“And that’s enough for you?” He asked again. “Has he ever told you that he loved you?”
“Time, denial, and patience. I learned to love him, despite the feeling of being empty. Despite him never saying that he loved me too.” A single stray tear moved down her face. Her scorching confession finally wearing down.
He breathes on her skin and whispers;
“You’re never going back to him,” he says. “The Moon ties us together, our fates are intertwined even after I’ve rejected you. And I will go through hell and back to stop you from seeing him again because, my wolf. As of now, you are a wolf of Pack Highcliff and I am your home now.”
Katie moved away but before she could speak, Talon’s lips captured hers. He held her body tightly and every protest she made was lost to the feeling of his embrace. His masterful tongue took control of her while his roaming hand grasped for her bottom, the other holding the back of her neck in place. Soon after, she found herself kissing him back.
The taste of his lips causing her to recline and melt in his arms. Her trembling fingers rested upon his chest, feeling his beating heart.
It was slow, passionate, and filled with heat but then he became rouge, needy, and so full of lust. This was by far the most intense kiss she had ever had. A mixture of different euphoric sensations clashing with one another, producing something an explosion of colors.
When he finally draws himself back, he stares at her while she toiled in labored breaths. The emptiness in his eye struck but his words caused her more pain.
“You see Kayla. The difference between Nathaniel and I have is that I can kiss you and I don’t even have to pretend that I love you. Because you know I don’t, right?”
She froze and refused to believe that what she heard from him was untrue. In a moment’s time, she felt her heart scream so loud, her wolf crying in joyful tears only to be hit with reality, taking her back to the world that was never kind to her.
“You don’t mean that, do you?”
He clears his throat.
“Oh come on, Kayla. You didn’t expect me to let you off that easily, did you? But if so, then congratulations. You played yourself.”
She wasn’t sure if this is how true heartbreak felt. But she was sure of one thing. That no one, not even the wolves in pack Morris has been this cruel to her. Her wolf would have already shut itself down, bringing her along with it.
This time, she was able to feel it and nothing has ever hurt this quite much.
“Is this you? Your true colors?” She quivered as she asked.
“Surprised? I can be cruel too, wolf. Even more than my cousin. I mean, you’ve met him. He’s the reason why you had your accident on the bed.”
She gasped for her as she walked away, creating space between them.
“How could you act so soft and be so evil and do it that quickly?”
He scoffed, gulping noisily before he answered.
“I had to sit and watch you cry for another man who was never going to come to you. What do you expect me to feel? Remorse? Or perhaps you expected me to instantly fall for you? No, Kayla. The truth is, I waited for two weeks for you to wake up and for me to say this to you. If you push me enough, then I’ll just be as vile as any scorned wolf.”
Her bereft expression stared at him.
“And so this is your revenge?”
“No.” He answers, shaking his head. “No, this is your punishment.”
Katie’s flushed cheeks were drenched with tears. She cried nonstop as everything in her life slowly faded into a void and all she wanted was to have her old life back. Where she was safe with Nathaniel and her wolf always saved her from heartbreak by taking her into oblivion.
Things are different now and the hope she had of leaving was no more than wishful thinking.
“After everything that you’ve done, hurting my sister, ruining the lives of the wolves around, have you ever asked yourself why I rejected you? I rejected you because not even my mother and father’s death could compare to the searing pain you’ve caused me. Seeing you look at him while he stared at Selena. I thought you were dooming yourself from the start. So I rejected you so then you could feel free to fuck around with him. And look where that got you. Back to me.”
“You’re wicked!” She sniffled.
“Only to you.” He answered.
She breathed though that no longer worked as she was now fully falling apart, tearing at every seam.
“I’m never going to surrender and I will find a way to go home.” She moved her feet to the door. Her hand touched the doorknob, terrified why he was just standing, leaning next to the drawer.
“Go on, be my guest. But if I know Francis, once you step one foot out this room, you’re sending him an open invitation to bury his blade right through your head.”
He was right. The grinning wolf would immediately stop her in her tracks. Both of them, Francis and Talon were equally hounding her down. She narrowed her gaze at him, realizing her defeat.
“I’m a prisoner then?”
He shook his head.
“Don’t be foolish. You’re a guest unless you test my limits. Because, my wolf. You are mine just as much as I am yours. And mark my words, you will bend to me. Whether you like it or not.”
Though the cold tone of his voice deterred her, the guilt in his eye made her want to believe otherwise. She formed her hands into fists and walked to the bathroom, jumping into the shower, rubbing her mouth against her arm to try and get rid of the memory of his kisses.
But no amount of effort could make her forget the warmth his lips had left her and the scar he etched in her heart.
Nathaniel shook his boots, gritting his teeth as he walked through the winding path of trees Lilian was leading. The last few days hadn’t been too kind to him. With the other packs deciding to cut off their ties to pack Morris, his duties were doubled, almost tripled.
He almost had no time for himself. But working had an effect on him. He distracted himself from ever thinking about Selena. By now, he was sure that she was at least calm, and maybe even she had her wolf’s strength back. He could only hope the best for her and he tried so hard to move on with his life.
For now, he looked forward.
If he spent time thinking about her, tearing himself up for every moment that passed then he would only be trapped in his dreams of touching her again.
In front of him was a grim scene of three dead wolves. Judging by their scent and the clothes they were wearing, one was male, and two females. Their bodies had started to decompose slowly, and sadly, wildlife had started to take advantage of them.
Nathaniel stared at a deer not far away from him. Its face was colored with blood.
“Your report, Lilian. Who are these poor souls?” He asks, leaning down to inspect one of the cadavers.
“They’re our wolves, Nate. Their families have positively identified them as Christina Ambers, Amanda Jackson, and Patrick Robertson. They were reported missing ten days ago and so far, no one knows why they met this fate.”
All three of them had their eyes gouged and a bullet hole was on each of their foreheads. An execution style that Nathaniel was so very familiar with.
“We have wolves working in the local police department, right?” He asked.
“Yes, sir. A dozen of them.” Lilian nods.
“Get them to write us permits to gather surveillance footage from every working camera in town. I think we might solve this.”
Nathaniel stood, gritting his teeth. If his intuition served him right, then maybe, just maybe, he could solve and finally discover the true face of his long-time enemy.