Time was never fair to Katie. Though she was perfectly fine with suffering through it. She had forgotten how long has it been since she last saw Talon. After he left to attend Madeline’s party, he never came back.
He had given her the option to leave and call Nathaniel though she could never bring herself to do so.
Right after he left, Katie’s guilt was her growing companion. She wanted to go back in time and change the words that she uttered. Even if she did so, what was she going to say to him?
His eye haunted her. Its cold dark edge goading her say his name in her sleep. His lips, a constant feeling on her body. And his touch, a woeful ghost that she embraced in cold nights.
Days of contemplating resulted in nothing. The question was not whether if she needed to call Nathaniel, she needed to. To apologize, say the words she wanted to say to him, and ask him only one question.
But whenever she was close to picking up Talon’s brick phone, she decided against it and waited for nothing.
Staying with Talon meant a lot of things.
She would find recluse and calmness, be enthralled by Talon’s deceptively sweet words, and in the end, fall irrevocably in love for him. She wanted to grasp his hands, feel his calloused fingers dance on her skin while she looked at his kind smile.
Why wasn’t it hard to imagine a life with him? Even thinking of him hurt.
While leaving to go away to escape was a thought that crippled her chest. She saw his pain as he looked at her stubbornness to leave and the last thing she wanted was to hurt him any further.
Both choices were very selfish and unfair for Talon.
“Fuck.” She whispered.
She was exasperated, torn between the choice of empty freedom and be chained down by her selfish desires to take Talon for herself.
“Why are you doing this to yourself, Katie?” She asked herself. “Stupid, stupid, stupid.”
She had become unhinged, clamoring to rest to one assured answer. When Talon deserved the world, he looked at her only. She wondered what it was that he saw in her and why would he choose her.
All that she wanted was to do better.
But to do that, she needed to have one more conversation with Talon when he returns. If he returns.
As she remained in her thoughts, the door to her side open. For a moment, she was excited. Finally, he was here. Maybe this was now the time to clear the smog encapsulating her heart. But as the familiar wolf entered, her hopes were shattered as Madeline entered.
The woman’s melancholic mask hit Katie. She looked like she had been crying for a long time.
“Kayla.” Madeline approached her and sat on the bed, meekly meeting Katie’s surprised expression.
The room had become cold. The dark clouds that accompanied Madeline shrouded the whole ceiling, dimming the warmth from the rays of sunlight passing through the glass window. It caused goosebumps to appear on her skin.
“Madeline,” Katie answered, her heart pounding nervously. “If you’re looking for Talon I’m afraid he isn’t home.”
Madeline’s eyes darkened. The very sight made her jolt.
“I know,” she answered. “Kayla, I’m not here for Talon nor am I here to fight. I just want to speak to you.”
“Me?” Katie gulped.
She pressed her lips together, unsure of what she was going to do. All that she could think of is Talon. She didn’t know what to do with a wolf like Madeline. She had never been thrust upon a situation like this before and she shuddered that Madeline might want more than just ‘talk’.
Madeline straightened her dress, cautiously looking at Katie with a weak, cordial smile.
“Y-yes.” She answers. “Actually, I’d like to ask you a question.”
Confused, she knitted her brows. How could this be happening now? She felt cornered and forced to nod.
“Ask away, please.”
Katie was unnerved as she smiled through her discomfort. A false facade to keep up appearances. That she was good at doing.
The wolf scowled.
“Why are smiling like that?” She vehemently whispered.
Katie’s mouth hangs ajar.
“I’m sorry, what?”
The sharp edge on Madeline’s stare pinned her on the bed. She felt Madeline’s wolf. Its murderous aura leaking from every seam of her body.
“I don’t understand why you can wear that grin while Talon is living in a motel in the shadiest part of town. I just thought it would be nice to tell you since not even Francis knows where he is.”
Katie froze in horror. There was simply no reason why he needed to go through that brash length to distance himself from her. The smile on her face faded and her heart momentarily ceased to beat.
Exactly what was that man doing to himself?
She forced herself to believe that it was all a lie, something to coax her and make her leave. But the tears on Madeline’s cheeks were real, not an act.
“Can you tell me where he is now?” She pleaded.
“Do you honestly think I would want to answer that? Kayla, please. I don’t know what’s going on between the two of you but please don’t hurt him like this.”
She ran out of words for a reason, speechless to fight back. Hurting Talon was not her intention. He was only caught in her stupidity and in the heat of everything, she managed to tag him into her problems.
But a man like him and his social stature had the liberty to choose whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, and whoever he wanted.
“I need to talk to him.” She says.
“No, you don’t need to.” Madeline turns her gaze away. “Maybe this is karma for me when I heard he rejected his mate. I felt like I was the luckiest woman alive knowing that the man I’ve devoted the past three years of my life to was mateless, just like me. But you came back and now all he wants is you.”
Madeline was a bleeding heart. The longer she sat, the wider the tear on her heart spread.
But she was just another wolf whom Katie burned accidentally. She never wished to cause this much pain though it was perhaps just that hard to escape the loop she put herself on.
“I never meant any of this.” Katie sucked in a sharp breath. “I would have marked him sooner if he’d only let me leave.”
“Then just mark him and stop it with the act. You’re a selfish bitch and you know it. You can choose to fall in love and have a family with him but if you leave without marking him, I’ll be here for him and I’ll give everything I can to make him happy. He makes me the happiest whenever he smiles, even though his smiles are short-lived, fleeting. I want to be the wolf that makes him feel secure and be a constant feeling in his life. Even if he becomes human, I’m going to be there because I love him.”
Her knees melted. Remorse floods her system while she held her guilt-ridden tears in. It shouldn’t have been like this. She wondered what would have happened if she left. Her own will to stay has yet again scarred another heart.
Now, the decision was final. Leaving Talon was the only way to fix the mess she has done.
She could already feel her wolf quaking at the thought of her departure. She stayed because of Talon. To possibly patch things up. Like a desperate dog waiting, she had only made things worse instead of fixing it.
“Talon is in your good hands then. I’ll leave today and you’re never going to see me again, I can promise you that.”
“I wish it was always that easy but you know, there are all the wolves in pack Highcliff that wants you dead and Talon won’t be able to stop them while he’s away. But of course, the deadliest one of them, a Remmington is being held back by Talon. You can survive Francis for now, but can you survive the wolves ready to shoot you once you come out that door?”
She pressed her lips together.
“I probably won’t. But I guess, death as a punishment should suffice. It’s inescapable but I don’t want to die now.”
She hadn’t apologized to Nathaniel yet and at this point, she was ashamed to meet Talon again. But to die now was the coward’s way. The dreams and hopes she snuffed out from her mind were still there, though their shimmer was not as magnificent as it was, she couldn’t let their light completely go away.
Above all things, she wanted to live a life of her own. And that meant a life with no Nathaniel, nor Talon.
“Truthfully, I don’t even know why I came here. I don’t care if you left or you stayed. I’d always be there for him, even if I remained only as a friend or his lover.”
Madeline stood. The woman brushes her blonde hair aside, her flushed cheeks a sign of her bitterness and hollowed desires. She fished her dagger, unsheathing it.
“You’ve made an enemy of me, Kayla. Just be thankful that this house is a house of safety and no blood shall be spilled.”
Katie turned her gaze away. What was she supposed to say when in the start, she was the wrong one?
The wolf quietly sheaths her blade, slowly stalking back to the door. She had no more words to say and left the room. The door stayed open wide. It would be so easy to step out and run, run until her feet become sore.
But with her weak wolf and obliviousness to fighting, the thought of leaving unharmed was impossible.
She was ashamed that once again, she needed another wolf’s help to rescue her.
Her breath became heavy. She didn’t have any plans on speaking to Nathaniel over the phone. A conversation meant more when done in person but looking at it now, she didn’t have any other choice.
Katie trudged towards the window and grabbed Talon’s brick phone charging under the sun. She had no problem memorizing his phone number, typing it on the keys.
While the phone rings, Katie stayed in silence. What is she going to say first? The last time she heard his voice was when he was giving her away to Talon.
Anxiousness draped over her nervous body while she noisily gulped, hearing his phone ring. The wait was excruciating as if she was already expecting the worst.
“Lillian, what’s the update?”
His voice rang in her ear. That deep and confident tone striking her body but the gravity it used to give her wasn’t as impressive as it used to be.
Katie breathed deeply, bracing and pushing herself to speak.
Nathaniel took a moment to answer. His long pause caused her to panic. Thoughts flood into her mind as the phone shook in her hand.
“Katie.” Nathaniel grimly whispers through the phone.
Her heart split open with his disappointment. It wasn’t that often that he’d speak with a voice this low and dark and when it happened, he wore a sad mask. She could already see it. His gray eyes staring at his feet while he remained stoic, pretending to be okay.
“H-how are you?” She asks.
It wasn’t the words she had planned on saying but it all slipped out.
She hears him sigh.
“I’ve been better.” He answers. “Katie, how are you calling me and why?”
The cold edge of his voice startled her. Her freezing legs soon became numb while the torrential spew of unfathomable emotions run through her nerves. It didn’t escape her. She knew him well enough that his line of questions meant he was tired of talking or wasn’t up to talking at all.
“How is the pack?”
“Oh.” She whispered.
“What did you expect I was going to say?”
Nathaniel’s impatience was clear.
The man she knew who held a great deal of reserve was a wrong answer away from growling at her.
“I’m sorry for calling you but I-”
“Then don’t call me. Alpha Talon wouldn’t approve of me speaking to you. There’s an important matter greater than you, Katie. Actually, a lot is.” He snapped. Though he quickly gathered his breath. “Apologies, I lost my composure.”
He’s never been this spiteful to her before. It was as if a switch was flipped inside of him and his caring, loving side was no longer in him. She threaded carefully. Though she was already hanging on a thin thread of hope. At this point, there was no chance of Nathaniel helping her. That was obvious from how he acted but nevertheless, she couldn’t pass the opportunity to say her piece and apologize.
His vehement groan was intensely overwhelming and it alone was already making her sniffle.
“Please, Nathaniel before you say anything I... I apologize.” She surrendered.
There was only one emotion inlaid on her voice. And that was the deep-seated regret that she longed to be resolved, despite it knowing it was impossible.
She trembles. Her skin was covered with goosebumps.
The dead air between the line and Nathaniel’s heavy breathing was a coalescence of smog that brought her down even further into a spiral of sadness.
“Everything is too broad of a term, Katie.”
Katie understood what he meant. He was pushing her to admit everything. Nathaniel has been tolerant of her and his vindictive side was yet to fully bloom. She wondered if this was it?
Gathering her wits, she remained steady all the while dreading the words whizzing around her head.
“I’m sorry for holding onto you but I want you to know, I was the happiest whenever you were near and I thought you felt the same. But I did love you at some point. It just wasn’t as strong of love as I hoped to be. I know I made you do things that you didn’t want to do in the first place. I asked your hand in marriage, asked you to take me for the first time, and asked you to love me. You gave me light but I didn’t know I was draining yours.”
Nathaniel's deep and sad laughter mocked her.
“Katie, I loathe you.” He murmurs. “But I also hate myself. Every time you ask something of me, I only feel inclined to say yes. What if I said no and something happened to you? You have such a frail body and saying no would have lead to something disastrous. It was always you before me.”
“And that’s why you didn’t tell me about her. I took her away from you.” She breathlessly spoke.
With tingling lips, she inhaled deeply.
“No, you’re wrong. I willingly left her after some time of denial. I didn’t want to need Selena. Not when you were there. I was willing to lose Selena, the most precious wolf to me. I did so to keep you happy and content, just as I promised. But I didn’t know keeping you happy would kill me slowly. So no, Katie.”
“But I forced you into this mess.” She spoke.
His willingness to shift the blame unto him was not at all out of character. His proclivity to assume great responsibility was shockingly chilling. And even now he would go through this much longer.
But for what?
She wasn’t sure of what Nathaniel was doing. Though whatever it was, it was effectively piercing a molten rod of regret through her body. Tripping her with insurmountable guilt.
“And I blame myself for being forced. Now, I can’t imagine seeing you without me screaming my head off. I never want to see or hear you again and please, don’t seek me out. There’s only so much leeway I can provide you. Goodbye, Katie. I hope this is the last time I talk to you.”
“Goodbye.” She whispers under her breath as she removed the ring on her finger.
Nathaniel cuts the phone, leaving Katie in a crying mess. The last three beeps screamed at her, its wailing sounds signifying of the moment’s finality. The silence was far too loud, so immobilizing. It took her breath away while she watched the ring roll off to someplace dark.
Her heart palpitated and she began to feel woozy. As her sight deteriorated slowly, she leaned against the bedpost, gasping for air. Her grief had successfully taken her down and her wolf had retreated down in her body.
She fell on a fit of bloody coughs. Her legs failed to function properly as they lost power. Katie stumbled on the floor, her head banging on the bed’s foot. The color of red dripped from her mouth to her dress.
This was a feeling all too familiar and Katie was certain that this was her end. The light from her eyes faded and the last thing she felt was someone’s hand grasping her shoulders as muffled screams enter her ear.
Selena stared at her own bereft reflection in the mirror. She was suffering from the softness of Dorran’s lips pressed on hers despite it happening hours ago. How was she supposed to get this feeling out?
She didn’t know what to do or what to feel.
At first, she was remorseful and next angry. Her emotions jumping to one after another was making her go insane.
She wraps her towel around her body tightly, tip-toeing out of the bathroom. This was her third bath for the day. After she went home drenched in water from the river, she tried her best to remove Dorran’s warm hold on her skin with cold water and lots of soap. Sadly, even the third time wasn’t able to do that.
As she walked towards the basement door, Mr. And Mrs. Rosewood’s voices echoed through the small hallway. It wasn’t odd for them of stay up all night and talk about their day.
But this time it was different.
Their topic unexpectedly piqued her attention.
Gently, she trudged towards the kitchen and pressed her ear against the wall.
“Ah, yes. I heard she tried to kill herself.” Mr. Rosewood sighed.
“Poor girl.” His wife answers. “But I can’t say I didn’t saw this coming. The pack is full of talk about her and they are all not savory.”
“And Alpha Talon is not home from his business trip yet. The older wolves are worried.”
“But aren’t you too?” Mrs. Rosewood’s strained voice exclaimed. “I mean, two long months without your wolf is worrying, no? A wolfless Alpha, it’s unheard of. I worry if the wolves around here lose patience and they request the Alpha to be replaced.”
Selena’s eyes widen. During her training, she didn’t speak to him once. Just as he asked, she placed her trust in him. Now as she shuddered while standing in the dark, she realized that Talon may have chose the wrong choices, and now, he was another victim of Katie’s will.
“Replaced? No, no, no. I will not stand for that and I am sure a lot of other wolves are on my side. Talon is a good man with a brilliant head over his shoulders. I’d even go as far as to say he’s even better than his father, Robin.” The old man spoke with conviction.
“Alpha Robin, bless him and his wife Luna Larissa. But yes, because of Talon, pack Highcliff has become safer. Now our wolves can fight. I hope that girl realizes how important Talon is to us before it’s too late.”
Anger infused malice and a myriad of different tingling sensations marred Selena. She was angered and saddened both at the same time. Now, she had another reason to hate Katie and she wasn’t going to let her slide this time.