A Wolf’s Tear

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Thirty Three: The Friend

Feeling like yesterday’s dog slobber, Selena crawled out of her bed. She was drained after speaking with Winston and when she returned to her room, she ended up having zero hours of sleep, not even a minute. She only stared at the ceiling, hating herself.

Admitting to her faults wasn’t easy and after finally doing it, she wasn’t relieved but the weight of her narrow-mindedness seemed to have increased. Ultimately, it fell to her right brain not agreeing with her left brain. This unbalance was the root of her indecisiveness

Even after all of this, being vulnerable isn’t an option. She needed to pull through it all and to appear vulnerable, show a tiny bit of weakness to her resolve would be like walking backward.

That was why no matter how tantalizing it was to feel Nathaniel’s kisses, to run her hand through his hair, and to be in the limelight of his vision, she needed to move on as fast as she could.

She realized that by abnegating her feelings, she felt a little bit just, reminding herself that pointless sacrifices only ended up with the whiplash of emotions bound to wound her at some point.

Incredibly selfish, she knew that.

Her feet touched the wooden floor, standing up only to yelp in pain after putting too much pressure on her wounded leg. She fell back to the bed and groaned.

Maybe this was her punishment? Her hubristic stride hasn’t been that kind to her and it shouldn’t be. She was sure that if Nathaniel learns of her reasons, he wouldn’t think twice before turning her away.

In her pondering, the door opens and Lively appears in the room with a worrisome stare.

“Selena? What happened to you? Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

Lively’s string of questions made her furrow her brows.

This attention and her reaction just didn’t feel right. She hoped it wouldn’t be like this until the duration of her stay.

“Peachy. Just stood on the wrong foot is all.” She raised herself and smiled.

Live crosses her arms and leans on the door frame.

“Did you have sleep last night?”

“No,” Selena answered.

How could she when her willingness to abandon her emotions has finally caught her and now she was basking in its shameful glory?

“Are you hungry?”

Selena’s stomach rumbled at the question.

“Very much, yes.” She flushed.

Lively nodded. Her smile was kind, mischievous and Selena felt nervous at how playful she was.

“Come downstairs, we’ll have breakfast together.”

The wolf disappears from her room and Selena was baffled. She was cheerier than usual and Selena could hear her humming down the hall.

She disregarded her mental strain and calmed herself down. There was no point if she was to just sit around and wonder. She mustered the strength to pull herself from the bed and limped to the corner of the room to fetch her crutches.

It was going to take a few more days before her legs would become fully healed. The only silver-lining, surprisingly, was her wolf starting to heal her though not as fast as she wanted to. But she understood why it was acting the way it was and she was entirely who to blame. Her wolf still pined for Nathaniel and if it doesn’t change its mind, she wasn’t going to move on too.

She brought her eyes to the body mirror beside the wardrobe realizing how horrid she looked.

‘So that’s how one day of no sleep looks like.’ She muttered in her mind.

Words to describe herself fail to escape her thoughts. Even her ability to think was hindered by her lack of sleep.

With a deep sigh, she smiled in the mirror, trying to pull her mind out of her misery. But that act alone only made her feel crazy.

“Ah… fuck.” She muttered under her breath as she combed her hand through her hair and straightened her crumpled shirt.

Selena turns for the door and walks to the kitchen, wearing a weak and horrendous mask. When she entered the dining room, Lively was there hurried piping frosting one a cake while Winston looked over her shoulder, telling her to take it slowly as he swayed Letty in his arms.

It made her happy seeing them giggle together. At least the dark cloud hanging above her head wasn’t affecting the couple as she thought of yesterday.

“Perfect!” Lively chuckled. “Impeccable timing, Selena. Come and marvel at my masterpiece.”

She proudly stated. Behind her, Winston’s eyes were widened as he shook his head like he was warning Selena.

Selena approached them, her eyes pinned only to the brown-colored cake with white frosting. On it was a greeting and her name;

‘Happy Birthday, Selena!’

Her heart prickled with a sharp increase of happiness.

“So, what do you think? I’m not the best baker and I kinda wanted to rub it off to my husband’s face that I’m better than him in baking.”

“Yeah, she wanted to outclass someone who had two months of bread and pastry training but I guess my wife’s tenacity is just part of what makes her lively.” He grinned.

“Keep rubbing it in my face, why don’t ya?”

“I’m not rubbing anything, just saying things how it is.”

“You’re being a smartass.” She poked his shoulder. “And you’re not rubbing anything later.”

He chuckled and kisses the top of Lively’s head.

While all that was happening, Selena only stared longingly at the poorly decorated cake. The weirdly shaped circle, oval, or maybe it was an oblong coated with what seemed to be chocolate piped with white frosting looked somehow very welcoming to her. Even the squiggly lines that formed her name made her smile. She could tell it was made with love and that alone made it more special.

She crumpled her lips, feeling like she was undeserving of the happiness just bursting in her heart.

“Selena, what’s wrong, honey? Are you okay?” Lively touches her shoulder. “Is the cake that awful? I mean, it’s not the pastries from pack Highcliff or Morris but maybe you’d like the taste?”

Selena just chuckled, nervously glancing towards them.

“It’s awesome. Thank you for making me this and I’m sorry if I’m being too much I promise I’ll get back to you someday.”

Her cheeks reddened, her eyes cast to the floor.

She hears Lively sigh.

“That’s not how this thing words, my wolf. Think nothing of it and please understand that we’re happy to see you smile.”

She stares at Lively, speechless and now more ashamed than ever before. Ultimately, she felt like she was undeserving of kindness. For some wicked reason, no one, especially Nathaniel’s family should be smiling in front of her and being this warm towards her. All because she was a part of breaking Nathaniel’s being.

When Selena took another minute of complete silence, Winston suddenly spoke;

“She’s petrified, love. I don’t think Selena has ever seen a visually offensive cake before.” He exclaimed.

She jolted and shook her head profusely, expecting Lively to get mad and shout at him but that didn’t happen. Lively only laughed and continued poking him.

“It’s really good, I swear. It's just… I wasn’t expecting to celebrate my birthday and I’m just speechless, I promise.”

Lively smiled tightly.

“Well, you better be surprised because we’re also planning to make pasta, some salad, some other things, and we’re going to pull out two cases of beer. If that’s okay with you of course.”

She lowered her shoulders and watched Winston’s nod of approval. It seemed like if his wife was happy then he was happy too.

The gesture was no doubt nice but Selena dreaded the idea of her intruding too much in their life. But one look of Lively’s determined stare she relents, not wanting to kill the light air that surrounded them.

“Uh… sure. But aren’t you making too much food if there’s only five of us here?” She asks.

“Well you see, this beach house is about thirty miles away from pack Albrich’s borders and we have friends from there. I was thinking we could invite them and have a little get-together. Some of their wolves often come here too just to relax and slack off from their guard posts so it’s always a neat surprise to have food laying around.” Lively explained.

Why was it that the first name in her mind was Dorran? He is from pack Albrich after all and their last encounter wasn’t that comforting. But what were the chances of him being their friend? There was an obscenely low chance of that ever happening.

“Of course,” she says. “It’s going to be like a party.”

“It’s going to be a party, yes. Now, would you be inclined on helping me prepare the other dishes?”

Selena smiled, now feeling a bit more relaxed. That smile was the only reply she made and followed Lively to the kitchen.

The next four hours were spent with all of them hanging out in the comfortably small kitchen. Nathaniel’s name never came in the conversation and she was eternally happy about that. She kept herself busy mainly with the ingredients while Lively was in charge of the cooking despite her husband almost begging her to let him take charge.

She let herself forget the world. This fleeting escapism was indeed a ploy to try and mitigate the doom incoming from the following days. Despite her saccharin grin, she was nevertheless consumed by guilt.

She was surrounded by laughter while her body was about to explode with indescribable and raw feelings.

Last night’s talk opened her eyes to how hardheaded she was and that she was a reason for her suffering. That she was and still is a coward and weak.

Coward because instead of confronting her emotions, she chose to cut her wounds deeper. But the deeper the cut was, the better. The pain made it easier for her to justify both her hate for Nathaniel and her abandonment of the truth.

And weak because no matter how strong her resolve will ever be, she would always be plagued with her childhood dreams of building her own family with her mate, a wolf given to you only once.

In front of her, as she slowly chopped the onions for the pasta, she couldn’t help but gawk.

This was the picturesque image of what she thought a family should be. There was so much love between Lively and Winston’s gazes. While Lively was behind the ladle, there he was on her side, holding their child, just blissful to be together.

Once again, the thought of her not having that brought immense pain to her senses.

She shrugs the idea off, unwilling to look perturbed.

“Where’s Jacob? I haven’t seen him all morning.” Selena arched her brow, trying to drum up a conversation.

Winston stepped away from Lively and placed the baby on her high chair.

“The semester’s almost over and Jacob plans on going back to New York next week so he’s in pack Morris to grab his things and visit a few friends.” He says.

She grimaced.

“Oh…” Disappointment dripped from her voice. “Good for him then. Anyways, where should I put this?”

Thankfully, Lively stepped in and grabbed the onions with her hands, and dumped them into the boiling pot in front of her.

“I’m telling you, this french onion soup will knock their socks off. If not, we can always have an open barbecue, right?” Lively grimaced, looking unsure.

“We’ll have the barbecue please and if they don’t like the soup, I’ll shove it shove down their throats.” Winston butts in with a playful tone.

“How about you, Selena? Is there something you want us to get?” Lively raised her brows.

“It's okay. I couldn’t ask for more.” She replied.

The scene was perfect and Selena felt secured even after knowing that Jacob had already left. She liked the serene atmosphere and adored the mundane quality of their lives without wolves getting involved. If only everything was this simple and tame.

“By the way, I think we should tell you about the people that are coming over. Beta Tobias will be present so he’ll be in charge if any of his wolves go out of line. There’s also his wife, their kid, and other wolves who are close friends. Don’t worry, they’re all kinda nice but if anyone disrespects you, my Mauser C96 is taped under the table loaded with a full clip. Just point the asshole to me and I’ll shoot their boobs or man-boobs.”

Selena was speechless at the end of Lively’s explanation but mostly terrified realizing there was probably more than one gun hidden somewhere in the house and to top it all off, they were loaded.

She smiles nervously and shook her head.

“You don’t need to shoot anyone Lively. I think I can handle myself.” She says.

“Just a precaution,” Lively chuckles. “Anyway, Tobias sent me a text an hour ago. They should be here any minute or so.”

It wasn’t even a minute when the sound of a horn blasted into the air. Selena jumped, her knees touching the table resulting in a loud thud. She hissed at the pain while caressing her knees.

“Winston, can you please let them in?”

“Of course, love.” He stands and removes Letty from her seat. “Why don’t you come with me, Selena? Lively doesn’t want me knowing what secret ingredient she’s using and I doubt she wants you to know too.”

“Oh,” she answers reluctantly. “Sure.”

She stood and patted her shirt. While Winston disappeared to greet the guests, Selena stayed longer and watched Lively pour a jar of spices into the pot. Their eyes connect and Lively grins as Selena mirrored it, turning on her heels.

There was a sudden burst of laughs in the air. Loud voices, deep and manly accompanied by more feminine ones. She peeked around the corner and spotted wolves grouped around Winston. Her eyes meticulously scanned their faces.

‘No Dorran.’ She thought.

Relief flooded into her veins after not seeing a familiar face. None of these wolves went to pack Highcliff for the training and knowing that brought a massive sense of calmness in her mind.

“Good to see you all.” Winston smiled. “Please make yourselves comfortable and I’ll get the drinks for the adults and some juice boxes for baby Oliver.”

“Thank you, Win. He’s been clamoring for grape juice right after we headed off to here. If only his father didn’t forget to bring his juice.” Says the heavily pregnant woman as she glared at the dark-skinned man who only kept chuckling while he scratched the back of his head.

“Don’t worry,” he says. “What kind of godfather would I be if I didn’t have juice boxes lying around?”

Lively passed behind her, giving her an assured grin. She takes her hand and leads her to the wolves. Selena’s eyes were pinned to the floor.

She was embarrassed with her limp and frazzled hair. All in all, Selena concluded that she did look like roadkill that miraculously survived being flattened by a road roller.

She brought her gaze up while still facing down. There was a string of whispers followed by a series of shuffling feet. It was suddenly quiet, making her unnerved.

“Luna Highcliff.” All of them exclaimed.

Immediately, her face reddened and she straightened her back. The small smiles they were sporting minutes ago became composed and serious. Their right hands formed into a first and placed over their hearts as a salute.

“Hey, stop. Selena isn’t Luna Highcliff here, just Selena.” Lively grimaced.

The wolves look at each other in confusion. This was not an uncommon occurrence. In fact, this was the reaction that Selena was used to seeing whenever she went to other packs. Though she had grown used to it, a small part of her was always unsettled. And the outcome was always the same.

“Please, listen to Lively. I’m no longer Luna Highcliff. My brother has decided to engage himself in marriage with his mate and I have given my blessing to them and my title to his mate.”

She didn’t understand where she draw the energy to raise her head and smile, probably because out of practice or maybe because she wanted it to be over now. Still, she pushed through her discomfort and made a show believable enough for the wolves to let their guards down.

“It’s still odd to not act appropriately, Luna.” The pregnant woman cautiously spoke.

“I think calling someone Luna who no longer holds the title is odd.” She chuckled. “I would really, really appreciate it if you called me Selena.”

They turn silent again.

This was the last thing she wanted. Maybe her new title should be ‘Mood Killer’ as it was currently the only thing she was good at doing.

“Okay then,” the man spoke. “I’m Tobias, this lovely pregnant lady is my wife, Aurora, and our son Oliver. And this is Claire and her mate James. The other two are Vincent and his younger brother, Ulric. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Selena.”

Selena took her time to smile at them one by one.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you all.” She says. “I’m sorry for looking like a walking corpse. I hope you can let go of that trespass.”

The wolves all looked panicked save for Aurora who was giggling. She wanted to clear the atmosphere and let them know everything was okay. At least, Aurora took the bait allowing the others to follow and smile as well.

“My dear,” she laughs. “You should have seen me give birth to my son. Make-up, sweat, and tears aren’t compatible.”

The woman pushes through the rest of them and embraced Selena. Shocked and confused, Selena was just standing there not knowing what to do or say.

Things eventually died down and Selena felt eased after diffusing the situation. The wolves warmed up to her and so did she. Lively disappeared to the kitchen to finish cooking while Winston exited the house through the back door to set up the grill for the barbecue and Selena remained in the living room, entertaining the guests.

She listened to their stories and discovered all of them were spies in the profession which made sense why none of them were present in pack Highcliff. Selena shared some stories too, picking only the happy ones that related to her parents and some blunders she did as a kid. She was particularly trying to avoid talking about Nathaniel, Talon, and Talon’s mate. It seemed like they were aware of her situation and they all were tiptoeing around the conversation.

‘Them who shall not be mentioned or named.’ Selena secretly grinned at the thought.

Aurora retired as a spy early at the pleading behest of her husband since she was caring for their young and was pregnant too. She was now the wolf who facilitates in training their spies and conducts covert operations and everyone except her husband who held the title of Beta are all her students.

The way she explained things made Selena thoroughly curious and it made her look back at what Francis had offered her. A spy by profession was equally important being in the front lines as a fighter. Now she felt even more of an asshole after it dawned on her how she belittled her cousin.

During the laughs, slips of jokes, and very inappropriate stories involving mates and sex, she felt elated in the middle of it all. No more fake smiles or grins, just happy to be around wolves, strangers welcoming her.

“He cried when it was his first time.” Claire blurted out, causing her mate to flush. “I mean, it was my first time too but he said he wanted to remain a virgin forever until he found his mate. I mean, how is that not romantic? I always thought it was always the girl who cried first but I guess I like to stereotype people.”

Aurora grinned.

“Well, that’s nice. I am certain that the roles are now reversed since you were up crying his name from eleven until three this morning.”

Her response was a concealed smile, not wanting to overdo it especially as both Claire and James looked like they were ready to throw themselves out the window.

“Speaking of mates, poor mopey there hasn’t been the same ever since he got home from pack Highcliff.” Tobias sighed.

Selena’s brows meet together. “Who?”

He gestures outside the truck using his chin. Selena slowly stood and looked over the porch, seeing a wolf, his back facing her and his head hung low.

“I heard he got cucked.” Vincent chuckles.

“Cucked? No, no. I heard he got his balls kicked by a girl he was acting on.” Ulric nudges his brother’s side, his brows wiggling.

“I had to force him to come. He was being harassed back home and I kinda just forced him until he surrendered.” Vincent sounded more disappointed.

“Poor thing. I mean, he’s only been in pack Albrich for more than three years, right? He doesn’t have family close and he's always alone.” Aurora grimaced.

“Yes,” Tobias nods. “Sometimes, he asks permission to leave for months on end only to come back a lot gloomier.”

“Oh,” She looked down at her hands. “Maybe he was rejected by his mate?”

“Probably, Selena. Pack Albrich always frowns upon rejection and wolves who reject their mates are shunned so in the chance that he was forsaken by his mate then whoever they are, most likely they’ll turn up dead in a ditch. Extreme yes, that’s why if you reject your mate you should always disappear.”

Maybe that should be a tradition to every single pack but then again, she was the one that rejected Nathaniel, and sitting there made her feel like dirt after listening to Aurora.

Her face contorted into a deep frown. There goes her heart again, suddenly very perturbed knowing a wolf was carrying the sting of rejection made her feel upset.

Selena grimaced at the thought of being another bleeding heart just like her brother.

If only she could help herself. Things would be a lot easier and removing her heart from her sleeve would be not just a wish but a simple act.

“No need to look upset, Selena. I’m sure mopey will eventually come around. And he’s not always mopey. Sometimes, he’s gloomy and sometimes he’s a prick in the ass who likes to laugh and smile a lot.” Tobias assures her.

She nodded, feigning an understanding glance.

Lively walks into the living room with a tray of pigs in a blanket. Without her wolf, the alluring smell of it was already fantastic. She could only imagine how her wolf would react as everyone but she stood and devoured every single pig.

“The food’s ready and Winston asked for everyone to come to the beach,” Lively announces, putting her hand to her side.

The wolves shuffled their feet slowly out of the door and in an instant, they were running to the beach rejoicing about free food.

“Oh, can I help you with something? I’ll feel bad if all I do is come here and eat.” Aurora chimed. “Toby, why don’t you get the poor wolf out of the truck and get him to join.”

He nods trudged to the truck while Selena follows Lively and Aurora into the kitchen. She was immediately immersed in baby talk. As they were already parents, the conversation trickled down to diapers, pee, and their husbands. Selena had no trouble in joining their conversation about kids and even went as far as to suggest some mothering tips to which both Aurora and Lively were thankful for.

Selena was disappointed after realizing that her limp made it impossible for her to help with serving the food. Reluctantly, she tailed both of the women, her gaze cast on the sand and upset with herself for her disability.

As they neared the pavilion, Selena gazed at the wolves huddled around the grill. Then there was the wolf they were talking about minutes ago. It hit her with the force of a thousand freight trains. She recognized that well-rounded physique so clearly as she spent months being around it. Though his back was turned and his usually naked body was covered with a green shawl collar cardigan and a pair of black shorts.

“Who’s the new guy?” Lively whispered.

“Sorry for not telling you.” Aurora murmurs. “We suspect he’s been left without a mate so we brought him to keep watch on him.”

“You did the right thing. Rejected wolves often do stupid things. But, he is hiding his scent. Is there another problem?”

“Personal reasons that I too question a lot. But the man is harmless, I can assure you. I’ve done some digging around and his records and papers check out. It’s either real or forged to perfection.”

Even Lively wasn’t on the truck of easily a wolf without its scent. At least with Aurora’s confirmation, she could rest a little bit.

But thinking about it now, Selena’s chest crumbled.

Could it be that he was upset about her declining his feelings?

No. That simply couldn’t be.

As he said so himself, he was a man of loose morals or in other words, a womanizer. And womanizers had no time dwelling on their conquests.

It would be presumptuous of her to think she was the reason for his downed state but over the time that they were together, Selena considered him as a friend and a devilish part of her wanted to console him even after what was said and done between them.

She hid behind Lively’s frame, keeping her eyes pinned to the pitiful wolf.

There was no way of composing herself. She had not planned on ever seeing him again and faced or smacked in this situation was unfairly out of her control.

With her attention glued to him, Selena failed to notice Lively stopping and so bumped into her. It caused the mashed potatoes in Lively’s hands to plop to the sand. Selena was petrified for a moment at Lively’s reaction. She looked as if she had seen a ghost. Her skin had become pale and her body was convulsing while her eyes were only trained to one person, Dorran.

Winston dropped his tongs and held his wife's arms, trying to calm her.

“Love, are you okay?”

Eventually, she looked a bit more relaxed and brought her attention to her equally pale-looking mate.

“N-nothing.” She tucked her hair behind her ear. “Oh no. The mashed potatoes.”

Selena took notice of her reaction. It was odd and it made her worry but somehow, she miraculously brushed it all off.

“Sorry, Lively. I wasn’t looking where I was going.” Selena apologizes all the while examining Lively’s facial expression.

She chuckles.

“Don’t fret, honey. I can make more in a jiffy. I’m certain these wolves can live without it.” Lively pats Selena’s shoulder, assuring her that things were okay with a grin and a wink.

Selena decided to trust her and held herself back from asking more questions. They exchange smiles, letting the moment pass. Winston volunteered to clean up while Lively continue to the tables.

The commotion lead to an unsettled look on everyone’s faces. She knew no point in hiding herself in a facade that was fruitless when in front of her, wolves trained to identify cracks and faults in someone’s behavior sat wide-eyed and aware that something was going on.

In the tables that seated six wolves each, there was a palpable silence broken by the sounds of ocean waves.

“Come on, do you people really need to be sad because of wasted mashed potatoes? I can make another batch.” Winston playfully chuckled.

“That’s alright. I can live without it, for now.” Tobias jested as he sat beside his wife.

She watches Lively move across the pavilion, to the table, and finally to her husband’s side. All the while looking at her hands. But the moment she sat, there was a shift in demeanor, ever so slightly and she masked herself with a certain air of elegance by a woman in charge though albeit slightly shaky. Her cheeks flushed and her rosy red lips pinned in a smile. She looks at her husband who replied with a benevolent gaze. She cuts the tension off by kissing the baby in Winston’s arms and turned to face the table.

It was apparent that whoever this person was in front of her, it was not Lively. Begrudgingly, Selena let it slide again in fear of prolonging the atmosphere’s edge.

“Finally, now that everyone’s settled on their seats, I’d like to say thank you for coming. We celebrate today a wolf’s successful crossing to adulthood.” Lively raises her glass. “Selena I have to admit that seeing for the first time when pack Remmington attacked two months ago, I thought a single pale rose such as yourself had no place being in the front lines. But I was wrong and well look at you now. You refuse to wilt away. You’re going through a lot and I just wanted to say that you can come to us whenever you need someone. The Hayward household is always open for you. Happy birthday.”

The smile on Selena’s face grew wide as the wolves lauded Lively’s speech. But that joy and her smile were draped with thinly veiled insecurity.

It didn’t take long for the party to start. And though there was still that feeling of dread looming over their heads, it went smoothly. There were no talks of what exactly happened as the conversation was skewed towards Aurora’s adventures working as an undercover operative for pack Albrich.

The food helped alleviate the awkward tone before. As it looked like everyone had started to let go of their suspicions, Selena was having a hard time removing her head from the wolf who sat quietly, picking at the food on his plate like a spoiled child who had gotten the wrong snack.

With the way he was acting, Selena wanted to believe that maybe he was sad in some shape. But she refused to believe it was because of her.

Glasses were clanking, spoons and forks scraped against the ceramic plates, and the wolves talking about their lives culminated into a loud noise that Selena would normally find calming but added with the weight of Dorran’s obvious display of dismay caused her to seethe in anger.

In her heart, she knew she shouldn’t be this upset but something about him made her feel irked beyond comprehension.

The stagnancy of her emotions resulted in a halt when Dorran stood, pushing his chair back.

His cool blue eyes narrowed to Selena.

‘Fuck.’ Was her reaction when every talking mouth stopped.

“I know I’ve made this party terribly awkward and I apologize for doing so. My Luna, may I please have a word with you?” He spoke with so much ease that it left Selena’s mouth ajar from the shock. For a moment, Selena contemplated and was on the cusp of doing something she knew she was going to regret big time. She glances left and right, searing in agony. Perhaps the reaction that Selena was dreading the most was Lively and Winston’s. The unreadable expression plastered on their faces was heartbreaking. She crumpled her shirt under the table and brings her eyes back to him. “In private, preferably out of earshot.”

Not wanting to sit and toil in the unbearable silence brought by his callous action, Selena obliged and stood on her feet. She raises her chin, blinking away her nervousness.

“Of course, Mr. Doyle.” She replied courtly in manner.

Her response caused him to grimace even more.

Selena gulped, sending Lively a look that signaled she was going to be fine. Holes burn into her skin as every wolf on the tables were now staring at her. She was trying her best to walk normally without her crutches, sucking up the pain while holding a composed stance.

The situation has become more complicated, fucked up in other words and she had no clue on how she was going to put her ducks in a row.

Dorran approached her, his warm hand reaching hers. He was patient on her slow step. His hand was as calloused as his attitude but still, his grip was light and Selena could easily pull away but she didn’t in fear of one jolt could make her lose her balance.

‘Think, think, think.’ Selena murmurs in her head.

She couldn’t have to say anything.

There was nothing between them to talk about.

As far as she knew, she left him amicably or something close to that.

She made it clear to him that a relationship was not what she was looking for.

But somehow, all she wanted was to comfort him. And feeling the way she was, felt like she was going against Nathaniel’s back.

She wanted to vomit and even disintegrate into pebbles of flesh and bone if that were any possible.

While he was dragging her further and further away, Selena could sense how distraught he was. She had learned that silence wasn’t just one absolute answer and often it was a sign of a huge strain someone was carrying.

“Dorran?” She spoke.

He ignores her and keeps walking.

She contemplated on calling his name again but decided against it knowing that he would probably just ignore her again.

When he finally lets go of her hundreds of meters away from the gathered wolves, he turns to the ocean and sighs heavily.

“Mr. Doyle?” He scoffs. “Is that your way of ripping my band-aids off and pouring salt on my wounds?”

She turns to him, disbelief plaguing her.

“Excuse me?” She says.

“I don’t understand how you would easily perceive me as to be okay with that. If anything, I’ve never felt more rejected in my whole life before.” He looks down and crouches near the water.

Selena looks at him and concluded that he was a child or maybe just a spoiled brat that grew up to be a spoiled man.

She realized her assessment was cold and unfair when she hadn’t even heard his side yet. The truth was, she didn’t want to hear his side. She didn’t want to feel this way in the first place.

Feelings were fickle and the root cause of her inability to make an assured decision.

How was she supposed to dissect her feelings for Dorran when she deliberately refused to understand her mate’s?

Her obliviousness to the situation was hard and frustrating. She blamed her inexperience for the butterflies, locusts, or whatever they were that was swarming in her stomach.

“You didn’t let me finish on explaining. You just left me there standing.”

She flattened her lips.

He was right. She left him quickly, afraid of confronting her feelings. Maybe that was indeed a jerk move but at the end of the day, she was only looking out for herself.

“I didn’t think there was more for us to talk about.” She murmurs.

“You told me to speak to my mate about it. That’s where you ended the conversation on me.”

“Can you at least look at me when you’re speaking?”

He faces her only to look away seconds later.

“I don’t know what to say, my Luna. This is frustratingly hard for me and I never expected to feel this way again but here I am, moping.” He groans.

Selena locked her jaw.

“Honestly, Dorran. How old are you?”

“Twenty-eight summers, why?” He replies.

“Shouldn’t you be out there prancing around with women who have much bigger assets than mine? You know, women with experiences and know how to react when a potential mate is acting like a toddler.”

She crossed her arms over her chest.

“Not all men seek women with vivacious attitudes and whims.” He mutters. “I admit that I have been very adventurous but I can’t seem to wrap my head around the idea of not seeing you again.”

Selena felt a sudden gush of unfathomable emotions. She cocks her head to see the torment in his glacier-like gaze. What did that expression even mean?

Was he sad or upset or something? She was having a hard time discerning what was going on. This was all new to her and new things were always hard to comprehend.

“That’s impossible,” she says. “Months isn’t enough to form that kind of bond, Dorran.”

She breathed deeply.

After saying this, she caught herself in a lie. It wasn’t true at all.

Days, it took her days to feel so attached and lived with the idea of having emotions for Nathaniel. And even now that they were separated, a small part of her and her dormant wolf still had lingering feelings for him.

It was easy to fall in love but falling out of it was hard. The feelings were still fresh.

“Luna, months are more than enough time for me to think of a lifetime.”

Stricken by his confession, Selena crumbled on her feet. She sat next to him, now even more perplexed why he sounded so sincere.

“I know I brought this to myself for feeling this and you’re not obligated to reciprocate my advances but I am crippled by the fact that I’m in love with you. It’s crazy I know. These one-sided emotions are new to me and after you left, I felt like I was rejected by mate again.”

Dorran rendered himself silent as she thought of a rationalized answer.

Her heart palpitated and her breathing was sporadic. It compounded her emotions and she was unable to handle it concisely.

As far as Selena looked at herself, there was nothing about her that made her attractive or interesting.

But why in Moon’s name was she able to catch Dorran’s attention?

She failed to see the steps that made him think of her as more than just a wolf. It was hard to see the reasons why when she didn’t know how to look for it herself.

“When did your mate left you?”

She wanted to understand him first. To see where he was coming from and to gauge the right response. She didn’t want to cause him even more pain and wanted to see the happy Dorran that was always teasing her for no good reason.

For a moment, she pauses and it dawned upon her that maybe, just maybe that was him attempting to flirt with her.

Her cheeks become thoroughly flushed at the notion.

“I was twenty when I found her while I was riding a ferry. I found her there with her family. She married a human and she was carrying his child. That was seven years ago. It will be eight in two weeks. I wanted to tell you that but you didn’t want to listen.”

All this time, he had no mate after all. Maybe he had more integrity than Selena thought.

“She just left you?”

She asks.

He shook his head.

“She came back after her baby was born still and my brother, aunt, uncle, and cousins demanded that I take her back because it was the right thing to do and as the oldest in… in my family it was my obligation and I did, for the sake of keeping my family at peace. I’m married-”

“Married?” She whispered.

He draws his lip back and nodded.

“I married her under a ruling thumb, for the sake of my family’s image. But I have never laid in the same bed with her or touched her skin.”

Married. He was married. He had a wife waiting for him to come home.

“You’re still married.” She argues.

“Yes but never did I took the risk of falling in love with her. That’s why I’m here, Selena. I refuse to be a prisoner in a loveless marriage.”

A pit in her stomach formed. Its pain was dull and sickening.

“But that still doesn’t make it right. Someone carries your name and what am I but just some girl you happen to meet.”

Dorran turns her. There was a hint of anger in his eyes. An emotion so intense that it was simply indescribable. But where has she seen that face before? She remembered Nathaniel’s serious gaze. Though, instead of looking at Nathaniel’s eyes, she saw Dorran’s.

Same intensity, different colors.

She remained silent, staring at him.

“You are not just ‘some’ girl, Selena. I’ve never felt anything quite like this before. Especially not from another wolf.”

Again, there was that same energy that he exuded. His pale skin was flawless. His brows, an unusually lighter shade than his hair. The edges of his face, rugged and strong. Accompanied with his pronounced cheek, sharp nose, and thick lips he simply looked ethereal, just like another wolf she knew not too well.

Being this close to him, Selena’s wolf jerked away. For the past ten minutes, it was restlessly scurrying away like it was trying its hardest to distance itself from Dorran.

Her indifference to the situation was no more. A tick in her body had suddenly come up and she was torn.

Should she take his hand and hold him and be there as a friend? But doing that would only give him false hope. And if she was going to turn on her heels and run away then it would be like breaking open his heart.

This was simply inescapable and no choices were safe.

“Dorran, you have a mate and you stand a chance at living a life with someone the Moon has paired you with.”

“You’re not listening, my Luna.” Exasperation was clear in his voice. “Our wolves control a large part of our emotions. They are almost our second brain and my wolf decided to imprint on you. It bleeds without you and so do I. But don’t think I want you just because my wolf howls your nearness. I think I fell for you before my wolf did.”

He was genuine. No trace of lies nor doubt. Why was that even more terrifying?

Whatever it was he was doing, his actions were slowly worming into her brain.

“I don’t want to be inconsiderate of other people’s feelings though you need to understand that this is all new to me and… and I’m not sure how to process this. Frankly, I don’t know where to begin. I’ve stopped concerning myself with the cakes and pastries of mates a long, long time ago.” She wanted to forward but not cruel. Pretending to mirror his emotions was stupid and would hurt him. Soft words before the stream of truth and rejection befall upon him. A route that Selena found distasteful but it was perhaps the one that hurt less. “You might find it stupid because us wolves thrive together but that’s not what I want for now. And I’m sorry if I made you feel otherwise.”

She was surprised how her voice didn’t break nor did she shed a tear. She held her place and she knew where her head was.

His gaze lingered on her face. Just his stare was enough to make her feel weird. The bulge on his neck bobs up and down while he draws himself back, shaking his head. His pensive demeanor remains a mask for his thoughts.

Possibly she was seeing things but his serious face lightened and the side of his lips curved that formed into an awe-inducing grin. He chuckles but it sounded both happy and humorless.

“For now?” he murmurs under his breath. “I can wait, I will wait.”

That trickle of hope in his voice ensnared her. His reaction shouldn’t have been like that. He should be more disappointed and understand her point of view.

But that didn’t happen.

She instead gave him a spark of something that he held on to and after seeing him like that, she couldn’t bring herself to dim out whatever he had in his brain.

Once again, she declined to speak and comforted herself by staring out in the open. She thought of what to say when there wasn’t anything left.

“We can be friends for now, right?” he asks.

Selena lowered her shoulders.

“I thought we already were.”

“Oh,” he says. “Does my scent still concern you?”

“Maybe, yes.”

He nods. “Do you want to ask me why I’m hiding my scent?”

Her attention was piqued. She brings her attention back to him, reading the creases of his face finding nothing that said he was bluffing.

“Yes, enlighten me.”

He smiled grimly.

“Just as the color of your eyes and the shape of your face, you can also inherit your parents’ scent. I was given my father’s and I don’t wish to remind myself of him after he left my mother while pregnant. She then died after giving birth to me and my younger twin brother.”

For some reason, Selena thought his answer would have been a selfish one. As if he was covering his scent because of manwhoring around.

“I’m sorry that happened to you and that your father was a deadbeat.”

“He’s been dead for months now and I just don’t care anymore.” The coldness of his voice was understandable to some extent. That was what hate does to anyone and she understood it quite clearly when she felt the same way for the Remmingtons.

“You’re alone here, right? Does your family know where you are?” She asks. “It’s okay if you don’t want to answer. I don’t want it to seem like I’m spying on you.”

“No, it’s okay. My uncle knows but no one else. I return hometown and stay at my uncle’s place once in a while to finance, sign papers, and manage personal matters that pertain to my family. As the older twin, I have to run the family business.”

Selena took notice of his empty voice. He sounded so lonely. If she were to continue her stride, would she be as strong as Dorran after many years? She wanted so bad to be as strong as other wolves and to be as stone-faced as them.

Her trust for him started to bud. If that was a good or bad thing, she chose not to think of it for now as it was easier to let the moment pass than to analyze and drag everything longer.

Sitting back made it easier to abandon her thoughts.

Dorran’s hand sat on top of hers. It wasn’t right for that to happen but she didn’t protest thinking he probably didn’t mean to do it. He had his head hung low, eyes closed shut like he was in a trance.

This feeling of warmth inside of her caused by his hand was no love or close to that. She recognized how being intoxicated by Nathaniel felt and this was not it but more of dying flame on the precipice of burning out. It was assurance. Knowing that Dorran was deserving to be put on another light, a better one.

~•°•~

Hello everyone! Sorry for the long chapter. I've been spreading trickle-truths throughout the chapter and that made it longer haha.

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I'd love to know your theories.
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Love,

Jino
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