I don’t really know what happened or how I ended up in the hospital with Archie glued to my side.
You finally woke up.
My panther growled
You made me and our mate worried. Don’t do that again!
Those were the first words I heard from my Panther in weeks. Not exactly the kind of words I wanted to hear but it was nice to know he cared.
Thanks. But why is Archie here? Why am I still in Pack lands? Why?
My panther cut me off
I don’t know what exactly happened but the King wouldn’t let you go. For some reason, he refused to let you break the bond with the Pack. Therefore Archie’s wolf managed to get over here and wake me up.
Yeah! I kicked your panther's butt!
I winched lightly as Archie’s wolf gloated about kicking my panther’s ass in my head. He sobered up quickly when he noticed I winched in pain at his volume.
But we never got the letter you wrote which is odd.
I was saved from answering that when I felt Archie squeezing my hand lightly. “Hey, Riles. How are you feeling?”
Swallowing I managed to croak out “Pretty okay. A bit sore though.” I see pity flash in his eyes before he hands me a paper cup filled with soothing water. Being careful to not drink it all in one gulp, I study Archie’s expression. “What is wrong Archie? Why do you look like you’re about to cry?”
Archie sniffled as he wiped his nose with his sleeve before answering “I thought I had lost you forever Riles. I—I just—I can’t stand that thought, Riles!” He cries out before he started crying, pressing his forehead against my hand. Not knowing what to do about the situation I just sit there and watch him cry.
Don’t just sit there. Do something!
I wasn’t overly surprised by the urgent and distressed tone of my panther.
Our mate needs us! Don’t let him cry like that! Make him stop crying! I can’t stand seeing our mate like this!
He huffs when I don’t make a move to comfort Archie. Fine! Be that way!
Then for the first time in my entire life, I feel my panther forcefully take over control of my body and gently rubs my right hand through his hair and makes shushing noises.
“Shh, It’s okay Archie. Everything will be fine.”
Looking back up to the sound of my voice, I can see Archie is confused.
“You’re not Riles.” He states as he sits back up straight. I feel my body slouch a little as Archie says that.
“Indeed I am not Riley.”
My panther agreed before pushing on before Archie could react.
“I am only doing this because Riley himself is still quite confused on where you two stand at the moment. He still thinks quite stupidly that he and you are no longer mates since he felt the mate bond crumble.”
Archie pales as the last sentence leaves my mouth. He licks his lips, a movement I find enchanting and am suddenly filled with the need to feel those lips against mine. As I bend forward I feel an annoying pull on my arm. Looking down I see an IV stuck to my skin.
Without a second thought, I rip it out before returning my face back to Archie’s, who lets out a sound my body immediately reacts to. Before I know what I am doing I am out of my bed, my arms firmly wrapped around Archie and our lips firmly pressed together.
I come back to my senses as a shocked gasp fills my ears and I push Archie away from me. Turning I am faced my one of Archie’s sisters, the younger one I think since I don’t smell a mate on her. Archie lets out a distressed whimper again, making me look down on him where he’s seated on the floor.
“What have you done to him!” She—Niamh screams at me as he helps him back up before getting in my face. “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT HE BEEN THROUGH SINCE YOU LEFT HIM? DO YOU?” She poked me in the chest with every word. I feel rage rear its head as she says that.
“I LEFT HIM??” I roar, making her take a step back. “I DINT LEAVE HIM! HE WAS THE ONE WHO LEFT ME! I CAME BACK TO THE HOUSE AFTER HAVING A GOOD THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED TO FIND THE HOUSE EMPTY OF HIS STUFF AND HE WAS NOWHERE TO BE FOUND!” I was breathing heavily from all the shouting.
“What do you mean all his stuff was gone and he was nowhere to be found?” I looked at her as if she were stupid. I sighed as I pinched the bridge of my nose.
“When I was done talking to the King and returned home”
“You spoke to the King?” Archie asked as he got up off the ground. I turned to glare at him, something he met head-on. “Yes, I spoke to the King. He asked me why I wasn’t at home with you. That’s when I told him.” I looked away from Archie swallowing, unsure how to proceed.
“What? What did you tell the King?” Niamh asked sounding way too curious for her own good. I turned and glared at her, secretly glad my glare worked on her as she stepped back a little more.
“What happened between me and Archie before I left the house. Something I don’t think is your business as it doesn’t involve you.” She looked highly offended at my words, but Archie cut in before she could protest.
“He’s right Niamh, this doesn’t concern you. It’s mate related stuff so please leave the room.” She looked pleadingly at him but he just shook his head at her.
She huffed before turning my way “Hurt him like that again and your ass is mine. Royal guard or not.” With that she left the room, leaving us in awkward silence.
Having spent all my remaining energy at shouting, I flop back down on the bed. Archie watched me, eyes big and full of concern. I just waved him off “Just a little tired.” He nodded his head meekly before turning to look out the window.
“The King told me what you two talked about that day. He said you have a hard time showing your real feelings to others who matter to you. He wouldn’t explain why, but the way he said it told me all I needed to know.”
He turned back to me with his eyes softening. “Who told you that showing you care makes you weak? Who told you that you shouldn’t care? Who was it, Riles?” His eyes were pleading with me “Who told you that if you showed that you cared, you weren’t good enough?”
You can tell him. He won't laugh at you or mock you.
I silently growled at my panther
Just like you said uncle Vince wouldn’t laugh if I told him? I know it was a low blow, but he was the first I told about Father’s unhealthy ways. My panther fell silent after that.
“Riles please, you can tell me.” He squeezed my hand gently. Looking down at our joined hands, I feel the warmth spreading through me. He looks so trusting.
Just like uncle Vince did before you told him. And look where that landed you. My inner voice chided.
I wince as the bad and painful memories resurface. I remember every punch and kick uncle Vince gave me when I told him what father had done to me. Back then I couldn’t fight back yet; I was only four years old.
I remember crying, begging him to stop hurting me. He told me he would stop if I would stop lying about father. For his perfect brother, David would never ever hurt me. He was sure of that. I cried harder and told him I wasn’t lying. He stopped his assault on me; I foolishly thought it was over. If only that was true, the worst was yet to come.
Every time after that, when we came over uncle Vince asked me about father and I told him what he had done. In my naivety, I even showed him the scars my father had given me but he brushed it all aside. Told me they weren’t scars from my father, they were scars from me not paying attention when I was playing with my friends in the woods surrounding the Pack House.
Only I didn’t have any friends, all the kids knew something was wrong with me. What was wrong with me they didn’t know, but they did know that they didn’t want to be near me or play with me. After that I tried to stop going, my parents had to drag me kicking and screaming. So much so, in the end, my parents decided to leave me behind whenever they went to visit Uncle Vince.
Uncle Vince must have said something to father about it because when they came home from their house one day, father was very angry with me. He told my mother we would take a walk in the woods and would be back for dinner. Mom saw nothing wrong with that and wished us a safe trip.
Once we were far enough from the house, father beat me until I was barely conscious and told me “Listen to me boy and listen well. Whenever I find out you told someone about it, I will beat you until you can’t talk and walk no more and leave you for dead you hear?!” I couldn’t speak so I barely managed to nod my head. “Good.” Was all he said before letting go of my head and walking off, leaving me behind. Just like he said he would.
I was snapped back to the present when I felt a gently prodding in my mind. Looking up I saw Archie crying. “Did you—did you see that?” I asked licking my lips.
“No I didn’t see what you were thinking about but I know you feared whatever it was.”
I do not fear my own father!
Sure you don’t my inner voice said you just fear the wrath he will unleash on you when he finds out that you told you to mate what he and uncle Vince did to you all those years ago.
Archie is NOT MY MATE! I roared inside my head.
YES, I AM!
Wide-eyed I stared at Archie I never once let go of our mating bond! It was you who let go NOT ME! You stopped believing in us! I never did.
“Then why were you gone when I got back?” Archie looked a little guilty as looked down at his lap.
See, he doesn’t care about us.
I thought smugly to my panther who whimpered a little.
“I DO CARE ABOUT YOU! WILL YOU STOP JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS!” Archie glared at me.
“Just like you, I went outside for a breather. I went to the clearing where we first met. I was confident that was the place where you’d be.”
I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding “You followed me?”
Archie looked a little uncomfortable “Yes I did. I didn’t want us to end the day with an argument. That’s bad luck.” I shook my head, berating myself for my own stupidity. Archie must have taken it the wrong way for he grabbed my hands, kissing the knuckles crying.
Enough with the crying already!
“I just want us to be together again Riles!” I didn’t know what to say to that. Prodding gently into the bond we still shared, I could feel Archie being upset and sincere about what he said.
He really wants to be with me.
Of course, he does stupid, he’s our mate. Our perfect other half.
My panther said confident that I got the message Archie was trying to convey to me.