Chapter 34 - Atonement
It wasn’t a hard decision for me, the one where I decided to be Riley’s executioner. I may have cared about her, enjoyed our time together, but I wouldn’t trade Irie or anyone’s safety for her life. What made it hard, was the fact that she had obviously just let go and completely lost it by the end. Not because I felt bad for her, but because it scared the shit out of me. What if she had lost it before when she still had Irie?
This is why the decision, the choice, was easy. I had a sense of finality once it was done too. Now it was all about moving forward.
The next week was both peaceful and outright sucked.
Besides just time, there weren’t any other obstacles in our way of marking Irie. At least none that we could think of. Everything that had been either a strain or in the way had been seemingly removed. Riley was gone and the senior pack members that knew who Irie was had no problem keeping that knowledge to themselves even as we made sure to introduce her to the pack in check. Mark and Daniel also understood and respected all of our positions on everything.
That was actually the most surprising part so far. I mean outside of Riley’s insanity. When the dust had settled and everyone could finally take a relaxing breath, Daniel asked to speak with us all. He told everyone that he had no intention of being a complication or coming between us.
Mark decided that he should go back to MeadowEdge sooner rather than later. We all agreed because even though he had worked with us to get Irie back, we weren’t necessary happy with his presence. It wasn’t a big secret that he messed up in a lot of ways. Adam had even had several words with him about all of Irie’s fears that Mark had cultivated. Irie’s brother, who hadn’t been able to come down because of his own responsibilities, got a chance to talk to us all and had some words to share too. He spent more time catching up with his sister at least.
Before he left, Mark had asked if Daniel could remain here for a time. Actually he had begged us to allow Daniel to stay for a bit. He said he felt that his son needed to have another view on the responsibilities that an Alpha had. The opportunity to learn from us, if we were willing, was one he wanted his son to have.
Joke was on him because Daniel had come to us asking for basically the same. He had admitted that he and his father didn’t have the greatest relationship, partially due to a large number of misconceptions he had about Irie. He went into detail with us about what he thought as they were growing up and how that had impacted his decision to reject her. That and his own problematic circle of friends.
Their, Mark and Daniel’s, relationship issues were the leading factor into what Daniel was even willing to learn from Mark. Shitty deal and not really our problem. But since they had actually helped us with the Riley situation, we were willing to help. Plus, Adam and our father had “encouraged” us to let him spend time here. They said that hopefully he would learn from two former and two current Alphas and be a great ally someday.
There was also another factor involved. Mark had made it very clear to Daniel, and everyone else, what could possibly happen when we marked Irie. Frankly put, it could be grim. The outcome ranged from him being fine and having another mate out there, which was what Catherine’s theory was, to him going outright insane. That was what Mark feared.
So, Adam and Dad were taking advantage of the opportunity to impart their knowledge unto that poor, unsuspecting soul. I think it made them feel needed again. They had both done a great job of training their own children, and yes I am biased in that thought. So why not help someone who desperately needed guidance. And probably a lot more support than he was used to getting. Not sorry to say it, but I wasn’t a fun of Mark’s way of imparting knowledge.
That was the peaceful part of the week.
Outside of caring for the pack, we also had a pregnant mate to care for. One that was very obviously still dealing with everything that had happened. Irie would barely let us cuddle with her, or even really touch her. Each time one of us tried to do more than just lightly cuddle, she shut down. The first time I went to kiss her she pulled back from me and just shook her head, then walked away. Damien thinks that, while she won’t let Riley’s actions keep us apart, her words and actions were probably still hurtful enough to cause a problem.
I want to talk to her, understand what was going on in her head, but I don’t know if it would help or hurt the situation. So while Damien and I tried to figure out how to talk about these things, the three of us just coasted through our days. I hated it.
Before the end of the week hit, I was ready to break.
“What are we going to do?”
Damien looked at me and just sighed. I may have asked this question a few times now. “I don’t know. She’s not mad at us but she’s not happy either. I think we just need to get her to talk. The whole deal with Riley obviously hit her harder than we thought it would. I don’t know if we can get Tori or the moms to talk to her but we’ll need to find something.”
Illyria’ s POV
Men are fucking idiots.
Usually I wouldn’t be such an ass, but right now, that’s the way I feel.
After Riley’s sentence had been carried out, I felt a sense of peace. Like I was free of the feeling of dread and that I didn’t have anything more to fear. I didn’t like it, the feelings.
She earned the sentence, there was no doubt in that. Her actions were her own and she had to own them. But I prided myself on caring about others, putting myself in their shoes. Being a peaceful person. The fact that that I was relieved she was dead, made me sad. That’s not the person I want to be. I don’t want to revel in the pain of another.
I did actually try to talk to Damien and Ian about it, but they were so caught up in this idea that I needed to be pampered and cuddled that they weren’t really paying attention to words. I probably could have, and should have, tried harder to talk to them about it, but I got pissed.
I had and wanted to talk about why I was feeling like a horrible person. Every time I tried though, they only seemed to want to get into my pants. Not the time guys!
That was only one of the reasons for my current mood though. No lie, it was a big part of it, but not the only reason. The other had very much to do with my ex-mate, although not in the way you would expect.
Daniel was staying in RiverRun for a bit. He needed to actually learn how to be an Alpha and had done a shitty job preparing before now. In his defense, Mark was always preoccupied with me. It was a lame defense because he could have said something or sat in on the experiences with me, but no. Mark though, had really done a shitty job of instructing his wayward son.
So he was here, learning from watching Dad and Charles mostly.
The real point was that he was around the pack house a lot. That didn’t bother me at all. In fact, we had gotten an opportunity to actually talk about everything that happened. So much so that I think we both learned much more about each other than we had in the last decade.
Daniel wasn’t a bad person, he was just, young, and dumb.
We did have a pretty blunt conversation about the shit that he and Faith pulled before I left though. That was more than young and dumb, that was outright bullshit and he knew it. Of the few times in my life that I swore heavily, that conversation was one of them. I’m pretty sure by the end of it, he knew that he needed better friends and to grow the hell up.
Before we even started that and any other conversation, I made absolutely sure he understood that I had no intentions of bonding with him in anything but a friendly way. He understood and after the previously mentioned and most awkward conversation in the world, we actually had fun talking together. We had both experienced different aspects of MeadowEdge and, at least I hoped, he was listening to my viewpoint on things. I may have wished many things on him before, including hoping he’d break his own dick, but as of now, I hoped he would make a good Alpha.
He was being given an opportunity I hadn’t heard of before. To learn from another pack and bring that knowledge back to his own. To grow outside his comfort zone. These were the things I actually appreciated about learning from Mark. They were the things that could really change him.
And this is where the other damn problem was.
After a few days, I was able to legitimately think of Daniel as a friend. He had told me that being here, around me and my other mates, was part of his own personal atonement. Everything that he had done to drive me away, into their arms, needed to sink in completely. He wanted his own actions to be so far embedded in his brain, that he would never make decisions in haste, anger, or just to be selfish, ever again.
He had completely admitted that he needed to see what successful, caring Alphas did for their pack, for their mates. I don’t know how, but everything that had happened that night and through when I returned, quite banged up, hit him in a way I never expected. I don’t think he expected it either.
He regretted every damn action and wanted to be a better person. I was impressed.
And because of that, I couldn’t make him hurt, not anymore. I couldn’t bring myself to put him in a position of having some underlying bond yet watching me with Ian and Damien. Those two knuckleheads wanted to touch me all the time, which was okay to a degree. I did like them touching me, but the PDA didn’t need to be overly extreme though. And Daniel didn’t need to see them making out with me.
Behind closed doors, I could be more easily persuaded to be more cuddly and all, but again, those two had to go from zero to one hundred with no stops in between. Nope, couldn’t just try and cuddle with me at night, had to try for a home run.
By the end of the week, I wasn’t letting them touch me at all outside the bedroom. And even in the bedroom I was keeping it PG, maybe PG-13. We needed to talk, but every time I tried, they went sad puppy dog and tried to cuddle up again.
So now I’m outside their office, basically spying on them. Really I’m just listening into the conversation. It was about me anyway, even if they didn’t have any clue what the real issue was. We were all being stupid and I was kind of tired of it.
“Is she ever going to forgive me? I know I fucked up by letting another female get way too close, but I’ve made it perfectly clear I want no one else.” And I thought girls were blind sometimes. Ian was way too absorbed in his own self-loathing. I had tried to tell them that the Riley deal wasn’t an issue I was holding onto. She was a crazy stalker and I knew Ian didn’t intend for any of that to happen.
It was time to put on my big girl panties and just walk in and tell them they were being dumb. I’ve been practicing and prepping myself to just do it over the last few days, but I felt like now was really the time.
Steeling myself, I knocked on the door.
“Come in.” Ian had opened the door as he said that, not realizing it was me until the door was fully open. “Baby girl, what are you doing here?”
Seriously, idiots. I had been out here for a while now.
“Well, besides the fact that I probably should be spending more time in here, with you two. We need to talk.” The shocked looks on their face almost make me lose my resolve and start laughing. Ya that’s right, I got there first. Should have done this days ago, but I still stepped up first.
“What do you want to talk about sweetheart?” Damien doesn’t do good at playing dumb. At least not with me. If we were playing poker I’d easily call his bluff right now. Maybe I should play poker with them sometime, strip poker of course. Because I’d win.
“Ya, drop the act. We all know that we need to talk about why I’ve been distancing this week.” Ian started to open his mouth. Before he could apologize for the thousandth time this week, I cut him off. “I forgave you for the Riley deal long ago. I’ve told you that and it has nothing to do with this.”
“Shut up and listen to me for once.” I’m not sure if I pissed them off or surprised them. Males, especially Alphas, didn’t like it when they couldn’t dominate the conversation. Ones with their mate wouldn’t necessarily follow that issue, but males were males after all.
“I’ve been trying to talk to you two all week. I know I haven’t done the best job of it, but you know it hasn’t been an easy few weeks for me either.” They nod. “Anyway, the point I’m getting at is that all you to seem to think, or at least the way that you are acting, is that you need to mark your territory or get me into bed.”
“That’s not what we think.” They say at damn near the same time.
“Really. You two could easily just hold my hand or wrap arms around me. But instead, whenever we’re around anyone, and I mean anyone, you feel the need to shove hands in my pants, up my dress, or stick your tongues down my throat. Oh, and that’s not forget the three nights in a row that you two tried to get me out of my pajamas. Hell you even ripped one of them!”
They start sputtering again. Good gravy, any time these two are in serious trouble, they lose all semblance of control over themselves. I know I get emotional, so I can’t say much, but damn.
“Not only does that just make me mad because I’m not a damn object, but have either of you thought for one damn minute about anyone else? Like say all the wolves around us.”
“Besides the fact that it’s just a little outside my comfort zone to be dry humped in front of everyone. The everyone including my parents. How do you think Daniel feels seeing that? And have either of you thought about what would happen if I had sex with you before we’ve finally marked each other and broken his bond?”
Nope, they sure the hell hadn’t. The look of complete realization had set in.
My mother had sat down with all of us and talked more about the theory she had come up with. Her whole thought process was that I would likely be able to form a bond with any Alpha male around my age who wasn’t already marked. That thought was confusing as hell to me because mates should be aligned at birth.
She explained that, again in theory, I was likely a preset mate for anyone around my age group, she figured that all of the Alpha males probably had a backup or secondary mate. She was banking on finding out after I was marked if her theories were correct. If they were, Daniel would find his mate after I was marked.
I had outright asked why it would matter considering I was pregnant already, but that was shot down pretty fast and I was reminded that bonds are solidified through marking. Mating and pregnancy, even though the second part usually only ever came after marking, didn’t mean jack when it came to how our bonds worked.
The rest of mom’s theories, and really all the other myths about me, would be more tested as time went on. She had turned everything about me into a life’s mission to understanding. She had said that there was so little knowledge around the myth of me, that she wanted to document it. If all of it was true, well, at least we’d all know. If it wasn’t, maybe we could bust the myth and stop all the drama I endured from happening to another.
I reminded my mates about everything my mother had said, including the fact that there was still a very thing bond between Daniel and I. Then I finished up with a solid statement to seriously get the point across.
“You’re not getting any until after the marking ceremony.”