I curl up into Thorn’s warm side as his arm wraps around the back of my shoulders. We watch the waterfall for a while as we catch our breaths. I check his watch along with him, we’ve been here for hours. It’s almost three. We basically kept going until we ran out of condoms. I didn’t think to bring more but I’ll remember it for next time.
Just like he said, the bond has relaxed. We have exhausted our energy and frenzy upon each other in so many ways that we can finally feel sane to be with each other.
Now the bond has eased, I can think rationally again. I start thinking more about the eclipse and everything that happened. I remember the two wolves protecting me from the rest, it was like they recognized me in some way. It shouldn’t be what I’m focusing on after the amazing few hours Thorn and I have just spent together but I can’t stop.
“Why did they turn and not you?” I ask quietly.
“The curse,” he says.
I widen my eyes. “How many curses did this woman place on you?”
He makes an amused sound. “Just enough to make me hate her for an entire century.”
“And her descendants?”
“Yes. Her descendants too.” He smiles at me and plays with a strand of my hair. “You might only be three or four generations behind her. I don’t understand why you have never heard of her.”
“If her child couldn’t transition either then is it possible that the pack cast them out?”
“That’s my theory too,” he says. “Or she gave the child away to humans to raise. If all of your ancestors couldn’t transition then they would have grown up human and wouldn’t have known any different.”
“Why would she give them up though?”
“To protect them from me,” he says.
I turn away uncomfortably. He is insinuating that he would have killed any of the witch’s descendants had he come into contact with them over the years. He would have killed me too if he hadn’t seen me as a human during the night.
“It was strange,” I mumble. “Two of the wolves protected me.”
“That is strange,” he agrees. “Everything about this is.”
“Are our feelings even real?” I say.
He sighs deeply. The question makes him uncomfortable. A few days ago he would have given me an unhesitant no but now he has some things to consider. We both do.
“I don’t know. All I know is that I’ll keep you safe for the rest of my life, even if we’re apart.”
I run my hand down his stomach, softly moving my fingers over his scars. “I don’t want us to be apart.”
He turns and looks into my eyes. His finger drums against my shoulder in a relaxing and pleasurable rhythm. I curl my face into the base of his throat. His lips press into my forehead.
“If the curse was broken then where would you go?” I say. “What do you wish for?”
“Back to England?”
“Yes. I’d claim back my father’s lands from whichever alpha has probably intruded on them and I’d live out the rest of my mortal days there.”
I pull away from him with a frown. “How are you going to get back? International travel doesn’t exist anymore.”
“We’re werewolves, Devon. We can scale oceans just as quickly as woods.”
“This is just make-believe, right? A wish?”
He smiles and plays with my hair. “Then you’d come with me. I’d take you back to my father’s estate and we’d live in the grandest country house you could imagine.”
I smile. “With actual walls?”
He laughs. “Yes. The cliffs overlook the ocean and beach. You can hear the waves from the house. In spring, when all the plants bloom, the fields are so bright that they hurt your eyes.”
“It sounds beautiful.”
He kisses my forehead again, leaving behind a burning ball of ecstasy in my stomach. “You’d belong there.”
I reach up and touch the side of his face, our eyes lock intensely before I push my lips against his. I can’t make it any clearer that I want that life with him. That I’d follow him anywhere. But he doesn’t think that will ever be possible. For a reason he won’t share, us being together and making it back to his home together is only a wish.
“What happened to your parents?”
He distances himself from me, immediately uncomfortable. This is a topic that has never come up but I’ve always wondered what happened to them. It might conflict with his manly, alpha type image to open a door that deep but he slowly comes back to me and rubs my shoulder again.
“My mother died when I was fifteen. She had this routine of going into human towns and befriending them. She was on her way home before sunset when she saw a woman being mugged in an alley. She intervened and he shot her in the head.”
I turn away from him. I wasn’t expecting that. “What happened to him?”
“The police got there before we even knew anything about it. The woman witnessed it all and gave them a clear description. They arrested him not long after. But my father. . .” Thorn bites down on his teeth and smiles darkly. “He was obsessed. He wouldn’t let it go and the pack wouldn’t either. We helped him to dig a tunnel that went underneath the prison, right to his fucking cell. It took days. I’m not sure how the prison reported his death but his cellmate was admitted into a psychiatric ward.”
“Wow. Did anyone believe him?”
“That a giant wolf broke through the ground and ripped his cellmate to shreds?” Thorn grins. “No one believed him. Though the evidence pointed to it. I think they just wanted the attention to go away because it didn’t make sense—even to the government. My father risked very serious exposure. I hoped that once he had gotten his revenge then it would bring him back to us. Even just a little bit.”
“It didn’t?” I say.
“No, if anything he got worse. He started talking about humans like they were game for hunting. He gave the pack permission to kill them. My mother wouldn’t have wanted that bloodshed tied to her memory. She adored humans. She had friendships with a lot of them. I had to do something. I was the only one that could. So I forced him to step down.” He takes a deep breath, rolling his eyes to the waterfall. “I had my sister to look after and my father on top of it. I couldn’t do it so I transferred the power over to Lucias.”
I rub my head. This is all getting confusing. The dynamics of werewolf packs are fascinating but why does there have to be a leader? Do werewolves get out of control without one?
“Lucias was only a temporary alpha. I just needed him to make some decisions while my father was recovering. It worked well, for a while. And then he started a war with another werewolf pack.” Thorn sighs, almost like he’s still in disbelief about it. “They just wanted to cross our lands. It was a harmless negotiation that should have taken minutes. But Lucias and their alpha had history. He took his power a step too far and killed him. The alpha’s son, the new blood alpha, claimed his title immediately and used it to strike an attack against all of us.”
I think I know where this is going. It’s getting hard for him to say the words. “Lucias got your father killed.”
He nods. “My father was just waiting for a war like that to unleash his rage that I had been attempting for years to help him with. Kira was only eleven at the time, I had to protect her. I had to choose between her and my father. The moment that I saw him running from that house, I knew I had lost him. That we both had lost him. After his death, I claimed the alpha position to save them all from Lucias. I settled on a peace treaty with the rival pack and they left. I was eighteen and I had to step out from my father’s shadow and pick up the pieces from the absolute hell that Lucias had created.”
I rest my face against his shoulder, my fingers circling around his thick chest hair. “You were still so young. You shouldn’t have had to deal with that.”
“I didn’t have a choice. It was over a century ago but I still remember that moment like it was yesterday. When blood alphas claim their position, there is this jolt inside of us. It’s not greed or power or bloodthirst, it’s this sense that we’ve finally found our true selves. It’s much like the sensation of euphoria when we transition for the first time.” He looks at me and smiles, leaning his lips closer to mine. “There is only one other connection in this whole damn world that could possibly compare to it.”
I smile back at him. My stomach tingles wonderfully as he trails his hand down to my waist. His past is a painful one. I feel lucky that he shared it with me—though it took a long time to finally get there. There's still a lot more that I don't know, like what happened with Atticus and Thorn's time as an alpha. If he doesn't trust Lucias as a leader then why did he leave his entire pack with him?
It's hard to ponder these questions in depth when his lips are against mine, when his tongue is searching for a home to buy in my mouth.
We kiss for a while longer before he stands up and searches for his clothes.
We leave the cave shortly after. He holds my hand tightly as he helps me back down the cliff. We bury my gun underneath another tree but he keeps his on him. My mind is filled with soothing images of our time together. Of our naked bodies writhing against the floor and the walls. Holding his hand doesn’t compare anymore. We’ve created chaos that can’t be matched.
As we walk back to the camp, I notice that his walk is becoming slower and slower. He’s usually so fast that he’s practically dragging me along.
“What’s wrong?” I say.
“Someone’s in the camp.”
“What?” I tug his hand backwards.
“It’s okay,” he assures me. “I’ll get rid of her.”
We carry on walking until the camp is in view. A dark-haired girl is sitting on the log, reading one of Thorn’s books. She flicks her eyes up at our arrival and closes the book, resting it on her lap. She strikes a resemblance to him in a way. She is younger with tan skin and has the same fearless, bright green eyes. Her muscles flex as she folds her arms.
“How did you find me, Kira?” Thorn says.
Kira refuses to speak. Her eyes watch me cautiously.
“Devon knows everything. You can speak openly in front of her.”
Kira blinks for a moment, processing that with shock. “You’re good at disguising your scent but she isn’t,” Kira says, pointing her eyes at me. “So I followed hers instead.”
“What do you want?”
“What do I want?” she repeats, anger flashing in her seemingly innocent expression. “There was a fucking eclipse, Thorn. I was checking that you’re still alive.”
“They haven’t killed me so far, why bother now?” he mutters.
“I heard them,” she says. “The whole pack heard them. They never come down here.”
“We like to play some exciting hunting games during an eclipse.”
Kira scoffs. “Take this seriously. Please.” She looks back to me. “The herb healed her. That’s good. And curious.”
“Go home,” Thorn growls.
“Who is she?”
“Why don’t you ask her yourself instead of acting like she isn’t here?”
Kira keeps her eyes on Thorn and I fold my arms awkwardly.
“Don’t mind her,” Thorn tells me. “She likes to think that humans are aliens incapable of hearing.”
“Humans are our enemy,” she says.
“Who taught you that? Lucias? Because I know I didn’t.”
“Come back with me.” She steps forwards desperately. “We need you. You’re my brother, Thorn. I miss you.”
“I am not interested in becoming one of Lucias’ slaves,” Thorn says. “If you want my advice then get out.”
“And live where? Here?” She considers it seriously. “I’d do that.”
Thorn looks down at me and falls silent. This is his sister, someone that I know he loves even if he pretends that he doesn’t. I would never object to it but I don’t think he’s looking for permission, I think he’s weighing options of my safety.
“No,” he says.
“Why not?” she demands. “If she’s the problem then get rid of her.”
She moves away from the log out of anger and I approach it slowly, taking a seat to distance myself from this sibling drama. Thorn follows me, I don’t even think he’s aware that he’s doing it. He joins me on the log.
“You’ve already told her too much about us,” she says. “Humans cannot know. You are endangering us. Lucias will have no choice but to kill her.”
“You will not tell Lucias anything,” Thorn says, his voice deadly and deep. “Devon is not your concern.”
“It is the pack’s concern.”
“I am warning you.” Thorn rises and his mighty shadow looms over me. I keep my eyes down.
“What is wrong with you!” Kira yells. “Since when did you put humans above your own people?”
“Since I mated with her,” Thorn says.
I lift my eyes as the silence sweeps over the air. Kira laughs for a few seconds in denial before she looks between our serious expressions and takes it in.
“Impossible,” she says. “There is no mating bond anymore and humans cannot-”
“She has the wolf gene.”
“Even more impossible. Do you take me for an idiot?”
Thorn’s voice drops to a soft breath. “She’s the descendant.”
I look away as Kira stares at me. This is so awkward. She starts to speak but then swallows her words.
“Yes,” Thorn says. “She has the gene but she cannot transition.”
“And you’re mated?” she says.
“But you can’t be mated. You can’t do this to us, Thorn! Do you know how long we’ve waited? Reject it.”
Thorn shakes his head.
“Reject it!” she screams.
“Kira.” Thorn starts walking towards her.
Kira glares down at me. “You can reject it, right? Do it.”
“She’s innocent,” Thorn says.
“We were innocent!” Kira thumps her fists against Thorn’s chest. “You can’t do this! You-”
Thorn wraps his hands around Kira’s mouth and silences her. He starts dragging her backwards and smiles at me as he moves them into the trees.
“I’ll be right back,” he says.
I don’t know how to react. I stay in the same place, scared to even move. I can hear Kira’s struggles for a few seconds until they vanish in the woods. It’s making my head spin. Why would she react that way to discovering that we’re mated? What does being mated have to do with breaking the curse?
Thorn doesn’t come right back. They are gone for a long time. This has put a huge damper on my mood. I was happy an hour ago. I was trapped in a blissful world of amazement and joy. Now everything is backwards.
I hear some rustling of leaves and I assume that they’re coming back. Then the rustling stops. I stand up as I hear the sound of twigs snapping. Someone’s out there. I stare hard into the trees until I see a slight movement of bodies.
I run up the steps and I grab the handgun from the chest. I look back to see a young-looking couple emerging out of the trees slowly.
“Stop there!” I shout. “Thorn!”
“Don’t shoot,” the girl says. “We’re not going to hurt you.”
I keep the gun aimed at them as I race down the steps. Thorn and Kira appear to my right, he takes his gun out too.
“Let’s not get hasty,” the boy says, looking at Thorn. “You can smell us, you know what we are.”
“That only makes me more eager to kill you,” Thorn says.
I keep my eyes on the female as she stares back at me. There’s something familiar about her but I can’t work it out. Her hair is like mine, thick and honey blonde. Her facial features are even similar. The boy has light hair too, he is tall with lean muscles but his clean-cut face gives away his real age. They both look like teenagers and I can’t justify threatening their lives. I drop the gun slowly but Thorn doesn’t relent.
“You have ten seconds to convince me not to pull this trigger,” Thorn says.
The girl holds her hands up and starts walking towards me. I start walking too, as though something is pulling me towards her.
“We saved your life earlier,” she says. “We thought you were dead for all these years.”
“Who are you?” I say, looking between her and her companion.
“You’re in danger,” the boy says. “Our alpha knows that you’re alive. He’s coming for you. Tonight.”
Thorn lowers the gun and walks closer.
“We came to warn you,” the girl says. “You have to leave.” She turns to Thorn. “You have to get her to your pack by nightfall.”
Thorn glances at his watch. “That isn’t possible.”
“Hang on,” Kira interjects, pushing herself into the circle. “You’re one of them and you’re helping us? Why? If they kill her then the curse will never be broken. That’s what your pack wants.”
“It’s what they want,” the girl says. “It is what our alpha wants. Not us.”
“And you’d defy him?” Thorn says. “Why? Who are you?”
“My name is Sky,” the girl says. “This is my brother Dominic.” She moves her gaze back to mine, smiling slightly. “And you’re our older sister.”