Holding Thorn’s hand is like when you climb into a warm bed at the end of a long and stressful day. There’s that tiny moment of pure relief when you think. . . finally, I made it. I made it through that day and now everything is going to be alright.
Malese gave her life for mine. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that. I’m grateful that she finally put things right but what was the real cost? I don’t know enough about magic to start panicking yet but I can’t imagine that cheating death would bring good karma.
That’s a problem for another day because today, I am just appreciative that I am alive. And nothing screams alive like the distant stares from my stunned and disbelieving parents. We walk back to the camp to silence, apart from Sky trying to explain to them what the heck is going on. Most of the pack are still disposing of the bodies, I watch as they drag one of Cole’s minions by their ankle and toss their remains into the flames.
I wait at the perimeter as Thorn kisses my hand and then lets it go.
“I’ll give you some privacy.”
He walks over to Kira and Shadow and takes a seat at the far end, almost out of my sight. My parents are still staring, my mother is the first to approach me. I’ve imagined this moment since the first time I saw her in that motel room. I almost gave up hoping it would happen.
Her walk is slower and slower as she observes me. I notice that she is wearing a seal too. It’s like mine, only except for copper hers looks forged from gold. Malese must have passed it on to her son and the blood alphas kept it hidden over the years.
Madison is so beautiful. Her eyes are a muddy brown, like Sky’s, there is a certain soreness to them, as though they’ve experienced a lifetime of pain. Her hair, like mine, is thickly blonde and curly. She has the tall physique of a woman but her face is youthful. She wears a red dress that blows around her knees. It’s only then that I realize she is dressed for my funeral.
“We went for a walk and when we came back, Sky said. . .” She swallows her words. “How is this possible?”
“Magic,” I whisper, eyeing my father over her shoulder. “Malese’s magic.”
“Malese saved you?”
“She’s gone now. Thorn said that she died after. I’m okay. I mean, as far as coming back to life goes, I feel great.”
Crasuel comes closer and I see the slash across the side of his throat. It’s healed now and it’s starting to scar but I feel uneasy as I remember Cole doing it to him. I thought he had killed him.
Madison almost bursts out into tears as she holds her arms open. “Can I…?”
I contain my own tears as I nod. We meet somewhere in the middle and I fold into my mother’s embrace. Her scent is mesmerising. Her hair smells like wildflowers but her natural scent is something that resembles strawberries.
“I have waited twenty years to hold you,” she whispers. “I wouldn’t blame you for being angry with us.”
“There is no anger left inside of me,” I say. I smile at my father. “Only love.”
He joins the embrace and I try to hold myself as their scents overwhelm me. I can smell their DNA so closely. There is a magnetic pull to it, as though our bloods are trying to connect. My mother is the first to break us apart and she holds my shoulders, wiping a tear from under my eye.
“You must have so many questions.”
“Only one,” I say. “Did you ever look for me?”
“Yes,” she says. “We watched over you as best we could. We had to be discreet so Cole wouldn’t get suspicious. I would sit at a distance and watch you walk aimlessly around the grounds outside of your mansion. You always looked so lonely. It broke my heart.”
She’s been watching me all this time? For years? I don’t know if that brings me comfort because I never knew. Maybe if I had known, I wouldn’t have felt so alone.
“Did you leave me with them?”
“No,” she says. “After you were born, Cole’s father ordered us to kill you. We always knew that our first born would be the curse breaker, we couldn’t escape that. From the moment that we found out, my entire pregnancy was. . .”
“Hell,” Crasuel says.
“Yes. Every single day, he and the rest of the pack would remind us that you would have to die after your birth. That I couldn’t get attached. And I tried not to, I tried to detach myself from you throughout the entire pregnancy. But the moment you were born, all of that went out the window. You were this tiny thing with the brightest eyes I’d ever seen and when you reached over and squeezed your whole hand around my finger, I just knew that we had to do whatever it took to keep you safe.”
“When werewolf babies are born, they don’t cry like human babies, they whimper like pups,” Crasuel says. “Your cry was human and it made us realize that you could be safe among them because you were one.”
Madison nods slowly and smiles. “So we convinced the pack that we were taking you away from the mountain to kill you.”
“They didn’t find that suspicious?” I ask.
“Maybe,” she says. “But a human family raising a werewolf? None of them suspected that. Even the idea is ridiculous to us. We took you into the human town and we left you wrapped up on a church doorstep. We left them a note, telling them your name and to find you a good family.” She starts to choke and her gaze goes up to the sky, almost like she’s recalling the worst day of her life. “We didn’t think that you’d stay human. I kept hoping that you’d come into your strength and leave those horrible parents for good.”
“It wasn’t that simple,” I say. “Why didn’t you just leave?”
“We discussed it,” Crasuel says. “But if you thought Cole was bad then you would have been in for a shock if you had met his father. He would have hunted us and then you would have been dead for certain.”
“His own mate murdered him,” Madison says. “Cole’s mother was executed by the pack shortly after but even the mating bond didn’t stop her from seeing him for what he truly was.”
“The pack has a complicated history,” Crasuel adds.
I don’t refute that. It does. It sounds as though the pack has been suffering for a long time and like Dominic said—they were trapped in a prison. Hopefully they can find a better way to live now that they’re free from Cole’s control. I look across the camp and I meet Sky’s eyes. She smiles sadly from the log and then rubs her fingers together. Even though Cole’s gone, I still get the feeling that she doesn’t want to be here.
“But none of that matters now,” Madison says, bringing my attention back to her. “What matters is that we’re together again. We can be a family again.”
I don’t have the heart to say it. The words sting against my throat as I try to push them out. They’ve just got their daughter back, how do I tell them that they’re going to lose me again? But even though it hurts, what hurts the most isn’t telling them that I’m leaving. It’s telling the blonde, teenage werewolf across the camp that I’m leaving. Sky and I have a connection that is both annoying and incredible. Her happiness is something that I care deeply about.
“I’m leaving tomorrow,” I whisper, dropping my eyes with shame. “Thorn and his pack are travelling back to England. I have to go with him. I know that it might look like I’m choosing him over you but he is my whole life. I can’t abandon him.”
“Devon.” Madison laughs and cups her fingers around my chin, lifting my face to look at her. “As much as it pains us to part with you, we understand. You always deserved so much more than this mountain. The world is out there waiting for you. Go and meet it.”
I look at Sky again. “I’m not the only one.”
“I think that we should have a bonfire tonight.” Crasuel wraps his arms around Madison and pulls her into his chest. “To mourn our fallen and to celebrate our new alliances.” He looks over at Thorn. “I think that I’m overdue a serious chat with him.”
“Serious chat?” I mutter. “Wait!”
My father grins at me and walks over to Thorn. My mother laughs as I run after him. Thorn looks up in anticipation and my heart races in my chest as my father cocks his head for Thorn to follow him.
“I’ll be fine,” Thorn chuckles at me. “Stay here.”
I fold my arms as the two of them disappear into the woods. I don’t have the time to linger on it because I’m suddenly being surrounded by excited faces.
“Hey, I’m Pal.” The man switches his drinking bottle into another hand and holds his palm out to me. I shake his hand slowly. “It’s nice to officially meet you.”
“You too,” I say.
“I heard you’re coming back with us. I hope you have the stomach for dealing with this crazy lot. There’s a reason that I drink a lot.”
“Stop scaring her,” Balan says, throwing her arms around me. “Welcome to the pack. We’re going to be great friends. I can feel it.”
I smile, leaning back awkwardly. “Sure.”
“Hi,” someone else says, and yet again I’m being hugged.
Werewolf after werewolf introduces themselves. Some shake my hand while others just watch from a distance. Thorn’s pack are definitely more eager to meet me than Crasuel’s are.
Kira is the last one to approach me. After her several failed attempts to convince Thorn to kill me, I didn’t think she’d have the guts to do it. But she keeps her head high in a fearless manner.
“I’m sorry for the way that I treated you,” she says. “I was wrong. I was a bitch. I hope that we can move past it.” She extends her hand and I stare at it. I didn’t expect that. I shake her hand. She has a firm grip, like a claw.
“I hope so too,” I say.
“For what it’s worth, I’m glad that you’re alive. For Thorn’s sake.”
“Thanks,” I say, unsure of what else to say to that.
“See you.” She doesn’t stick around, she walks back over to Shadow and they hold hands before entering one of the cabins.
“That was progress,” Balan says. “Kira can be complicated but if you’ve mastered her brother then she’ll be a piece of cake.”
“Do you think he’ll come back with us?” Pal says, referring to Shadow.
“Did you see the way that boy looked at her? He’ll follow her anywhere. He is definitely coming back with us.”
My eyes find Sky again. I’ve been avoiding her and I can’t keep beating around it any longer. I excuse myself and I walk over to her. She’s sitting alone, staring into the emptiness of the small fire that she started.
“Can I join you?”
I sit down beside her and I hold my hands over the fire. She doesn’t even look at me. “You heard, didn’t you?”
“I heard enough.”
“I have to go with him. This doesn’t mean that you’re going to lose me, we’ll still stay in touch.”
“How?” she mutters. “Crossing the ocean is dangerous. Once you leave, there’s a slim chance of you ever coming back. I heard what she said to you. That you deserve the world. She never said that to me. She doesn’t care about how I feel. No one does.”
“I care.” I take her hand and I hold it tightly. “You’re my sister and I love you. That’ll never change no matter how far away I am.”
“You don’t get it.” She scowls and kicks some sticks onto the fire. “I never felt like I belonged here. I envy you for growing up as a human. I love my family but I hate my life. Even though my father will let me off the mountain, it isn’t enough. Dominic is the future blood alpha, his purpose is here. I don’t have one.”
I think back to that night in the club, when she was dancing and laughing. She had this sparkle in her eyes that was infectious. I thought it was Cole that kept her trapped but it runs deeper than that.
“Come with us.”
She snaps her eyes up. The sparkle is almost back. “Really?”
“I’m sure we can make room for one more.”
Her smile grows wide for a moment before it drops. “Dad would never allow that.”
Crasuel and Thorn appear through a gap in the trees. I’m not sure exactly what my father has been saying to him but they both look relieved that it’s over. Thorn searches for me, his eyes finding me after merely seconds. He smiles as his feet move him towards me.
“Leave that to me,” I say. “All kinds of weird and impossible things are happening today.”
Sky hums. “True. So should I start packing?”
“Hey, Thorn. Bye, Thorn.” Sky races towards her cabin.
“Hey. . . Sky.” Thorn looks after her and then laughs to himself before dropping to my side. His arm goes over around me instinctively, leaving me with a stomach of rising heat.
“Are you going to tell me what that was about?” I say.
“He just wanted to thank me. And give me this.” He holds up a plastic bag from the other side of his leg. I widen my eyes at the plants inside of it.
“Yeah. You might have to take it too, if I’m human tonight then you’ll transition.” He opens the bag and takes apart a piece of the plant, he places it inside my mouth.
It tastes like cabbage. Rotten cabbage. He watches my reaction with amusement and then eats a piece of it too.
“This is just for tonight,” he says. “He’s giving us a year’s worth of it in the morning.”
I start smiling as I realize what that means. “We finally get to spend the whole night together as humans.”
“As many nights as we want.” He cups my jaw and grins, seducing me with his beautiful, green gaze of romance. Saucy romance. “I didn’t really get the chance to enjoy it last night. I was hoping that you might oblige in helping me enjoy it tonight.”
I’m already looking around the camp, trying to find a discreet place where we won’t be disturbed. It won’t work. This mountain is huge though, we’ll find somewhere.
“Crasuel wants to host a party.”
His lips press into mine. “We’ll slip away.”
I can’t say no. The excitement is making my bones come alive. I’ve spent days craving him in ways that never seemed appropriate given the situations we were in. This happiness is what we’ve been waiting for. I killed the person that tried to destroy that and so did he. We each took a life to get to this moment. None of it feels real yet. My mind hasn’t quite caught up to this bizarre new reality. It may take some time before it does but time is suddenly available to us. Lots and lots of it.
He kisses me and it takes all of my self-control not to lead him away now. He smiles against my lips as though he can smell my arousal. Tonight is going to bring out the animal in both of us.
I didn’t just die today. I was born today.