I wake up to the sounds of birds singing, which was my favourite sound in the morning, but even more so now that I can hear them so delicately. My naked body is pressed into Thorn’s and we’re curled up within the quilt. Last night was so perfect that I don’t want it to end. I’m excited about England but I’d prefer to just lay here with him, within this quilt, for the rest of our natural lives.
I move my thumb against his shoulder that is coated in large freckles. I press my nose into it, inhaling the faint scent of dried sweat. I was wrong. This is the moment that I want to remember above all others.
Thorn starts stirring, his hands reaching out of the quilt to stretch. His eyes open softly and they drop to mine. I smile at him.
“I love waking up next to you,” he says, pulling me closer against him. “I’m going to love it even more when we finally have our own double bed.”
“I don’t know. The ground is underrated.”
“That’s because you haven’t spent a century sleeping on it.”
“That damn bird has been around for months,” he growls. “I wish he’d change his song.”
I listen to that bird’s sweet and poetic song for a moment and I don’t know what Thorn’s talking about. I love it. It’s relaxing.
“I’m going to miss hearing it in a morning.”
“That’s because you have no heart.” I grin before reaching my lips up to kiss him.
I was only going for a soft, morning kiss but the moment it happens, it’s like we can’t control it. Our lips ignite fire that spreads to every corner of my skin. I pull on his hair as he kisses my throat.
“We should probably get going,” I say difficulty. “The others will be wondering where we are.”
He makes a face of disappointment. “Fine.”
I kiss him one last time before I roll myself onto my stomach to push myself out of the quilt. I lift my head, my body tensing as I meet the faces of a dozen wolves at the line of trees. “Thorn.”
Thorn panics and swings himself around. I sit back, wrapping the quilt tighter around me to form a barricade between my skin and the sharp teeth of the predators that are walking closer.
“It’s okay,” he says. “Just stay still.”
“I thought you said they were afraid of your scent?”
“Not this pack. They’re friends of mine.”
The wolves walk right over to us, they seem calm and curious. They stay back while a light-grey wolf fearlessly comes up to Thorn and rubs her head against his. I freeze as she turns and looks at me, she presses her nose into my cheek and I look away as I gently pat over her matted fur. I’ve never experienced anything like this, it’s incredible.
“Do they know?” I say.
“Of course they know. We smell a little bit human to them but not enough for them to attack. Most of them are scared of us.”
The wolf backs away and walks over to her pack, I watch after them in amazement as they run off together. Thorn is frowning, as though they were saying goodbye. I guess I’d need to experience an entire century in these woods to bond with wolves the way that he does.
“I guess we’ll have to come back one day and visit them,” I say.
He frowns again. “No wolves in England.”
“You sure about that?” I grin at him until he laughs.
The laughter drowns out and I glance at the camp sadly. It’s beginning to feel real now. This little place has brought me so much happiness over the weeks. It healed me in ways that I can’t ever repay it for. It gave me the courage to face my fears—to face the wild. Now I’m prepared to face the world.
I pack the rest of my belongings into a bag and I swing it over my shoulder. Thorn doesn’t have that many things, just a few clothes and his books—and of course, his weapons. We both take one last look at it. From the log above the burned-out fire that we shared so meals on, to the trail that leads down to the lake where I spent many mornings gathering my scattered thoughts. We left the quilt on the ground as a mark of our night together, it is the last thing that I save in my mind before we turn and head back to the mountain.
I discuss my plan with him on the way and he seems to be in agreement. It beats spending the next few days thrashing through the ocean.
Everyone is awake and ready to go when we return. They are waiting for us. I give them the best details that I can of where to go but they just seem confused. Madison and Crasuel intervene and offer to take them there to wait for us. Thorn takes my bag from me and throws it at Pal, instructing him to keep it safe, though it was more of a threat.
Now there’s just one thing left to do. Thorn and I head in the opposite direction to the group and we walk along the road that leads into the town. I forced him to leave the weapons behind because I know that he’d be tempted to use them and I want to do this my own way.
This is the first time that Thorn has seen a human town since the new world order, I don’t think he was prepared for it. There’s hardly anyone around and the ones that are look miserable and exhausted. We walk through a set of fruit stalls and the low-born women with damp hair and torn rags are gazing into the air half-asleep.
“What’s wrong with everyone?” he says.
“Low-borns aren’t allowed to interact with each other in public,” I say. “The only days that they’re allowed is on Saturday and Sunday.”
“I don’t understand. So they can’t speak to us?”
“Only if it’s a quick exchange regarding the produce that they’re selling or if a high-born asks them questions.”
“This isn’t the humanity that I fought to save.” His gaze lingers on a line of homeless men that are having an altercation with a palace soldier about begging. “Why are they silenced?”
“Because the war almost destroyed the world,” I say. “And the civil war in this country almost destroyed us. Silencing them curbs aggression. I guess it was the only way to ensure that we lived in peace.”
“I don’t believe that. There are ways to ensure peace without asserting control.”
“Welcome to the real humanity,” I mumble.
The other side of town is like entering a different universe. There is merely one gate that separates us and all I have to do is type in a code. The gate opens for us and I see the low-borns glaring at us with confusion because we do not look like high-borns.
This side of town is the place I hate the most. My hand curls into a fist as I lay my eyes on the beautiful, pampered groups of girls that are out shopping in their uniquely designed gowns. I hated everything about it and I hate it even more now that I’m an outsider. The strips of businesses are attractive, with sparkling windows and outdoor seating areas.
Thorn is uncomfortable too. They must look alien to him. The men wear sharp and air-brushed suits and most of them carry briefcases. They are always walking like they are in a rush to be somewhere. Some of them drive cars, a luxury prohibited just for them, and many cars slow down as they pass us, the awe-struck high-borns staring at us with their mouths open until they almost crash.
“How did they get in?” I hear a girl say.
“Did they break in? Should I call my father?”
“Call the patrol guards!”
“Excuse me.” A man stops directly in front of us, holding out his hand to force us to halt. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“We’re passing through,” I say.
“Do you even realize where you are?” The man turns his eyes around smugly. An audience begins to crowd behind him.
“Yes. Do you?”
“You need to turn around and exit back through the gate and stay on your side. Okay?” He starts grinning in the most patronizing way. “Or we will be forced to remove you.”
“My father is Marvin Davenport. I am visiting him. I suggest you move.”
The man chuckles and trails his eyes up my body. “Marvin’s daughter would never dress like a disgusting savage. Nice try.”
Thorn charges forwards and I yank on his wrist, pulling him back to my side. The man takes the threat seriously and cowers back, he and Thorn stare at each other.
“Devon?” Lindy walks out from the crowd, squinting her eyes as she studies my face. “Oh my, it is you! She’s not lying, she’s Marvin and Rebecca’s daughter.”
I turn back to the man. “See?”
“My apologies,” he says. “You just look. . .”
Thorn steps into the man’s personal space. “Call her that again and you’ll be swallowing your teeth.”
I don’t know exactly how Thorn is looking at him but the man’s face is turning paler, on the verge of complete terror.
“Come on.” I pull on Thorn’s wrist, dragging him through the crowd. “No one’s swallowing their teeth today.”
“It’s funny how cowardly they become when they realize they have no power.”
“Weren’t you kidnapped by savages?” Lindy says as I pass by her. “How did you survive? Are you still marrying Lyle?”
I ignore her, keeping a hold tight of Thorn’s hand as we begin the long trek along the silent street that leads to my former house. Our mansion was the grandest in the town, every high-born envied it. It has its own private security system which is operated with a fingerprint scanner. Even werewolves would struggle to break through the forty-feet fence that surrounds it.
My father owns ten cars. They are all lined up and glistening like they’re on an auction show. His expensive possessions are his entire world and I’m about to rip it apart.
The gates open for us and it takes me an extra second until I feel ready to move. The mansion is a dozen feet away, behind the barricade of father’s success. It was my childhood home, the place I built memories, the walls that I spent years aimlessly dreaming of leaving behind.
“You can do this,” Thorn reminds me. “You’re not that girl anymore.”
“I’m not that girl anymore,” I repeat.
I close my eyes and the first image I see is Marvin smacking me across the face so hard that it fractured my cheekbone. He didn’t even take me to a hospital, he paid a doctor to come and treat me. I have no reason to be afraid of him now but I’m unsure if he still has a control over me. Something rooted so deep that my werewolf gene cannot override it.
I take the first steps. I reach the front porch which is wrapped in a white deck with flower baskets and a swinging chair. I don’t knock. I think we’re past that. The door is unlocked and I walk right in.
It’s strange because I feel as though I’m just coming home from a walk around town. Lindy would usually be with me and she’d be jabbering on about the new gowns she’d bought. I’d just be praying that she’d leave so I could be alone.
The entrance is empty, I carry on down the hallway and I ignore the family photographs hanging on the beige walls. I follow the sound of Marvin’s voice towards one of the several luxury rooms and I hear him yelling at someone.
“That’ll teach you not to pee inside, you stupid mutt!”
My body keels forwards as the pained whimper of a dog reaches my alert ears. I rush into the study to witness Marvin beating a beautiful dog with his shoe. Another dog tries to intervene and Marvin kicks the dog so forcefully that it lands halfway across the room. The small spaniels are whimpering, their bodies shaking with fear as they run towards myself and Thorn.
Thorn catches one in his arms while the other hides behind my legs. Marvin’s face is flushed red with rage, he looks up and takes deep breaths.
I don’t know what to say. We stare at each other until it becomes uncomfortable.
“Take the dogs outside,” I say.
“I’ll be fine, just go.”
“Who the fuck are you and why are you taking my dogs?” Marvin yells.
Marvin tries to run after Thorn but I block his way. “So you lost your chance to abuse me so you decided to get two dogs to abuse instead. That’s low even for you.”
“It peed on my rug,” he hisses. “And I never abused you.”
“Hitting me wasn’t abuse?” I say. “Telling me what to wear, who I can talk to, how to behave wasn’t abuse? Forcing me to marry a rapist wasn’t abuse?”
He backs up slightly, almost smiling. “Where have you been?”
“Safe. I’ve been safe.”
“In the woods? With him?” His eyes go over my head. I haven’t heard the door shut yet so Thorn is still in view. “I’ve been worried about you.”
“Spare me the bullshit. You never cared about me. It’s hard to care for someone that isn’t biologically yours, isn’t it?”
“You know?” The voice comes from the corner, and my ‘mother’ enters with a book in her hands. She drops it to the side and widens her eyes. “How?”
“I met them. They live on the mountain.”
“Were they the ones that taught you how to kill?” he says. “We know that Lyle is dead and that you were the last one to see him. You can’t keep hiding. The King is looking for you and he will execute you for this.”
“He won’t find me,” I say as I walk towards his desk. I yank on his locked drawer, pulling it clean out. Marvin can’t believe what he’s seeing. “That’s the funny thing about being adopted, you just don’t know who or what you actually are.”
“How did you do that?”
I hold the keys up in my hand with a smile. “I’m taking your boat.”
He swallows. “I don’t have a boat.”
“Again, just cut the bullshit. International travel is banned for most of the world, even for most of the high-born but not for your elite, special kind. I guess there’s like a secret club or something? Richest men travel with companions anywhere in the world and get to hook up with foreign women while their wives think they’re on business trips?” I look at Rebecca who is glaring at her husband with silent demand. “He has a boat. I’ve seen it. It’s quite big, too. Hidden down at the docks that’s been closed off for over a century.”
“What is she talking about?” Rebecca demands.
“I have no idea. I don’t have a boat.”
I shrug. “Okay. Then you won’t mind if I borrow your car. You know the one. You can track it down to the docks and find us gone. That’ll be one very interesting mystery.”
I hear someone behind me and I smell my brother’s cologne. I’ve missed that smell. I turn and smile at him.
“Devon, I am warning you,” Marvin says through clenched teeth. “Don’t make me hurt you.”
“It’s okay, Coan,” I say, hearing my brother pacing forwards. “He’s only capable of hurting defenceless dogs.”
“Give me those keys.”
“Give me those keys. Now!” His hand belts the side of my face. I twist my head but I don’t stumble, I don’t even flinch. It empowers me more.
“I promised Thorn that I wouldn’t kill you because he was scared that I’d turn into an emotional mess,” I say, gripping Marvin’s shirt and pulling him towards me. He tries to struggle, his eyes widening at the fact that I can yank him against his will. “But he didn’t say anything about this.”
I release him and I step back, my hand balling into a powerful fist that I throw into his jaw. His body doesn’t fall over, it flies. Even I’m shocked. Marvin spins through the air and hits the bookshelves at the back of his study, he cowers underneath a pile of hard books that fall on top of him. Rebecca is so stunned that she holds her mouth for a moment before running over to help him.
“Don’t try and look for me,” I say. “Don’t try and hunt me. It won’t end well. From this day, I am no longer your daughter. I am no longer your product to be sold and used. I’ve already sent a letter to the King explaining everything. I’ve told him all about your involvement in manipulating me to kill Lyle because you changed your mind about the marriage. I expect he’ll be paying you a visit soon. After he’s done burying all of his soldiers.”
Marvin throws a book from off his head and I smile at the blood that leaks down his face. He looks dizzy. Rebecca tries to help him stand but he just falls back down.
“Oh and. . . I’m still taking the boat.” I hold the keys up with a smirk, turning to walk past Coan in the hallway.
“Devon!” Marvin screams.
My hands are shaking, Coan follows me as I rush outside. I open the door and the cat bolts out of it, shooting for its own freedom far away. Thorn is waiting in front of the row of cars with the dogs by his side. He’s grinning, he heard all of that. I throw him the keys to Marvin’s favourite car, the most expensive car on the planet, the Detta Volt. He whistles for the dogs to join him and I turn to face my brother for the last time.
“That was amazing,” he says. “How did you do that?”
“I’ve been learning some things about myself,” I say. “It’s been hard but I think I’m finally ready to embrace it.”
“You’re leaving, aren’t you?”
I nod. “We’re going to England. Come with us.”
“Coan, it’s over. There is no reason for you to still be here. That place is hell, this whole town is. Come with me, please.”
“It’s not that simple. You know why. All I ever wanted was for you to be okay, and you are. You’re better than okay.” He looks over to the car. “Is that him?”
“Thank you for saving her life,” Coan shouts.
“Just promise me that you’ll get out. Leave this house, go get your girl, disappear far away and live your life. I won’t rest until you do.”
“I promise,” he says. “It’s first on my list actually.”
I throw my arms around him. I squeeze him so tight that he almost can’t breathe. “I love you.”
“I love you too. Here.” He pulls back and slips another phone into my hand. “It’s one of mine. Answer it, please. Keep in touch.”
“I will. I promise. Take care of yourself.”
“Bye,” he whispers.
I back away, wiping the tears from my cheeks as I approach the car. Coan stands in front of the door, he’s shielding it in case the deranged man inside decides to come after us. Thorn puts the key into the engine and the engine roars to life, like it’s purring. He smiles as he swipes his hands over the wheel.
“Maybe I should drive,” I say. “Did you even learn?”
“Of course,” he says, sounding offended. “It’s just. . . been a while.” He presses a reverse button and the car speeds backwards towards the gate. “Those dogs wouldn’t leave me alone. I think they’re ours now.”
I smile at the two beauties in the backseat that are licking each other. “Fine with me.”
I roll my window down and I press my finger into the security pad. My eyes meet Coan’s as we wait for the gates to open. He waves at us with a smile but I can sense the heart-break through it. My own heart is breaking too. I wave back at him, only looking at him and not the house, as Thorn reverses us down the entire street.
He spins the car suddenly and I hold on to the roof. He laughs to himself as we soar through the town. I glare at him.
“Sorry,” he mutters. “Man, I love this car!”
“Don’t get too attached because it’s about to be destroyed.”
He sighs angrily. “Fine. Just. . . no fire, okay? It’s too pretty.”
“No fire,” I laugh.
I direct him through the town and down to the docks. The whole pack is waiting for us aboard the hundred-feet boat. The area is closed off and the town is forbidden from coming down here. Probably because seeing a boat would start another civil war. Thorn drives right through the barricades that are telling us to turn back. That we cannot go any further. Another sign says that we are defying the law of the King.
“Are you ready?” he says.
I whistle and pat my lap, one of the dogs jumps right into it. The other struggles to get over the middle to reach Thorn. He reaches over and cradles the dog against his chest, his foot pressing down on the gas.
We open our doors in synchronization, both of us rolling out of the car with the dogs close to our bodies. I take the hit so the dog isn’t injured, my body rolls for a while until I land at the side of the hill. Thorn is directly opposite me, he sits up and we both watch as the lovely, white car is thrown over the edge of the road and hits the water. The splash is magnificent.
We smile at each other, both of us checking on the dogs before we jog down the hill and head towards the loading docks.
“Where the hell have you been!” Pal shouts. “You’re missing the party!”
“Had some unfinished business to take care of,” Thorn shouts. “Does it have enough fuel?”
“It has enough fuel,” Nadia shouts from the front of the boat. “You got the key?”
Thorn throws the keys up to her and she catches them. Madison, Crasuel and Dominic are standing on the deck. Sky is already on the boat, she’s already said her goodbyes. I don’t even know where to begin.
“Thank you for your help,” Crasuel says to Thorn. He holds his hand out and Thorn shakes it.
“Screw that,” Madison says. “Thank you for saving our daughter.” Madison embraces him and Thorn stiffens, not knowing what to do or how to act. He doesn’t get hugged often, unless it’s myself. He breathes out with relief when she finally releases him.
“I’ll take care of her for the rest of my life,” Thorn says. “You and your pack are always welcome to visit.”
“We plan to,” Crasuel says. “We have the directions. Take care.”
Thorn turns towards Dominic and shakes his hand too. “Bye, kid.”
Thorn whistles for the dogs to follow him up the ramp, they wag their tails excitedly, like they’ve known him for years.
“Weird,” Madison says. “We don’t usually get that reaction from dogs.”
“I think we’re stuck with them now,” I say. “Did you mean it? Are you really going to visit?”
“We mean it,” she says. “It’s a long swim so you’ll have to give us some time but one day, we’ll be there. I can’t wait to see how much you’ve both blossomed in that place.” She rubs my chin tenderly. “I know that it doesn’t mean much, Devon. I know that I have no right to say this but. . . I love you. I have always loved you.”
“I know that,” I whisper, smiling at my father. “I’ve always known that, somehow.”
“Be happy,” my father says. “Don’t take a moment of it for granted.”
“I won’t.” I move on to my brother, who is shyly trying to avoid eye contact. I playfully hit his shoulder and he smiles. “I’m going to miss you, bro. Go easy on the alpha training, okay? Remember to have some fun too.”
He nods. “I’ll try to remember that.”
“Bye.” I wave to them as I walk up the ramp.
Thorn is waiting at the top and he presses a button that pulls the ramp inwards. The pack are cheering, everyone is in high spirits, especially the children. Sky joins my side and we wave goodbye.
That town has been my prison for as long as I can remember. It was Thorn’s too. It was Sky’s. It was all of ours. It is our prison no longer. We brave the ocean and the waves together, we follow our way to a new home, together.