❝I threw myself to the wolves, only to learn of the tenderness in their howl and the loyalty in their blood.❞
The conversation between Santha and I implanted itself within my brain like a seed, slowly sprouting with each drop of information that caused its growth. It only fueled my curiosity about this world. I’ve come to know so much yet so little in a short period of time. There were still small meaningless questions that I wanted to ask, but I decided to keep them to myself to discover on my own.
I let her continue her enthusiasm over Arsen and I’s attraction with one another, her utterances of what’s to come between him and I slightly amusing me and honestly exciting my being as well.
Ever since then things haven’t been the same. Finally knowing what caused this connection between him and me, it was like it only added to the nerves of being around him; the knowledge of what we were made me revert to a shy girl around her crush. Fresh in my mind, I could no longer stand near him without my face lighting up like a Christmas tree of red.
He seemed to know of my odd behavior but was unknown to the knowledge that I had acquired. I tried my best to remain neutral, to not let those accidental contacts of skin between us get to me or the way his lingering stares would burn a delicious imprint on my body— all in all, it was a hard task.
On most days I would be left daydreaming about the possibilities and it only left a part inside of me giddy. Succumbed to my thoughts, I was oblivious of Santha’s presence looming behind me until her slender fingers curled upon my shoulder; an unearthly squawk seeped past my lips, as I lurch off the couch in a heap. From the kitchen, Arsen’s body becomes alert as he whips around to find the cause of the noise I made, only to find Santha giggling to herself; he relaxes as his gaze skates up and down my form with the twinkling appearance of mirth.
Heat surges from beneath my skin to my cheeks as I hoist myself from the ground with Santha’s help.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” she states, dusting my arm off for me. “You were so deep in thought that I couldn’t get your attention.”
“It’s okay,” I say, pulling strands of hair away from my line of sight while getting my bearings back.
In her eyes, the question revealed itself yet she kept her lips tilted in her regular smile.
“Well, I was saying that Marcus and I were talking a few days ago about you.” she begins, stepping away and slowly making her way back to the kitchen. “He was expressing his concern that he forced you to stay indoors and that he didn’t want you to feel trapped.”
Shaking my head, I can only offer her a smile of reassurance. “It’s fine, you aren’t at all. I forced this solitude onto myself.”
Her eyes flicker up and down my face, searching for something that wasn’t there. Those brown eyes seem to reach farther than the ocean that stretched across the world, with its intensity only increasing, I look away to escape the searching effect of her gaze only to find myself trapped in another cage; the capture belonging to none other than Arsen.
My vision blurs away the surrounding objects, only consisting of me and him in the small bubble that encased us, getting lost in the combustion of green, brown and a tinge of grey that resembled the earth: the longer I stared the more I started to see the visual of an extended hand inviting me further into the depths of them.
An electrifying heat surrounds my heart, spreading its warmth to the very cells and nerves that make up my being. The simple act of looking at him put my body and limbs in a frenzy to do something that I wasn’t even sure of yet.
“How do you feel about meeting everyone tomorrow?” Santha’s voice brings forth a bucket of ice-cold water, that drowns me back to reality.
A small exhale of a chuckle passes through her mouth, “If you’re comfortable enough, we were thinking of a formal introduction to you and the pack– since a small portion of them know of your presence.”
I stare in her direction for a few moments, my eyes flickering about nervously.
“Sure. I have no problem with that.”
I changed my mind.
I didn’t want to meet anyone anymore. It seemed to have crossed my mind that everyone in the vicinity was of supernatural genes and meeting a pack of them sparked the arrival of an anxiety attack. Santha, Arsen, and Marcus have shown me there is nothing to fear when it comes to their kind just by their demeanors but I’m unsure about everyone else.
We long set out down the path that leads to where everyone else resides. The trail was different and longer than I expected— being that the first time down this path, I was unconscious. On each side, trees of all sizes littered the edges as we walked, bare and giving a clear visual of the forest beyond; the sun peaks and weaves through branches creating an array of darkened patterns on the ground.
Santha guides us, leaving Arsen and I walking side by side as we follow. With my nerves on high-end, I aimlessly tail behind her lost in thought, fidgeting with my fingertips and gnawing on my bottom lip.
“We’re almost there,” Santha announces, further causing my anxiety to rise.
Focusing on the way the snow flatted beneath the weight of my feet and taking the shape of the boots I wore, I notice the space between Arsen and I growing smaller; looking over, I caught his stare.
His thick brows furrow downward, in concentration, his lips puckering out in the attempt to speak. I wait patiently, but the way his eyes shift toward Santha’s back for a millisecond, he stops himself.
Shifting my focus around his face and gauging his expression, I more felt his concern than seeing it shine through the corneas of his eyes. There was this thread that probed at the back of my mind, the unconscious thought that this feeling of concern that overwhelmed me wasn’t mine but Arsen’s. Awed at the realization, I can’t help but think I was in for a ride of this mate situation.
To answer his question, I nod, the short flicker of thought to reach forward and give his hand a squeeze to promote that my answer was genuine— I immediately demolished that idea and presented him with a smile as if a war wasn’t going on inside my head.
He stares for a moment longer, satisfied, he gives a small smile of his own and turns away, resuming his focus on the path ahead of us.
I turned back to the problem at hand, finally noticing the thinned our trees that lead into a clearing that was filled with handmade huts forming a semi-circle around a huge pile of bark; and they’re scattered across different parts were people, of different skin tones, shapes, sizes, and ages. They all carelessly interacted with one another, the children that were out chased each other in circles, their giggles filling the air.
The fewer people that stood around the edge of the trees noticed our arrival, most greeted Santha and others slanted their gazes toward Arsen and I. With my nerves taking a toll on my focus, I lag beside Arsen, hoping his frame would do the job of hiding me from the ever-growing number of prying eyes that prickle my skin. He notices this, cutting his gaze to the ones that dared install any type of fear inside me, a deep rumbling growl resonates from his chest; quiet but the intention behind it loud and clear.
Santha swivels around at the sound, her eyes squinted with sternness. “Arsen,” she speaks, the power behind the simple word ceasing any further sound from him.
He huffs reluctantly and falls behind me, becoming a shadow of protection as it slides over my shoulders, down my front, and over my legs before coming back up and circling back where it started. The tension that inhabited itself in my chest, vanished into thin air with no essence left behind, bringing forth fresh air.
Straightening myself without the heavy feeling of anxiety, I observed the area for my knowledge: soaking in everyone’s intentions through their eyes and movements, caution of the community I was emerging into.
An older group of people sat on logs lined up with burned firewood in the center, the fresh smell of it drifting through my nostrils as if it has just been put out. Among the people stood Marcus, conversing himself in their discussion, I wasn’t the only one that noticed his appearance, Santha smiled contently.
As if sensing us, his eyes flicker upward and spot us out, first landing on Santha then Arsen and me. With a wave, he motions us over.
“This way,” Santha mumbles, changing directions and once more guiding us.
It was then when we crossed the clearing and away from the outer circle that more eyes began to accompany our backs as we sauntered through the snow and past people that stood close by. They stepped back, their eyes lingering more on me, an outsider to their territory. It didn’t take long before we reached where Marcus stood, Santha none to hesitate to slip by his side.
He gave her forehead a gentle kiss and pressed his cheek against hers fondly before shifting his attention.
“It’s good to see you out the house, Amelia,” he tells me, the corner of his lips quirking.
At his lighthearted demeanor, I couldn’t help but give him a smile back. Arsen shifts at my side resulting in the change in Marcus’ focus as he sizes him in question, it was short-lived when one of the women on the log cleared her throat. Looking her way, I find a stern-looking woman staring back at me, brows furrowed in a thoughtful manner as she assesses me up and down.
“Amelia, I would like you to meet Maarika—” he points to the woman that continued to stare me down, “Cade—” he motions to an older looking male, with pepper and salt colored beard but his eyes held stories. Dark stories. “Zainadine—” he points out a gentle like woman, her pure white hair giving her the appearance of an innocent girl. She smiles at me. “And lastly Taavi.” another gentleman with chestnut hair glanced at us with a charming glint in his eye.
“We call them ‘the elders’.”