A Gift from the Goddess Book Two – Chapter 19

“KIERAN!”

I screamed, throwing the car door open. After the initial shock of watching the scene unfold, my senses finally kicked back in and I jumped into action. There was no longer any hesitation within me. I just immediately sprinted towards him.

Moving as fast as I could, I was already reaching for my dagger before my feet had hit the ground, And the closer I got, the more of the commotion I could hear.

There was growling, a significant amount, and grunts of pain as the two rolled along the ground engaged in combat. But it was only as Kieran finally placed the man in a headlock that something truly bizarre happened.

Strange enough to make me instantly skid to a halt, now only a few feet away.

…Because despite the attacker being made completely powerless, he just easily gave up the fight without a fuss… and started to laugh.

I stood wide-eyed with adrenaline as I tried to figure out the situation, however, Kieran proceeded to just smile and help the assailant to his feet. A man with dirty-blonde hair and brown eyes.

“I see you didn’t lose your touch during the city vacation,” he said jokingly.

“For the last time; it wasn’t a vacation,” Kieran argued.

“I was working. At least one of us has to take our job seriously because you clearly like abusing yours.” He then raised an eyebrow.

“A warning howl, Daniel? Really? Was that absolutely necessary?”

The man named Daniel rubbed his neck and smiled guiltily.

“I just wanted to make sure our fearsome future leader didn’t get soft whilst hanging out with the humans.”

“Why? You looking to take my job?”

But Daniel just laughed at that and grabbed his shoulder in comradery.

“No thanks. I already have it hard enough to keep you in check as it is. I don’t need more responsibi—.”

Abruptly, he then stopped and turned towards me. “Woah, I didn’t even notice you. Where did you come from?”

Realizing that there was no danger, I quickly sheathed my dagger before he could see it. Whoever this was, he was evidently a part of the town. I knew it wouldn’t be a very good first impression to be seen attacking him.

…After all, I’d already done that once with Kieran, “Ah… I’m here with… -.”

I couldn’t get the words out though as Daniel then sniffed at the air and looked confused.

“You reek of Kieran,” he said as if that were a perfectly normal thing to say.

Immediately, my mind went blank as I wasn’t sure how to respond. Should I be denying it or brushing it off? It wasn’t as though we were officially dating or anything.

Truthfully, I didn’t even know what was happening between the two of us, let alone be able to start labeling it. If they really were old-fashioned here, did people need to be married first?

Were werewolf weddings a thing?

“She’s with me,” Kieran finally answered, taking a step forward.

“What? Like—.”

“She’s… with me,” Kieran repeated, emphasizing the words. I couldn’t see his face but I got the feeling he was trying to tell Daniel something. A little irritating, to say the least, but I was still too confused by the whole situation to press for answers.

Recognition seemed to cross Daniel’s expression though. Whatever had been saying was apparently enough to quell any prior issues as he then promptly turned to Kieran and threw his arms around him in a hug.

“Oh, man, I’m so happy for you,” he said.

“It took you long enough.” Kieran patted his back a few times, giving a light chuckle, but tried to pull away as soon as possible. Clearly attempting to downplay what was happening. Something I was still very perplexed about

Only it didn’t stop there either.

Daniel then turned his attention towards me and walked right up, bowing his head slightly as a hand covered his chest.

…And I simply stared at him.

What was he doing…?

Was this what Kieran had meant by saying the people here were extremely formal? I wasn’t entirely sure what to do as he had failed to mention it in the car.

…Should I be bowing back, or..?

I stood there a little awkwardly but thankfully the whole thing only lasted about a second. As he finally came back up, he proceeded to smile and held a hand out for me to shake. A gesture I was much more familiar with and one I quickly reciprocated.

“I’m Daniel Cooper. The Beta heir of the Ashwood Pack,” he said. “And Kieran’s best friend… though he will sometimes vehemently deny it.”

Right. I knew what that was… it meant that he was the eldest son of the second in charge. The son of the Beta.

“Nice to meet you,” I said, giving a small, polite smile.

“You can call me… Raven… Raven Reid.”

I felt a little uneasy saying it, especially in light of the conflict with my father. But I knew the reminders would continue to haunt me until I made a final decision. A choice to be left for another day and another time.

“Reid’?” Daniel asked, his brow creasing.

“I’m not familiar with any northern families with that name. Which pack are you from? Is it from the east?” I shuffled a little uncomfortably.

“Oh, well… I don’t actually belong to a pack….” Apparently, this was the wrong thing to say.
Instantly, Daniel’s demeanor changed. I saw as his eyes sharpened and all trace of the friendly persona vanish. Almost as though he were a completely new person.

…A person who was dangerous. And I took a step back, my hand instinctively starting to twitch towards were my dagger was waiting.

“What do you mean? Are you saying you’re a rogue—.”

But before he could get the question out, Kieran then suddenly stepped in and threw a hand over his mouth, pulling Daniel away. It happened so quickly that I flinched in surprise.

Was it a bad question…? I had no idea.

But whispering was soon the only thing I could hear, and although it was too quiet to pick up anything important, I did manage to catch a few words. ‘Human’ and ‘Father’ are the most significant.

…Spiking yet another flare of irritation from me. I didn’t enjoy being kept in the dark.

‘Calm. I need to be calm,’ I told myself.

And, internally, I sighed, pushing it out of my mind. Not knowing enough about this place, and wanting to avoid a fuss, I needed to do my best to not let things bother me.

When they did finally come back over, I admittedly felt a little stunned to see Kieran push a very ashamed-looking Daniel towards me.

“Apologies,” Kieran said, appearing annoyed. Daniel scratched his head and chuckled guiltily.
“Sorry, Raven… I hope I didn’t come across as rude. We’re just a little strict on… outsiders. The war might have ended a long time ago but I guess you can’t be too careful.”

It was similar to what Kieran had already told me; the closed-off nature of Ashwood. But I couldn’t help but pick up the mention of war again. I assumed this had to be the same one the suppressors were initially designed for.

The very medicine that was still in my system.

Cautiously, I just nodded my head in response, still wary of whatever had just transpired.

“Let the others know that we’ve arrived,” Kieran said, his friendly tone now gone.

“We’ll head to the house soon for introductions. Please also make sure that my father is advised.”

Daniel’s expression instantly became serious at that, a look exchanged between them that ended with a nod in understanding. It didn’t take long before he left to do what was asked.

Despite not stepping foot in the town yet, I already could sense the drastic differences from the city I was raised in. The manner, the speech, the terminology… it was crazy how swiftly it could change into something entirely foreign.

I was merely a few hours’ drive away and yet it felt like a whole different country. And Kieran seemed… different too.

Though not in a bad way. I was used to seeing him being caring and funny, but this was my first time seeing him in a new light. The light of someone who was a leader.

A definition that seemed vastly contrasted to what I knew of human mayors. He walked to my side and I could tell he was still angry. Whatever Daniel had tried to say was apparently bad enough that Kieran seemed outraged on my behalf.

“I really am sorry if he freaked you out,” he said, looking at me with genuine concern.

“Your situation is a little… unique and I didn’t have any time to send word that you were coming. He’s not a bad guy, I swear. He just… doesn’t really think sometimes.” Though I still wasn’t sure what Daniel had said, I’d only become guarded due to the circumstances.

But if he really was Kieran’s friend, then there was probably no danger at all. Just a misunderstanding. If anything, this was a good reminder that I didn’t need to act so cautious. That I wasn’t in constant danger and didn’t have to treat this like a job if I didn’t want to. I could just… be normal.

Be… someone new. Maybe someone less grim and a bit more positive. And so I reached out and grabbed his hand gently, instantly making his shoulders visibly relax.

“I’m okay,” I said, weaving my fingers with his, “I know better than most when it comes to people with trust issues. After all, how long did it take you to convince me?”

I gave him a small smile to lighten the mood, trying to persuade him that I really was fine. And, to my relief, it seemed to work. He quietly exhaled, releasing the last bit of tension he was holding on to “I haven’t even made it to Ashwood yet,” I joked.

“You can’t be getting this worked up already. Besides, I’m tougher than I look.”

He finally cracked a small smile at that, his normal manner returning.

“Come on then. Let me show you around.”

And we returned to the car.

After being waved across the border, Kieran began driving us up to the town. Only, it was nothing like what I expected. In my mind, this place had been a tiny settlement of houses and a few facilities, as would be expected from somewhere I’d barely heard of.

But it was actually far from it. Though not quite as large as Lockdale City, the town still had a bustling life about it.

After driving through a suburban area of nice houses, we finally made it into the heart of the town where it was complete with shops of all different varieties and even restaurants. If I didn’t know any better, I would have just assumed it was the wealthy outer suburbs of Lockdale.

How they managed to keep this place a secret though baffled me. A town this size so close by? I could easily see it being a popular holiday area. And yet they’d kept up the illusion of being a small country town this whole time. It was impressive.

Along the way, Kieran was pointing out notable things, landmarks, and other interesting places, but it was as we rounded a corner onto a new strip of shops that I saw something. A building that completely absorbed my attention.

“Wait, slow the car,” I quickly said, unable to look away.

He pulled over to the side as requested and I spent a moment taking in the detail. Though nothing more than a restaurant, the place looked far fancier than all the others we had passed.

Even from within the car, I could vaguely make out an open floor and beautiful furnishings, something I normally wouldn’t care about. But with this place, I felt an indescribable pull.

Kieran leaned over to see what I was staring at and laughed.

“Ah, yeah, that’s Rose & Thorn. Really great food. It’s actually my favorite restaurant.”

“It is?”

He nodded. “I’ll have to take you some time.”

“…I would like that.”

It was then that I finally tore my eyes away from the building to look over at him, only I found him much closer than expected. And, instinctively, my gaze moved to his lips. Almost as if I were subconsciously drawn to them.

That urge to kiss him was now stronger than ever, but I knew it was most likely caused by just the excitement of everything happening. A new place, a new world of possibilities. I was giddy from it all.

“Um… did you say we were meeting people somewhere?” I managed to ask quietly.

“Oh, yeah,” he said, moving back over to the wheel. He hadn’t seemed to notice my momentary change in focus. “Everyone should be there by now.”

And so we continued back on our journey, driving for another few minutes until we finally pulled up at a large property. Based on the gardens surrounding it, it seemed almost like a residential lot. Except, instead of a normal house, there was a multi-leveled structure that seemed a little strange.

“What is this place?” I asked.

But he just turned the car off and gave me a smile.

“This is my home,” he said. “…Welcome to the Ashwood Packhouse, Raven.”

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