“…Never mind. I’ve got to go,” I said quietly into the phone. “Rae, wait. What’s-.”
But I hung up before Zac could finish his sentence.
Sterling’s eyes looked from my face… to where I held the phone in my hands, and slowly clicked his tongue in disapproval.
“That would be a cellular device, I assume?” he asked, gradually approaching.” Are you aware that it’s quite a serious offence to use that here? A crime punishable by permanent banishment from the pack… or worse.”
I swallowed back the bile in my throat, feeling sick from just looking at Sterling. And yet he had the audacity to threaten me. I wasn’t the one who’d been selling illegal drugs for years. “I know it was you,” I said. “I know you were the one selling the suppressors to my father.”
And his approach then came to a stop, his head nodding in understanding.
“Ah… I see,” he said. “Then I suppose you’ll be wanting an explanation? A reason for why I did what I did? Maybe then you’ll be able to see this from my perspective. How… I’m not entirely the bad guy in all of this.”
I didn’t reply. It seemed too good to be true for him to just start telling me what surely had to be his darkest secret. Did he believe he had leverage over me now, knowing I had used the phone here? Or was this something else?
“I wouldn’t expect you to know this, but Victor and I are actually twins. Fraternal, of course,” he started. “Our mother had a complicated birth and, as a result, the two of us were delivered by C-section. Do you know what that means?”
I hesitated but shook my head. I wasn’t sure where he was going with this or how it related to the drugs, but I thought it best to just go along with it.
“It means that the doctor who ripped my brother out first was the one who decided which of us would become Alpha. A fact that has plagued me my entire life. I was always not quite good enough in the eyes of everyone else.”
Right… because only the eldest was given the title. I’d been told that ranks were based on birth, not merit. “It’s due to that unfortunate reality that I’ve coveted many of the things denied to me, things only bestowed upon my brother and nephew,” he continued,
looking away as if in deep thought. “I watched as my brother was praised as a strong leader, saw his success, his victory in battles. I saw as he brought stability and peace to, not only this pack, but to an entire nation that had previously been divided by war for almost a century.
And when he was finished, his work finally done… I found myself happy. Not for his accomplishments or his triumphs No, I was happy… because his mate then fell into a coma… and eventually died. It was due to his actions that ultimately led to her demise, reminding the world that the perfect man did in fact have flaws.
And it was on that day I realised I could carve my own destiny, my own future. I could… create my own pack. One where I would be the Alpha. Just as I always should have been.”
His own pack? It was clear that he’d been wallowing in his own envy for so long that he couldn’t see what he already had. A pack and family who I was certain loved him. A place to call home. Things that were denied to me for almost my whole life.
“…So I got to work immediately. Of course, I needed my own money to be able to fund such a feat and, as a result, I started selling the very drugs my brother had outlawed.
This is what I did for years, working hard on establishing a small black market network that specialised in suppressors, a secret formula known only to our pack. But, at the end of the day, it still wasn’t enough money.”
He then paused, his eyes moving back over to meet my own. “It wasn’t enough… until one day, I was approached by a smuggler, one looking to acquire some customised silver suppressors on behalf of a wealthy human businessman.”
…Miles. That had to be Miles, working as a smuggler on behalf of my father. “Of course, I was wary; after all, blessed silver is not an easy thing to get your hands on,” he said.
“But he’d found the right man for the job. Because it’s not completely impossible when you’re the son of the previous Alpha, ranked or not. Luckily, I’d grown up surrounded by the very people in charge of the resource’s management.” “So you decided to poison me?” I asked.
He chuckled darkly. “I didn’t know who you were, little bird,” he said. “I dug only so deep as to discover Eric Reid had a secret daughter and I put the pieces together.
My information stopped at basically your name and, ultimately, I didn’t care to look further. The deal was for the money and nothing more. It wasn’t… personal. Truthfully, I thought you’d be dead in a month anyway from the silver.
So imagine my surprise when you, not only survived all these years, but then also somehow found your way here, mated to my nephew no less.” “I don’t understand… why are you telling me all of this now?” I asked, still confused about why he was being so candid. There was only one explanation I could think of for why he would tell me… and it wasn’t pleasant.
No, it was one that made my eyes dart to where I’d concealed my dagger, only a few feet away under the mattress of my bed. I focused my mind, quickly preparing myself to move… and asked the question. “…Are you planning to kill me?”
However, instead of a fight instantly breaking out like I anticipated, he simply laughed instead. I jumped in surprise, the abrupt noise making my chest race. “Like I said… I’m a man who has always coveted the things I couldn’t have,” he smiled. “Truthfully, I had planned to kill you the day we met.
When I realised who you were and the threat of information you posed, I knew it would be important to cut off the loose end. But… but then everything changed.”
“…What changed?” I asked slowly.
And I knew I was about to regret asking when the way he looked at me then changed. His gaze scanned over me as if he were undressing me with his eyes, churning a feeling of revulsion inside me.
“What changed? Well… you smiled at me,” he said, taking another step towards me. “You shook my hand and… genuinely smiled at me, making me feel something inside I had never felt before.
And when I still couldn’t shake that feeling for several days, no matter how hard I tried, it was then that I conceded that, when I did create my new pack, I would be in need of a Luna. One to continue my legacy.” I stared at him incredulously, in disbelief I was really hearing this right now.
That he actually thought I would ever consider going with him. “You, little bird, were chosen by a higher power to become a Luna,” he said, holding his hand out towards me in invitation.”…And I want that for myself.”
Silence. Had he really just said that? I knew there was only one way to react to this, the most appropriate response for this very situation. …And I spat at the ground by his feet.
“You’re disgusting,” I hissed, taking a step backwards. But he then moved that hand over his chest as if in mock pain. “Am I? It hurts me to hear you say that. I thought we’d really connected,” he said sadly. “Perhaps
you’ll change your mind eventually. Maybe after a few pups, you’ll find a way to love me too.” “You’re insane. You don’t love me.
You just love the idea of screwing a girl who is already mated to your nephew; the future alpha,” I snapped. “This is just some twisted way of feeling like you got what you always wanted; what your brother’s birth denied you.”
However, he didn’t seem perturbed by my words in the slightest, as if he didn’t see any issue with what I was pointing out. No… he already knew and accepted it completely.
“I see no mark upon your neck,” he said. “He has yet to claim you as his. After tonight, he’ll no longer have that choice. Not when I take you as a chosen mate.”
He started to close the distance between us and I matched his step backwards, confused by what he was saying. Another example of my lack of knowledge worsening a situation. “…What? Mark? I don’t… I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
1 kept trying to move away, walking until I eventually felt the wall behind me. There was nowhere left to go.
I was trapped.
“A mark is the final step in solidifying a mate bond,” he explained. “Think like human marriages where it’s a vow between two people… except, instead of being able to divorce one day, a marked mate can only be parted by death.
As opposed to the conventional method of mate bonds, ones fated by the Goddess herself, a chosen mate is simply when two people mark each other by choice in spite of that system. A bite to the neck, claiming the other as theirs. That is the future I see for us, little bird.”
…A bite to the neck… that’s what my body had been craving from Kieran. So… it was a biological response. A result of the mate bond between us. That must have been why he was holding off, knowing the level of commitment involved. If a human proposed marriage after only a few weeks of dating, they would be seen as crazy. So I could only imagine how serious a mark would be.
“Don’t fight it,” Sterling said, still moving towards me. “Come quietly and I’ll be gentle. I have everything ready for the new pack; my suitcase is in the car and I’ve already left a note. All that remains now… is you. The final piece to my perfect world awaiting ine.”
He was close now. Too close. And with me having nowhere else to go, I could only react on instinct when he reached as if to caress my cheek.
…And I quickly slapped his hand away.
“Don’t touch me,” I warned. But my words fell on deaf ears.
And, as he attempted to reach for me again, I instantly shoved him backwards. Just hard enough for his legs to hit a table behind him, the corner looking as though it scraped his skin harshly.
“…You bitch,” he winced in pain, his teeth gritted. “I’m trying to do this without hurting you, don’t make me regret that sentiment. If you don’t come with me, you’ll be kicked out of Ashwood for the phone anyway. Really, I’m helping you.”
“I’m warning you, Sterling. Don’…..”
But, of course, he didn’t listen. And when he tried to move towards me again, aiming to grab at me more forcibly this time, I made sure he got the message.
…And I punched him across the face so hard that I heard his nose crack, blood immediately proceeding to seep from the area. “I said don’t touch me!” I growled. Hunched over, he looked back towards me, up through where his hand was trying to stop the bleeding, and I watched as a new determination then came over him.
A look that told me this wasn’t over… but, in fact, just beginning, Something that then quickly came to fruition as he pushed me to the ground. He tried to overpower me, relying on the extra weight he had over me to keep me down, but he had severely underestimated just how strong I really was. Within a matter of seconds, I had twisted my way back around to be on top, and swiftly
slammed his head against the ground. “Enough, Sterling!” I said, holding his head down by his hair. I could feel him squirming under me, trying to get free, but I had him overpowered.
“You were meant to be weak,” he huffed out slowly. “A poisoned whore ripe for The taking. Yet your strength doesn’t strike me as someone who’s been ingesting blessed silver and suppressors for four years.” Arold laugh left me at that, amused by his new choice of words for me. How quickly his attitude changed.
“Then maybe up the dosage next time,” I said. “Seems to me that your attempt at poisoning me was as pathetic as your life story.”
… That hit a nerve.
A low growl sounded from his chest as he looked at me with icy hatred.
“I should have killed you,” he said. “I should have taken the deal Miles proposed, killed you, and then stolen whatever was left of your father’s fortune.” But the mention of Miles took me off -guard. I didn’t know anything about a new deal but… I wondered if maybe Sterling was more involved than I originally thought.
“Deal?” I asked. “This being Miles Kennedy, I presume?”
His lip twitched into a bitter smile. “That’s the one. He works for your father so I guess you would know him too. How is he doing these days?”
But now it was my turn to smile.
“Dead,” I answered honestly.”…I killed him myself.” Sterling’s face immediately paled.
“You’re lying… He’s not dead. He only told me a few weeks ago that he’d gotten his hands on the documents. We’re meeting in a few days.”
…Wait… did he say… documents? And I felt myself freeze as realisation hit me. The contact for Miles had never been Victor… it’d been a different Lycroft all along, It had been… Sterling. “Documents…? What documents?” I asked. But of all the times for him to stop answering my questions, he chose now. Now, just as I was finally discovering the information that had started all of this.
Because he then bit his lip and did his best to look away despite my grip. “What documents, Sterling? Where are they? What is in them?”
“None of your business, little bird.” …And, just like that, I felt as if something inside me then… snapped. Because it was my business.
It was my family’s business and I knew those documents were important enough for my father to jeopardise so much to get them back. The very reason for me being allowed to come here.
And whether it was brought on by an accumulated hatred for everything Sterling had done to me, or.. my own overwhelming feelings of inadequacy that, despite working so hard to fit in at Ashwood and be better, had built up slowly every day, or…
Whether it was just an ingrained loyalty to my father that would never truly leave me… I felt that darker side of me awaken, now at my limit for just how much more I could handle.
I started to feel like… my old self. And I’d never had very much patience. “…That’s ‘Raven’ to you,” I corrected quietly, a calmness washing over me.
And as I proceeded to snap his finger along the joint, only his cries of pain sounded out in reply to my words. Not to worry though. I would have him talking soon enough.