Cai finally let me go at the revelation unfolding before us and took a step towards her. A turn of events that none of us had expected.
As the initial mate bond moment then finally ran its course, so many emotions flashed across his face. As if you could physically see the different thoughts running through his mind, put on display for everyone i in the room.
Confusion, recognition, happiness… and then quickly followed by guilt, shame, and regret.
And, as he finally tore his eyes away to look at me, I immediately knew what he was thinking.
Because I was partly thinking it too.
Of all the people for Cai to be mated to, only Myra could have made us feel so genuinely terrible about what we did. Or, in Cai‘s case, significantly worse.
Because I‘d slept with my best friend‘s mate… and Cai had also slept with the woman who killed her.
This was… messy.
“Myra… I‘m so happy to see you,” he said, unable to even meet her eyes.
But the look of hurt on Myra‘s face said it all. She didn‘t understand what was happening and Cai‘s reaction to their mate bond was probably only making it worse.
“Cai…? You‘re my… mate?” she asked quietly. “How… how can that be possible? I‘m not ranked.”
However, there wasn‘t any further discussion made on the topic. No, instead Cai quickly turned around, confliction still evident across his features.
“…I‘m so sorry,” was all he said.
And before Myra could say anything else, he instantly started to leave the room.
Or, at least, tried to.
I quickly ran after him, reaching out my hand just as he made it to the door, and caught him before he could get too far.
“Cai,” I hissed quietly to him. “Wait a second.”
“Aria… I can’t… I’m not…,” he started, fumbling for the right words. But I knew what he was trying to say.
I‘m not good enough.’
And I completely understood where he was coming from.
Truthfully, I felt sick at myself too. Somehow, I‘d let Myra convince me that she wasn‘t interested in Cai all those years ago. I should have known better and trusted my instincts.
It was so obvious that she had feelings for him. Thinking back now, I wondered if she was just projecting that through me instead, living vicariously from a false belief that she would never have a chance herself. If only she‘d known.
I even made perfect sense for them to be together. They had the opportunity to meet in high school and would have balanced each other out perfectly; Cai and his old playboy antics would have been straightened out immediately from Myra‘s sweet nature, and Cal would have done wonders for Myra‘s confidence issues.
Before her death, she had already been blossoming into a much stronger, more vocal person. Robbed too early of her full potential, she was someone I always said would fit a Luna position perfectly
But, more disturbingly, it also held a puzzle piece missing from the timelines.
…Because they were both originally destined to die.
Now things were complicated, a lot of history and errors being made in her absence… but it wasn‘t necessarily impossible to fix.
Especially since now, more than ever, they would need each other,
Cai‘s trust issues ran deep from where Thea had hurt him. I was sure that if it were anyone else standing before him, claiming to be his mate again, that he would be sceptical. Possibly even completely unwilling to accept it.
But this was Myra.
Someone we both knew extremely well. I knew he had his own form of close friendship with her, the two of them exchanging letters even after he returned home. For a period of time, Myra was probably closer to Cai than I was
So, if anyone was able to help him let go, move on, and be happy… it was Myra.
Myra, who had never held a grudge or ill wish against anyone, and the kindest person I had ever met.
Myra, who would be understanding and forgiving of the struggles he endured.
…Myra, who also just so happened to need someone supporting her through the beginning of her new life. A probably traumatic experience after more than two years absent. She would benefit greatly from Cai helping her adjust and warm up to all the changes.
No, they were still perfectly balanced.
In fact, I couldn‘t think of a better fit.
“I get it,” I said to him, moving to grab his hands gently. “But I think if you walk out that door right now, you‘ll regret it for the rest of your life. The worst possible thing you could do is ruin this moment before you‘ve even given her a chance to decide.”
“Aria…,” he said, teeth gritted.
“She needs you, Cai,” I pressed. “Be the man she thinks you are and show her you‘re not defined by your past mistakes. I think you‘ll find she‘s more forgiving than you realise. This is Myra, after all, a girl who has been in love with you since we were fourteen.”
He closed his eyes and frowned, still unsure, but after another few moments had passed, he finally nodded. Taking what I said to heart, he straightened back up, took a deep breath, and rubbed his face to refocus.
“Okay… okay,” he said. “I‘ll just… I‘ll just go back there then… ahhh, how do I look?”
I laughed and took a step away to observe his appearance.
“You look like your only friend died three days ago and you haven‘t slept since,” I joked, remarking on his more rugged condition. “Aww, how sweet of you. I‘m flattered.”
He just nodded his head, clearly too nervous to actually listen to what I was saying. A first for Cai, I was sure. I doubted any woman had ever made him so self–conscious before but I knew the pressure would b e immense.
“Alright, stop stalling,” I smiled. “You‘ve already kept her waiting.”
With a final thankful look towards myself, he slowly walked back over to her bed and sat in the chair, closing the curtain before he did so. A chance for them to talk in private and salvage what he had almost royally messed up.
“Hey… Myra…,” I could hear him say before he lowered his voice.
And I couldn‘t help but feel a little overwhelmed by how perfect things had worked out.
“I hope those tears aren‘t from being sad,” Aleric suddenly whispered by my ear, wrapping his arms around my waist from behind.
“I‘m not crying…,” I started to say, but as I reached a hand up to my face, I realised he was right. “Oh. No… I think these are happy tears.”
I‘d been so caught up by it all, I hadn‘t even realised.
“Come on,” he said, gently tugging my arm to the door. “Give them some space.”
And I knew he was right.
I followed him out, feeling as though I‘d aged another ten years with how intense everything became upon waking up. But it had been worth it. Every second of it.
Now just the two of us, in the silence of the hallway outside, the fatigue was finally catching up with me and I felt my eyes sting from exhaustion.
“Time for snacks and bed?” he asked, watching me fail to stifle a yawn.
I merely nodded, too sleepy to reply, and leaned into him for support.
“Alright, I got you,” he said.
And he picked me up in his arms, walking us back to the car.
I immediately nestled my head into his neck, greedily taking every chance I could get to be close to him. I didn‘t want to waste any time, not even a second. Not after everything we‘d endured to get here.
“So… What are we going to do tomorrow?” he asked quietly as we walked. I could feel the vibrations from his chest as he spoke, making me melt against him more.
But, despite my otherwise preoccupied thoughts, I did take a moment to consider his question. Just a small moment was all I needed before a smile spread across my face.
Because, now living a life of endless possibilities, without Thea or Selene breathing down my neck at every turn, there was only one answer to that.
One very simple answer.
“Tomorrow…?” I repeated. “Tomorrow… we do whatever the hell we want.”
SIX MONTHS LATER *
“Aleric,” | moaned as his hands began roaming my body.
We‘d been in bed all morning, procrastinating all of our duties on possibly the most important day of our hives. But somehow that knowledge had only made it feel all the more exciting.
“Seriously,” I said, though nothing about my tone implied anything remotely serious. “We need to get ready. We‘re going to be late.”
I felt as he then started making his way over my body, planting little kisses everywhere, until he eventually landed by the mark on my neck Or rather, his mark.
A shiver ran through me as he touched the sensitive flesh there, a gasp escaping my lips. A pleasure stemming from where he‘d permanently claimed my body several months earlier. And whilst the contacth e made now was small, it was enough to cause my wolf to stir inside, adding yet another force to argue with as we wasted precious time.
“Aleric, please,” I whined.
But my efforts of refusal were now beginning to sound like pleas for more.
“It‘s fine, we can just be a little late,” he said, starting to gently nip my ear. Something that was making it increasingly more difficult to think properly.
However, before he could get much further, suddenly a loud knocking sounded from the bedroom door, preventing any further activities.
“…Alpha, apologies…,” a voice said from the other side. “You asked me to remind you when it was time to get ready….”
Aleric let out a quiet growl next to me in irritation. “I hate your new attendant.”
“No, you don‘t,” I said, untangling myself from his arms to get out of bed. “My last two got me killed. You just hate that this one will interrupt us when we have more important commitments.”
And he looked as though he was debating internally which was worse.
| shouted to the attendant that I appreciated them letting me know and that I would get ready, before turning back to Aleric laying in bed. He was watching me hungrily as I stood before him still completely naked.
“I‘m having a shower,” I said, dismissing his gaze. “You should get ready too.”
But grabbing my clothes from the wardrobe, I could still feel his eyes on me the entire time, prompting me to finally turn around and see him smiling at me. A cause for suspicion.
“… What is it?”
“No, no, that sounds great,” he said, getting out of bed. “I‘ll join you.”
There it was.
“No,” I said so quickly that he‘d barely finished his sentence. “Somehow, I have a feeling that you‘ll manage to make us even more late if I let you, so go get ready in your old room. I‘m already questioning whether or not I‘m going to have time to do my makeup thanks to you.”
I looked at my reflection and sighed. Of all the days, today needed to be perfect. I really should have tried to be more organised and now only had myself to blame.
Aleric then came up behind me and kissed my temple, his hands gently touching my shoulders as he did so.
“You‘re so beautiful,” he said, meeting my gaze in the mirror.
And it was almost enough to make me give in to his incessant badgering.
“Nice try.” I said. “Now go get ready.”
He gave me a final smirk before leaving to do as I‘d asked, and before the hour was done, the two of us were finally on our way to the meeting hall.
“Nervous?” he asked as we entered inside, walking to the main room.
“Of course,” I replied. “How could I not be? Aren‘t you? Today, we‘ll be making history.”
He gave a small shrug and smiled. “You organised it all so I luckily don‘t have anything to worry about.”
I shook my head but had to laugh. Of course, he would think that.
But it was as we were about to enter through the double doors that someone then approached us, delaying us further.
“Alpha,” they called out. “Apologies, I just need a moment of your time.”
And both Aleric and I turned around, automatically responding to the title.
We looked at each other for a second, staring with blank expressions. But as realisation set in, we both found the situation amusing. This was probably going to be an ongoing issue, soon to be made even more complicated after today.
Finally, after another moment had passed, Aleric was the one to step forward. Much to my relief.
“I‘ve got it,” he said. “You go get everyone settled.”
| quickly nodded and gave him my thanks. Judging by how the person was dressed, they were most likely a border warrior. Something better suited for Aleric‘s expertise, having spent significant time amongst them during his training growing up.
Tentatively, I then pushed open the double doors of the meeting hall to see everyone else had already arrived, all chatting quietly to each other. A confirmation that, yes, we were the last people to get here, much to my embarrassment.
Everyone met my eyes as I walked past them, a small nod in greeting as I did. Just enough to acknowledge respect but not needing to take away from the conversations they were already engaged in. I was the late one, after all.
However, it was the two people in the corner that drew my attention the most. The only two to not immediately look in my direction when I entered.
Myra and Cai.
They were talking animatedly to each other, completely engrossed in their own little world. A sight that always made me happy to see.
Well, up until Cai wanted to push buttons. Something Myra was exceedingly great at keeping in check.
I watched as Cai leaned forward, tilting his head ever so slightly towards the crowd, and whisper something in a low voice. It was then promptly followed by him erupting into laughter.
Whatever he said immediately caused Myra‘s face to turn red in embarrassment, outraged by his remark. Something she quickly reacted to by dealing a light smack to his arm, looking up at him with a grumpy expression.
“You can‘t say that, Cai!” she scolded, making him laugh harder.
Their little banter went on for another minute before finally, all was forgiven with a smile from Cai and a quick kiss to her forehead. A show of just how close they‘d become in such a short amount of time.
In fact, the two spent most of their time together. It made me happy to see their level of intimacy in light of all the issues that had threatened to keep them apart. A love that transcended even fate trying to kill them both off. Twice.
Suddenly, I felt as an electricity then washed over me, sending little shivers through my body, and I knew that meant Aleric had finally returned. Ever since he‘d marked me, I‘d get tingles whenever he was close by. A great added bonus, though unexpected.
Sure enough, when I turned to look behind me, he instantly met my gaze with a small nod and smile. It was reassurance that everything was fine and that we were good to go ahead.
It was time.
“Everyone!” I announced loudly to the room, causing them to slowly hush. “Please take a seat and we can get started now. Apologies for keeping you all waiting… but we all know how terrible Aleric is with morning deadlines.”
This earned me a few laughs from the crowd before they went to take their seats at the table, looking up at me expectantly once they did so. A myriad of familiar faces, full of those I considered both friends and family.
My parents, Iris, Elder Luke, Brayden, and Alexander, to name just a few. And, of course, Cai and Myra. All of whom I knew this would have been impossible without.
Without these people, we couldn‘t have even dreamed to accomplish what we had planned. A place of equality and mutual respect, utilising our individual strengths to our collective benefit. A place of greater than just their one leader or status, but rather required multiple facets to make them as strong as possible.
“Welcome, everyone,” I started, unable to stop myself from smiling. “It‘s been a crazy last few months finalising the merge and I really want to extend my thanks to everyone who made it as seamless as possible. But today, finally, we‘re able to have our very first meeting.
A meeting that will mark us forever in the history books, forever changing traditions. A meeting of laying the foundation for our legacy.”
I took a small moment to pause, trailing my eyes around the table until they finally landed on Aleric, Cai, and Myra. Their expressions only mimicking my own as they shared in this monumental event.
“So, without further ado, I‘d like to officially announce what we‘ve all been waiting for,” I said, holding out my hands. “From today onwards, we are no longer just a pack, neither the Winter Mist nor the Silver Lake. But rather today marks the day that we will forever be known as one thing….”
“So, welcome, everyone,” I continued. “Welcome to the Council of the Silver Mist. Let the meeting begin.”
The End. (Epilogue in next chapter)