The moment I saw the note the Vampire’s had left, I knew a plan would form in Lola’s mind. I wanted to blame her, but I couldn’t, as I would have done the same. I would have given myself up to save any member of my pack, but Lola was different.
The selfish side of me wanted to whisk her away, damning Breyona and Giovanni’s life in the process. Yet I couldn’t, because Lola would never forgive me.
I watched the gears turn in her head as we cleaned up the mess from the fight. She intended on turning herself in, that much was clear. My wolf and I were at odds.
He wanted us to take Lola far away from this pack, away from the Vampire King, while I knew we needed to respect her decision, even if it might tear my mate away from me.
Sean, Mason, and some of my other men scooped up the corpses and brought them deep into the woods. The easiest way to dispose of the bodies were to burn them. I wouldn’t allow them to be buried, to curse my land with their presence. They would be burned, their ashes cast far away from my pack.
The Vampire’s had toyed with my pack countless times, and the war was finally coming to a head.
I had made preparations weeks ago in case we suffered another attack, all we needed was information. Thousands of men had been brought in, from my pack, Zeke’s and Bran’s. Evacuation plans had been made, ensuring the safety of all those who couldn’t fight. Countless volunteers had stepped up to fight in this upcoming war, and each new volunteer brought on a new wave of pain.
These people–my people were willing to give their lives for their home. I wanted to spare everyone, to fight this war on my own.
‘Just as Lola wants to willingly walk into the enemy’s arms.’ My wolf grumbled, ‘You two are not so different. She’s taking on the position of Luna without ever knowing it.’
Save Lola, save the people of this pack, I wanted to do it all and yet, I knew it was impossible. I knew lives would be lost on both ends, but I continued wondering if there was something more, I could do.
Once the streets were cleaned up, and the blood gone from the earth, I took Lola back to the packhouse. Once her Dad and Grandma left, I led her upstairs, watching as she wobbled on her feet.
I noticed everything about Lola, the way her eyes would flutter shut when she got tired, or the way blush would stain her cheeks as she slept at night. She had me wrapped around her finger long before her birthday, probably since the moment I had met her.
“You smell like death.” I chuckled, a fluttering sensation in my chest as she blushed and rolled her eyes.
“You don’t smell so wonderful yourself, mate.” She smirked, making a show of smelling me, her small nose scrunching up.
If only she knew what she did to me, she might never let me live it down. Every expression that crossed her face left me in a perpetual state of awe. I’d watch as her plush lips turned up in a smirk, and a sly glint cross her eyes. If it weren’t for all of the drama going on, I would have long ago locked her in my bedroom and finished the mating process.
Every smirk, every touch was beginning to drive me mad. This was how the mate-bond worked, it would drive us closer and closer, until the process was complete. The jealousy, the frenzy wouldn’t end until her first heat had subsided.
It was in the shower that I noticed Tristan’s mark still on her skin. The wretched Vampire had marked her against her will, and decided he had some false claim over her.
The one thing I refused to take away was Lola’s choice. She often acted and spoke before thinking, but I would never take that away from her. Tristan declared himself her mate long ago, confident though he had been utterly mistaken.
“His mark is still there.” I grimaced, unable to keep the growl from escaping my lips. I traced over the vulgar mark, wishing I had been there that night.
“I asked the shadows. They said I have a mate for each side.” Lola frowned, looking truly torn. Her sadness evaporated some of my anger, as I was now distracted with the urge to remove her frown from her face. “I asked them to remove it, but the price was too much.”
I wondered what the shadows had asked for. Was it another life? Did they want someone else to die to wipe the mark from her neck? I would gladly kill a thousand Vampire’s to pay that debt.
“What did they ask?”
“They wanted our mate-bond.” Her voice was soft, though my stomach dropped. I could hear the fragility of her voice, how she desperately wanted his mark removed, and yet she absolutely refused. She would rather remain connected to that Vampire than destroy the bond between us.
I knew it was ridiculous, that there was no need to ask. I could see how Lola felt about me every time her eyes met my own, but I needed to hear her say the words.
“And what about this Vampire?” My voice emerged in a guttural snarl, “What do you feel for him?”
Her words had worked their charm, calming my wolf like a sedative.
“I feel nothing for him, Asher. Nothing compared to the way I feel for you.”
The sincerity in her words made my control slip, and I found her in my arms, my lips against her own. Lola hadn’t been my first kiss, but she had been the first to ignite so much emotion within me. I had been loved, and loved in return, but I had never been in love.
So desperately in love that I was willing to sacrifice everything I cared for, everything I worked for, just to keep her safe. The emotion was raging and uncontrollable, but I couldn’t fight it even if I tried. We pulled away for oxygen, a useless necessity that tore her from my arms.
We slipped into bed, every inch of her milky skin on display. Not that she would admit this, but I knew she enjoyed sleeping bare as much as I did. I had caught her eyes roaming me when she thought I wasn’t looking, and enjoyed every ounce of attention I received from her.
As devious as she acted, her innocence shone clear in her eyes. Her face always gave her away, blush filling her cheeks anytime I caught her gaze straying downward.
With her in my arms, all of the stress cleared from my mind. Her delicate scent of vanilla and pears calmed me, wiped all worries from my mind. Her soft breaths fanned across my chest; her body molded perfectly into my own.
“Tell me about your family.” She asked, surprising me yet again.
I smiled as I heard the sleep mixing into her words. She wouldn’t stay awake much longer, that I was sure of. Lola was always quick to fall asleep, and could be a nightmare when you woke her up.
In the mornings, her hackles would raise and her bright eyes would narrow at anyone who dare woke her up. It was another thing I had quickly come to love, something that made Lola that much more beautiful and adorable in my mind.
“My Mom’s name is Claire, my Dad is Killian. They had a rough start as mates, but it worked out in the end. I have an annoying little brother, Brandon, and a couple cousins.” I told her, giving her the shortened version as she was quickly on the verge of sleep. “What else would you like to know?”
My Mom Claire, had hated the idea of finding her mate. My Dad had been an asshole at first, but quickly fell under the pull of the mate-bond.
It took a truly awful person to abuse their mate, to treat them badly. Though my Dad held the same cruel reputation as I, he had never harmed my Mom. Sometimes I could see parts of my Mom in Lola. The sheer strength, the courage to risk it all. They were both so alike, and yet so very different.
“Where are they now?” She asked, her silky words slurred sleepily, and I smiled as she yawned loudly. “How did they have a rough start?”
“I sent them away when all of this began. My Mom, Dad, Brother, Aunt, Uncle, and cousins are all someplace safe.” I assured her, “As for my Mom, she dealt with some things when she was younger, things that came back to haunt her. Dad wasn’t so understanding at first, but eventually he came around.”
I didn’t mention the specific details, hoping Lola might ask her when they finally met. I had heard the story of my Mom and Dad meeting countless times, how he had tried to force the bond between them, and Mom retaliated. Dad told me she had bit him a number of times, something I could easily see Lola doing.
When I was old enough to understand, I asked my Mom what happened to her all those years ago. Even with a rough start, and ghosts from the past, Mom and Dad had made it work.
“They sound really nice.” Lola cooed, the sound making my heart flutter. Anything else she planned to say fizzled out as a quiet snore left her lips.
I chuckled at her soft snores, running my finger along the blush on her cheeks. With Lola in my arms, sleep had come easily, pulling me into its endless depths.
I had woken up before Lola, a usual occurrence as she somehow could manage to sleep half the day away. After the long night we had, I figured I’d let her sleep for another hour or so.
I headed down to the kitchen, grabbing a bottle of water and a Tupperware container of Lola’s Grandmas cookies. Lola had a strange addiction to anything her Grandma baked, and could eat her cookies by the dozen. Her and Zeke had easily gone through four containers. Their stomach ache lasted for hours, though they both deserved it.
“Cookies for breakfast?” Lola asked, her eyebrow raised as the strolled into the kitchen.
I watched in silence as she made herself a cup of coffee, noting how her jeans hugged her full hips perfectly. Her round bottom was on display, and though it wasn’t her intention, she was teasing me mercilessly. I had half a mind to skip work today and carry her to the bedroom.
Instead of acting on my impulses, I snorted at her comment. “Can you blame me? You and Zeke ate everything last time. I never thought lavender cookies would be this good.”
My own Mom had been absolutely horrible in the kitchen, though her skills improved over the years, her cookies were nothing like this.
“Never underestimate Grandma’s baking.” She shook her head, her raven hair fanning out from the motion. “She’ll have you on the ground if she hears you doubted her incredible skills.”
“Just as I have no doubt, she could defeat me.” I chuckled, though the feeling of comfort was short-lived.
“I’m going to turn myself in.” Lola spoke up, her plush lips pressed tightly together. She had never been one to procrastinate, and I knew this conversation was coming.
I had watched her plan formulate in her mind for hours last night, and knew she would eventually act on it.
“No.” I replied, my wolf speaking the word for me. He was desperate to keep her at our side, and was willing to lock her away if need be. I was constantly fighting him for control, to give Lola the chance to make her own decisions. “They’ll kill you, Lola. Have you thought this through?”
I already knew she thought this through, as I had watched her mull over the plan for hours. Her face would contort in determination, just to fall in sadness. I knew she worked through every possible variable, though this plan was far from safe.
“You know I have, and I don’t think they’ll kill me. I’m the Vampire King’s only daughter, he needs me to take the throne. My Mom’s dead, so he can’t have any more children.”
She said, taking a deep breath before continuing. “I’m going to turn myself in and gather as much information as I can about where their headquarters are. We know nothing about the Vampires, Asher.
We don’t know where they sleep or where they come from. When this war happens, we’ll be blind. We can’t afford to let them have the advantage.”
She was right, horribly so. We needed this information, any information to give us a head start. It would take time to evacuate the people in this town, to get the elderly, pregnant, sick, and children far away from the battlegrounds.
The Vampire’s would tear them to shreds without a second thought, uncaring if they were unable to defend themselves.
I had spoken with Giovanni yesterday, and hated myself immensely for not asking the location of their headquarters. I had been too hellbent on understanding Tristan and Lola’s Father. Giovanni told me all he knew, that Tristan’s infatuation with Lola had to do with her place on the throne.
He wanted to stand by her side, to rise to power along with her. Lola’s Father wanted her for the same reason. As his sole heir, she was the only one able to take the throne. The Kouritis bloodline couldn’t be allowed to end, the power of controlling the shadows vanishing completely.
“And what about your heat?” I asked, my voice dark.
Too much could go wrong if Lola were to go into heat around the Vampire’s. They wouldn’t be affected the way a werewolf would, but I knew none would dare refuse her advances, especially Tristan.
She would throw herself at any male, desperate to end the fire burning beneath her skin. Lola wouldn’t be to blame in the situation, but it was a risk I desperately did not want to take.
“I’ll have to get my information before that happens.” Lola grimaced, and I knew that this was one of the downfalls of her plan. She had thought over this fact, but couldn’t come up with a solution. Once you had marked each other, there was no stopping your heat.
“I’ll have two weeks at the most, but I’ll get it done in a week. I won’t be anywhere near them when my heat hits. I’ll find a way to mind-link you, then you and a group of men can come and meet me at the entrance to wherever the Vampire’s go during the day.”
I remained silent, mulling over her plan myself. If everything were to go perfectly, we could have the upper hand in this war. We would know where the Vampire’s hide during the day, and hopefully gain information on when they planned to attack.
It would be a fool’s mission to bring the war to their turf, but if we knew the timeline of their plans, we would have a better chance at winning.
“And what if they place silver on you? You won’t be able to contact me. I can’t let that happen. I won’t let you sacrifice yourself for this pack.” I shook my head, my chest constricting painfully at the thought of handing Lola over to our enemies. Any number of things could happen to her, and I wasn’t sure I’d survive in a world without her.
“Tell me you wouldn’t do the same.” She pressed, her eyes bleeding with desperation. “Tell me you wouldn’t risk everything for this pack’s safety. I’ll figure out a way around the silver, I’ll send the shadows to tell you if I must, but I need to do this.”
She was right, she was right and we both knew it. I closed the distance between us, determined to keep her close, to claim every inch of her before she left–before our future became uncertain.
Our k!ss wasn’t hasty, it wasn’t burning with unbridled passion. This k!ss was one of longing, one of an unspoken future where I woke up beside Lola each day.
A future where we grew old, where we had a lifetime to decide, to have children, to love each other. The kiss was one of fear, one that showed just how terrified I was of losing her.
I had survived on my own for so long, living in the dark until I became accustomed to it. Lola was my light, and I had been blinded by her for so long. Now that my eyes had finally adjusted, I couldn’t go back to living in the dark–to living without her.
As our lips melted together, our worries, hopes and fears mingling, I skimmed my tongue along her soft lip. Just as her lips parted, I pulled away. Her breath fanned across my face, sweet like coffee creamer.
My heart hammered in my chest, and I stifled the fear that threatened to explode within me.
“Don’t you dare die on me, Lola.” I whispered, my forehead against her own. Her bright eyes were wide, but brimming with emotion. She didn’t want to go through with this plan, and I knew her wolf was having the same selfish thoughts as my own.
We could run, that had always been an option. To leave all of these innocent people to fend for themselves, hoping the Vampire’s would follow us instead of them. It was an option neither of us could stomach, one that would never see the light of day.
“I won’t, I promise.” She murmured softly, her small fingers trailing along my jaw. The sparks that caressed my skin did little to ease the fear boiling with in me, a feeling I was coming to loathe. “I’ll always find my way back to you.”
I believed her, and I knew she would find me again.
“You better. I’m not sure I’ll be able to let you go.” I breathed, giving her an empty chuckle. My wolf was fighting me at this very moment, demanding we protect our Luna at all costs, demanding we come up with some kind of plan to spare her from the Vampire’s.
“It’s because you love me that you’ll let me go.” She smiled softly.
She was right. I loved her too much to tear her away from her pack and family, I loved her too much to take away her choice. I would follow her anywhere, and knew that no matter how this war ended, we would never be apart.
“In that case, you’re spending the day with me.” I smirked, but the expression was halfhearted.
I wasn’t planning on letting her out of my sight today. I couldn’t afford to be as selfish as I wanted, selfish enough to whisk her away, but I could afford this. I would keep her by my side until the very last moment, until I was forced to let her go.