Dad’s place was like a shrine of my childhood; even today, he still had my artwork framed on his walls, photos hung on the walls, and on all the furniture. Growing up, his entire life revolved around raising me, and his house showed that clearly.
Despite having done some horrid things in the past; he loved me, and that much showed. One thing I loved, though, was seeing that some of Valarian’s artwork and school stuff was also displayed like treasured possessions alongside mine. It was embarrassing that he kept some of this crap, yet I knew it meant something to him despite how crappy my art skills were. Dad cooked dinner for us and we watched movies, trying to keep the TV off after the media displayed everything from the challenge. Valarian didn’t need to see that or become involved in adults issues, so after the fourth headline, dad put a movie on.
Later that night, Valarian wouldn’t sleep without talking to his mother, so I let him call her. Still, he was restless, tossing and turning on the couch as I rested my head. My father had muted the TV, and we were watching it with captions.
“Everly alright?” He asks, and I nod.
“I have Tatum staying with her. He is outside the door,” I tell him, and he nods.
Our argument was broadcasted across every TV station. Luckily, no one knew what it was about, and John and Claire were tight-lipped and said no comment when interviewed. John even slapped one of the reporters for coming too near.
It was all on display, and assumptions were made, so it would only be a matter of time before they figured it out.
Dad had been quiet most of the night and let me be, though I could tell he was itching to say something. Turning my head, I looked over at him to find him watching Valarian, whose head was in my lap.
“Just say it. I can see it is eating you up, so out with it,” I tell him. Dad sighs and I turn my attention to him.
“Don’t make my mistakes,” he says, and I roll my eyes.
“I’m not abandoning her as you did, mum,” I tell him, and he takes a deep breath. He shakes his head.
“Your mother was a spitfire. When my father met her, he told her she would never be good enough for an Alpha. That her status was as low as a dog,” he says before laughing and shaking his head.
“You find that funny?” I ask him, shocked he would laugh over that.
“No, Valen. I don’t. I always regretted not standing up to him, but what she did next is what made me laugh,” he chuckles.
“What did she do?”
“She slapped him and said, no, your son isn’t good enough for me, and the only fleabag was the t**t standing in front of her.” he say then laughs.
“Bet grandpa didn’t take that well,” I tell him, remembering the old pr*ck. He was nasty right up until he died. Dad looked after him in his old age. He only lasted a year after my grandmother died.
“No, of course not. Yet I kept sneaking off to see her, and she did whatever she could to make sure he found out about it,” dad chuckled.
“She was right, though. I wasn’t good enough for her. Your mother was tougher than I was. It wasn’t about titles with her. She didn’t care I was Alpha, she didn’t care who my father was, and she sure as sh*t didn’t care that she pissed him off. She and her pack of rogues turned up to every council meeting, causing havoc. Yet no matter what she did, she never admitted to anyone that I was her mate.” he tells me.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“She knew it would cost my reputation, and she didn’t want to ruin it. Once my father stood down and handed the title over, she hoped I would help her, back her, and claim her.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“Because I was an idiot. I was scared of my father. Scared he would do something to her or her parents, and he did; I knew if I claimed her, he would kill her like he did her parents,” Dad says, looking down at his hands.
“Did she know it was him?” I asked him.
“I think she suspected it was. I never told her, but I don’t think I had to, so when my father found out, she was pregnant. He asked her to get rid of you. He wanted me to marry Stacey Langford, his Beta’s daughter.” Dad swallows and clears his throat.
“When you were born, she had you at that hotel. She didn’t even tell me. I snuck over to see her and found you. Dad had me on a tight leash, even froze all my trust funds, and I hadn’t seen her in months. I assumed she got rid of you, but there you were in your crib.”
“I couldn’t bear to leave and hid there for a few days. Dad came looking for me, of course. I always regretted that, wished I never went there because , he wanted to kill you and her when he found us. He said no rogue would marry his son and taint his reputation. I convinced him to let me take you and say she died,” he said, and I never saw him cry, but reliving whatever memory he was stuck in, I could tell that destroyed him.
“When you took Valarian today, Everly had that same look on her face, sheer panic. I get you’re upset, but never keep your son from her. Nothing killed me more than prying you from her arms and seeing that look on her face, hearing her beg for you back.” He shakes his head and wipes his face on the sleeve of his shirt.
“But dad would have made good on his threat. I knew that, and so did she. So she handed you over. She stopped fighting to protect you. I should have protected you both, and I failed her, and after that, she wouldn’t forgive me. She even asked me to kill her and put her out of her misery,” he whispers the last part.
“I snuck you to her, but when you started asking for her, I knew I had to stop, and even she said it was too risky. If the media found out, she would be destroyed by my father, and so would I.”
“I’m not taking Valarian from Everly, dad. I would never do that!” I tell him.
“I know, you’re better than me, you’re a better man, I know that, and I know you won’t give your mate up or your kids,”
“Then why tell me this?”
“Because you’re angry because she didn’t tell you, but what would you have done if you knew?” He asked me.
“Not let her enter the challenge for one,” I tell him and he nods.
“Exactly. She should have told you, but I get why she didn’t. She reminds me of your mother.”
“The fire in her, her will to fight for what’s right, no matter the sacrifice to herself, she would sacrifice herself for her people, and that is what a good Luna does, that is what your mother did for you and me and all the rogues when she rallied for them. I burned that fire out of your mother because I wouldn’t stand beside her and fight for her. Don’t make that mistake, don’t extinguish the flames that make her brilliant.” He says, leaning forward, he smooves Valarian’s hair with his hand.
“She didn’t raise him on her own because she wanted to. She did it because she had to. The rogues to Everly is all she had, and yet you expected her to give them up and tell you? Knowing she would be forced to stand down, I know you, son. You wouldn’t have let her enter, and Everly knew that too,”
“Yes, because she is pregnant!” I growled.
“And so is every other rogue that is relying on her to change those laws. If the Blood Alpha’s mate can’t change them, what hope do they have of it ever changing? It wasn’t about telling you or about her being reckless. It was about saving those who have no voice, all those other babies that will have it hard in winter while their mothers are scraping piss for formula.” He retorted. I sighed and scratched the back of my neck. This was so f*cked up!
“Everly sees the bigger picture, just like your mother did. She sees society for what it is and doesn’t sugarcoat it. She knew the risks, but she did it anyway because one, she knew you wouldn’t let her get hurt, and two, because even if she lost, she still fought, and it would still cause change. People would remember the Blood Alpha’s mate taking on her own father for the rogues, fighting for change, and change only happens when people start questioning their beliefs,”
“So you want me to forgive her just like that?” I asked in disbelief.
“No, son. I want you to stand beside her and fight for her like I wished I fought for your mother.” He says while leaning back.
“‘You know I will. As I said before, I am not leaving her or taking Valarian from her,” I tell him, looking down at my son.
“Then why are you here and not with her like you’re supposed to be?” He asks, and my brows furrow.
“It’s okay to be angry, but don’t walkaway like a coward. She will test you, but don’t you think you tested her enough? Five years is a long time to be on your own raising a kid and building an empire, yet she forgave you,” he says with a shrug. I sighed, yet I wasn’t sure I could face her, and I was still angry no matter her reasoning.
“I am not saying you don’t have to be angry, Valen. I’m just saying to be there. Everly has been on her own for so long and is used to doing everything independently. It would be hard for her to rely on anyone other than herself. You don’t have to forgive her, but go home. At least let her know you’re still there, and despite being angry, you love her and are still fighting alongside her.”