“Now it’s just you and me,” I smile at Zane, the wolf staring at me with anxious eyes.
“Relax,” I chuckle.
“I don’t bite.”
The nervous look never leaves his eyes as I drag him back to the park.
During the first part of our date with Kota, I watched Zane carefully, noticing how excited he got over such simple things like Dippin Dots or the disco music that was playing during the rides.
It’s obvious this is his first time seeing an amusement park before, leaving me to wonder what else he had yet to experience.I take him to the nearest roller coaster, explaining to him the thrill of dropping and rising ona train.
He doesn’t seem convinced by my explanation, but he nonetheless humors me and gets on the train.
There’s a slight hint of fear in Zane’s eyes as the ride operator locks us into our seats, the automated announcements telling us to keep our arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times.I reach out to hold Zane’s hand and comfort him, interlocking our fingers to let him know we were going to be okay.
The train shoots out of the station, Zane’s eyes widening as we rush down a track, making a sudden sharp turn and climbing up the first hill.
“Hold on tight!” I squeal, growing excited for the drop.
The anticipation grows as the entire park shrinks before our eyes, the sun setting off in the horizon.
The pretty view distracts Zane temporarily before we reach the apex and look down at the drop.
Someone behind us shouts before we race down the hill, a camera flashing as we zoom past it territied and amused by the sharp turns and sudden drops.
A huge grin is plastered on his face when we get off and I can tell he wants to ride again.
We make our way to the photo booth at the end of the ride, and I laugh my butt off when I see our picture.
I’m smiling like a lunatic with my arms raised in the air while Zane has a look of absolute terror, his eyes and mouth wide open in fright.
“I’m buying it,” I giggle, Zane’s ears turning red in embarrassment.
“And I’m going to frame it.” He shakes his head in horror, as if willing me not to buy it but I give him a stern look.
“This is a picture of your very first roller coaster,” I sigh.
“And I want to remember being the one who shared that moment with you.”
His entire face turns redder than a tomato, the edges of his lips slightly curving up in a little smile.
Satisfied that I can now keep the picture, I hand the money to the clerk and receive two copies of our photo.
“Hehe, now I get to remember the look on your face forever,” I tease him, shoving the pictures in my purse before he can take them from me.
We go on a few more roller coasters, Zane nervous about each one but coming out of each ride with a contagious smile on his lips.I spot a cotton candy stand and buy two big clouds of cotton for each of us, Zane staring at the large pink cloud with a puzzled look on his face.
“Open your mouth,” I laugh, tearing off a piece of his cotton.
Zane hesitantly follows my orders, slowly hanging his mouth open.
“Now, stick your tongue out.”
He once again does as he’s told and I place the little cotton fluff on his tongue, his eyes lighting up like a child at Christmas as the candy melts in his mouth, leaving the sugar taste in its wake lutty from my candy.
He holds it out to me and I raise an eyebrow at him.
“You want to feed me?” l ask.
He turns bright red again and lowers his gaze in shame, guilt quickly filling my mind.
Jeez, Talia, why are you such a b***h? I scold myself, opening my mouth and leaning in close to him.
His hand shakes a little as he deposits the little fluff in my mouth, the sugar spreading across my tastebuds.He smiles nervously so I offer hima smile in return and wiggle my eyebrows to ease the awkward tension between us.
“We should try the Ferris wheel,” I suggest, pulling him towards the giant wheel at the end of the park.
A young operator greets us and lets us into the little cage, Zane gripping onto the sides when it begins to rock upon our ascension.
“Relax, wolf,” I chuckle.
“It’s supposed to rock a little.Just sit back and enjoy the view.”
Almost as if on cue, we reach the top of the Ferris wheel overlooking the entire park, his breath hitching when he sees the incredible view.
“It’s pretty, isn’t it?”
I sigh, looking up at the glittering stars decorating the sky.
“I could stay up here for hours just watching the stars.”
I feel his gaze settle on me and I turn to look at him, my face flushing when I see the tender look in his eyes.
Turning my face to hide my blush, I sit back in our seats and watch the moon for a bit, listening to the laughter coming from the park.
Zane timidly inches closer to me, stretching his arms out in a yawn.
I do my best to hold back my laughter when he carefully drapes his arm behind my seat, knowing his face is probably bright red as he avoids my stare.
Seeing no real harm in indulging him on his little quest, I lean my body chest.
His body tenses with tear as I trace patterns on his broad chest, my heart growing heavy knowing he is likely suffering from trauma like the girls at the clinic.
“Thank you for today,” I murmur, avoiding his eyes for fear that I might actually cave and kiss him.
“I’ve never seen Kota so happy.That’s the best gift anyone could have ever given me.”
I curl up at his side, allowing him to wrap his arms around me.
He feels so warm and strong, and for a brief moment, I allow myself to imagine what it would be like to be his.
At first, the idea is calming, bringing me a sense of comfort knowing Kota would have a dad to look up to…but as with every potential partner I take interest in, the looming fear of betrayal casts a shadow of doubt.
While! could see that Zane and Kota get along just fine, one day Zane will want a pup of his own.
What will happen to us when I struggle to give him one? Will he find someone else, leaving me to pick up all the pieces of my heart again?
We go several rounds on the Ferris wheel, the thought lingering in the back of my mind serving as a gentle reminder to be careful.
I do not know Zane after all, and it is best I practice caution before diving in headfirst into another mate bond.
It’s not long before my hunger gets the best of me, and I text Aurora to let her know that we’re ready to come home.
We make our way to the alley, the portal opening to a candlelit picnic by the lake.
Aurora hurriedly lights the last of the candles set up ona large stone that will be serving as our dinner table, her Gamma, Evan, watching her in boredom.
“That’s enough candles, Aurora,” Evan groans.
“They’re already here.”
Aurora hushes him, turning to us with a smile.
“We’re leaving, I promise! disappearing in an instant look around at the incredible set up, admiring the attention to detail.There’s a large blanket on the ground with pillows and dishes scattered around it.A basket with a delicious scent coming from it sits in the middle of the blanket, a bottle of wine in ice resting beside it.
Pretty fairy lights illuminate the grass surrounding the picnic, the lake providing a pretty backdrop for our dinner.
“Did you do all of this?” I ask, wondering how much planning went into this arrangement.
Zane nods, taking my hand and leading me to the stone table.
He quickly arranges the plates and cutleries, producing two wine glasses for us.
I watch in awe as he pulls out containers of fruits, cheeses, macaroni salads, sandwiches, fried chicken, cookies, and even a small chocolate cake, allowing him to serve me.
He watches me while I eat, as if to see if I’m enjoying the food.
“This is delicious,” I say as I finish up my plate.
“Who made the macaroni salad?” He slowly spells out Agnes’s name with his fingers and I mentally pat myself on my back for understanding him.
I had been practicing my signs over the past few days with the girls at the clinic.
“Well then I need this recipe because this is absolutely delicious.”
Zane puffs out his chest a little in pride at my compliment to his mother, bringing a tiny smile to my face.I like that his relationship with his mother is so close.
The silence once again takes over and we both awkwardly pick at our cake.
It’s difficult keeping up a conversation with a man who does not speak and I find myself running out of things to say with his simple replies.
He can tell I’m getting anxious and it seems to only make him nervous.the only real way we can: by laying all of our cards out on the table.
I clear my throat to catch his attention and put away my dishes back into the picnic basket.
“I had a mate once,” I blurt out, carefully wiping my wine glass before finally looking up at him.
“Christian,” I sigh.
I freeze, not sure what to do.
“He was Alpha.Very tall, very handsome,” She sighs irritably.
“Ya know, like every other Alpha you’ve ever met.Practically perfect in every single way, ” She laughs bitterly.
A cold shiver runs down my spine.
Alpha blood runs through my veins but I am far from perfect.
My own father made it very clear that lam no Alpha, reminding everyday just how worthless I am.
I will be a huge disappointment to her should she ever find out who I really am.
“I was shocked a guy like him would take an interest in a girl like me,” she says, her voice suddenly growing very small.
“I wasn’t a geek or a loner or anything like that,” she says with air quotes.
“I was just definitely not his type. Guess I’m still not his type,” she laughs sarcastically.
Her laugh doesn’t reach her eyes and she goes a little quiet, swallowing her emotions before continuing.
“But anyways, things moved fairly quickly, and we tied the knot shortly after he explained that he was a wolf.It wasn’t an easy thing to wrap my head around but it made a little sense.It explained why I felt like I was home with him.Like he was my home.”
She bites her lips and rolls her eyes, Grayson snarls at the idea of another man ever claiming her as his but I shove him to the back of my mind, reminding him that we did not have a right to be angry that she had a life before meeting us.
“We were…um married for 2 years,” She continues.
“I could say we were happy for the most part but of course, it wasn’t all flowers and rainbows.I had to prove myself to the former Alpha and the entire pack that I was Capable of leading them despite being a human.I did the best that I could but, in the end, Christian wasn’t very happy with me.He needed an heir and I…”
Her bottom lip quivers as she wipes away a stray tear rolling down her cheek.
I can hear her heartbeat erratically in her chest, the thick scent of anger surrounding her.
“I spent the last part of our marriage struggling to get pregnant, doing everything I could to give him his pup but it was never enough,”
She spits through gritted teeth, holding back the more tears desperately wanting to spill onto her cheeks.
“I was never enough…So Christain took matters into his own hands.”
She suddenly goes very quiet, balling up her fists at her side.
Taking a deep breath, I concentrate on the walls I built, letting her thoughts and memories trickle into my mind.
The image of a man and woman laying on a bed together flickers in my head, and I watch in disgust as the two make love to each other.
“Give.Me.A.Pup,” he pants between thrusts, the woman moaning louder as she orgasms.
“And I will make you my Luna,” he whispers.
Grayson snarls at the memory as I realize Talia’s mate had cheated on her with another woman.
I quickly crawl up behind her, pulling her onto my lap to wipe the tears that finally spilled onto her cheeks in hopes of comforting her from shame of letting me see her in such a vulnerable state.
“He cheated,” She whispers, holding back a sob.
“He cheated on me…with my sister.My entire pack knew….And they didn’t say a word to me about it.They lied to me!” she screams, pounding her fist against my chest.
“They lied to me! They were supposed to protect their Luna but they lied to me! They lied.Wolves lie!” she sobs, burying her face in my chest.
“They all lie,” she whimpers.
Her reluctance to let me into her life is all so clear now.She was hurt by a wolf who once claimed her as his mate and in her eyes, I would be no different.
I wrap my arms around her, wanting to protect her from all the lies and pain.
“My sister took my place in the pack,” She sighs when she’s finished crying, wiping away her tears.
“I was stripped of my title and she was crowned the new Luna.”
The brutal memories enter my mind, my wolf seething with rage as we watch this so-called Christian not only reject our mate but also claim her sister right in front of her.
My veins fill with anger, Grayson and I unable to comprehend how a wolf could ever hurt his mate.
How could anyone ever want to give HER up? How can anyone ever trade in a diamond for a stone?
“I didn’t realty have much time to dwell on what happened,” she laughs half-heartedly, though I see no humor in her eyes.
“My baby needed me.I just had to salvage the most important pieces of my heart and pray it would be enough.I’ve protected every piece viciously and given them all to Kota.I have none to spare, nothing left to give to anyone.I haven’t been whole in years and I’m okay with that.I’ve learned to be a little broken, a little bruised …but a lot stronger.” again hiding behind her mask.
But it is too late.I have already seen everything.
Talia’s eyes are clouded by pain and anger but just behind all of that, is the joy and laughter she once embodied.
That happy woman is still inside her, just very guarded and very afraid to let anyone else in.
But I am patient.I would break through her barriers just enough to let the light out again.
She would make herself whole again, and I would be there to watch her light up the room again.
She shrugs, trying to brush off the sudden shyness overtaking her.
“It’s probably best if we just go our separate ways and forget we were ever fated,” she says with a forced smile.
“We can part as friends, and you can just come visit Ko-“
If her chin up, her breath hitching at the sight of the gentle smile on my lips.
As if in a trance, she places her fingers on my lips, parting them slightly.
She suddenly leans in close to me, pecking me lightly on the lips a few times, my muscles growing stiff, a bit shocked she’s made the first move.
Grayson is suddenly very quiet, the bastard providing no feedback to help me out.
She cups my cheek with one hand and wraps her other arm around my neck, pulling me closer as she deepens the kiss.
“Kiss me back,” she murmurs.
I part my lips a little more, allowing her to poke her tongue in just a little for a taste.
She gasps when I snake my arms around her waist, my tongue clumsily exploring her mouth.
A little moan escapes her lips, my entire body craving her and the incredible sparks she ignites within me.
She adjusts herself on my lap, straddling me between her thighs and leaning most of her weight on me.
I slowly let myself fall onto my back, our lips never parting as she falls with me.I slide her body up a little so that she Her lips are intoxicating, enticing me with their sweet taste as she bites and nips at me.
But just as suddenly as it all happened, she quickly pulls away, scrambling off of me to catch her breath.
“Sorry,” she mutters.
“I-I don’t know what…”
She stops her rambling, relief washing over her when she sees me equally breathless, as if I had just run a marathon.
Neither one of us says a word while we calm ourselves down.
“Tell me about you,”
She pants when the awkward silence becomes suffocating.
My palms begin to sweat, completely unprepared to tell her about the horrors I survived.
“It’s only fair”
She scolds me when I remain silent.
“I told you about me.I deserve to know your story too.How else do you expect me to trust you if know nothing about you?”
An internal war wages in my brain.
“You don’t have to tell me everything,” She adds.
“But I need something. Anything.”
This doesn’t make me feel any better, and I beg Grayson for help.
Tell her we’re an Aquarius, he teases, leaving me to wonder what I did in my past life to deserve an i***t for a wolf.
“Tell me about your scars,” she offers, pointing to my back.
“Or at least what you did to become a rogue.”