My heart nearly skips a beat when I see Talia open her eyes for the first time since she fell unconscious in the car, her warm brown irises resembling swirls of chocolate and honey. How I missed those beautiful eyes of hers.
I don’t waste any time and kiss her, needing to feel the tenderness of her soft plump lips against mine after all these agonizing hours lying in wait. Guilt bubbles in my chest, however, and I pull away to reassure her of my feelings.
“I-l love y-you too,” I murmur, Talia’s eyes filling with tears as she cups my cheeks to kiss me again.
It does not escape me that her touch feels different, that the sparks are a little stronger as they tingle across my skin. Even her scent is more prominent, my nostrils filling with the soothing scent of lavender and rain.
Something is different, Grayson says, growing restless as I hold Talia in my arms. She feels different,
Neither of us can quite understand what it is so we chalk up the strange intensity of our bond to me missing her these past few nights and I reluctantly pull away from Talia’s lips. Her eyes flicker from side to side and she goes very still, as if trying to listen to something. The only sounds I hear are the sounds of the River Moon clinic nurses and technicians walking up and down the halls
“Where… where are we? How long have I been out?” Talia asks, gently cradling her head in her hand and blinking very hard.
“Ugh and what is that sound?”
“W-what sound?” I ask, Talia looking up at me in confusion.
“You don’t hear it?” She replies, looking around for the source.
“The purring,” she says, her eyes scanning the dimly lit room.
“Is there a cat in here?”
The only p***y I see is-
Shut up, I snap, Grayson muttering incoherently at me.
Talia and I both go very quiet, Kota’s light snoring the only sound we hear, when Talia suddenly sits up straighter.
“There! Did you hear it?” she hisses in a loud whisper, grabbing onto my arm.
Again, it does not escape me that the sparks feel stronger, more vivid and undeniable when she rests her bare hand on my skin. Talia seems to notice too, her eyes focusing on the place where our skin meets.
A single tear rolls down Talia’s cheek as she lets her finger glide across my arms, her touch leaving goosebumps along my bare flesh.
“I did it,” she murmurs. “Oh Goddess, I did it.” She feels her arms and face, smiling sheepishly at me.
“Do I look any different?”
I squint my eyes and stare at her for a moment, Talia’s cheeks heating up as I scrutinize her features. Aside from the dark circles under her eyes and her tousled curls, she still looks very much the same. Beautiful, strong, perfect…. Mine.
Her smile falters when I shake my head at her, but I tuck my fingers under her chin and tilt her head up, forcing her to face me.
“Y-you look Per-perfect,” I whisper, her beautiful smile once again gracing her lips.
I lean in for another kiss, my entire body exploding with sparks the second our lips touch. The sensation startles us and we both jump back from each other in shock.
“You felt that too right?” she asks curiously, carefully inspecting her hands.
“I guess a wolf would feel the bond much stronger.”
I open my mouth to ask what she means but Kota stirs at her side and interrupts my train of thought. Talia looks down at our pup, combing back his hair with her fingers and gently caressing the curves of his face. She leans down to kiss his forehead, whispering sweet words in his ear.
“My poor baby,” She whimpers, turning up to look at me.
“He saw everything.” She says, tears gathering in her eyes.
“He must have been so scared. So scared to see all that blood,” she adds, anger laced in her voice.
“Who was it, Zane? Who did this?”
I swallow hard as I think back to the attack. It’s been two days
“Ca-Caine,” I reply, the mere name leaving a bitter taste in my mouth. “It was Ca-Caine.”
“Your brother did this?”
Grayson shoves me aside to respond, his nostrils flaring as he stares at our mate.
“He’s not my brother!” he snarls on my behalf, Talia staring back at me in shock.
“Okay,” Talia replies quietly, guilt washing over me at the hurt in her voice. “I’m sorry.”
“H-he’s de-dead,” I add, turning away to avoid her gaze.
“I-I killed him.. I-I ki-killed my…”
I can’t bring myself to say the word for Caine never truly was my brother. We had grown up in different worlds and I was forced to watch him receive all the love and attention from the pack that I never got for being the Alpha’s son. Caine could do no wrong in the eyes of the pack whereas I was beaten for the slightest mistake. It was a bitter pill to swallow knowing I would never feel an ounce of affection from the pack nor my father but I held no resentment in my heart for Caine. It was not his fault our father hated me. It was not his fault he was made Alpha heir instead of me. It was not his fault he did not know who I was.
We were robbed of a lifetime together for my father’s shame and Caine grew up not knowing he had a brother in me. I have often wondered what it would have been like to be his brother, to play with him and be a part of his life. Many times I imagined training session to learn to be a warrior for his people.
And now? Now we will never know the love between two brothers and his blood will forever stain my hands.
“Hey,” Talia whispers, gently placing her hand over mine so that a gentle wave of sparks washes over me.
I stare at our hands for a moment but Talia tilts my chin up to look me in the eyes.
“You protected your family,” she murmurs.
“You made sure Kota didn’t get hurt in the gunfire and you gave Rionna and Agnes enough time to help us escape. You were our hero, do you hear me? You were my hero,” she whispers, leaning her forehead against mine.
“Mine. You did what you had to do and Caine is the only one responsible for his own fate, not you,” she says sternly.
” So don’t spare Caine any more of your guilt. He got exactly what he deserved.” She looks down at the sleeping pup.
“You should have seen Kota’s face,” she adds, shaking her head in disbelief.
” He thought I was dying. It was awful. It hurt more than the gunshot because I couldn’t tell him it was going to be okay. I couldn’t hold his hand. I couldn’t make him feel better.”
She pauses for a moment to wipe her tears before settling back on the hospital bed and cradling Kota in her arms without waking him. She pats the empty space beside her and I curl up behind her, molding my body against hers.
“I closed my eyes thinking I would never hold my pup or my mate again,” She whispers, looking back at me over her shoulder can hold you again. I can be happy at your side.”
She’s right, Grayson huffs in agreement. Caine did not flinch when he pointed the gun at you. He did not flinch when he shot at the car with your entire family inside so he can rot in hell with the rest of Scarlett Haven. None of them deserve our pity. Not your father, not Sara. Not even Wyatt. We’re done worrying about them. You know who your real family is and half of them are right here in your arms. No one else matters.
Talia guides my hand towards Kota, placing it on his head so! can hold him too. It feels so good to have them both in my arms and I realize my mate and my wolf are right. My family is the only thing that matters now.
As I close my eyes to sleep, Talia gives my hand a good squeeze.
“Zane… I think I have a wolf.”