Talia snaps, rising to her feet and glaring at the cunning Alpha.
“He’s not going back there! You can’t make him!”
Toran seems unfazed by Talia’s outburst, his face calm and collected even as she berates him for his plan.It’s unnerving how cold and calculating he is, his emotions always well in check and never on display.I reach for Talia’s hand to calm her down and she finally takes her seat, allowing Toran to respond.
“I understand your reservations, Ms.Talia, but you must look at the broader picture here,” he explains.
“Zane merging the two clans would put an end to this war once and for all and he wouldn’t necessarily have to stay in Crescent Mane.It would be his choice to stay or leave the kingdom.Every new Alpha must swear allegiance to the King or leave.Zane CAN leave.As for the deal with Onyx Stone, there is a simple solution.One Sebastian refuses to accept,” Toran adds.
“Onyx Stone is what’s known as a Mother Pack, similar to a kingdom without the actual Gold wolf leadership.With the decline of Gold wolves, Mother Packs are much more common nowadays.Their aim is to mimic a kingdom as closely as possible by forging alliances and setting up their own Alphas in new packs to keep control over a large territory throne since Bre, and King Arthur has used up a lot of resources to fight me and my allies.Sebastian needed more money and warriors that Crescent Mane could not give him to fight, so he forged a deal with Onyx Stone in which he promised to produce a Silver wolf heir for them.Of course, you’ve killed him and now Sebastian’s only options other than producing another heir, are to fight or give up his pack to them.I’ve known Sebastian long enough to know he will never give up his pack so that’s where you come in,” he says, pointing to me.
“Once you take the title of Alpha of Scarlett Haven, you can hand it over to Onyx Stone as reparations for their war efforts and you’ll be free of that pack for good without taking on a new war.It’s a win-win situation if you ask me.”
“And what about Ravenstone?” Talia pries, unwilling to trust Toran.
“Why are you giving Zane your pack? What about your son? What does he think of all of this?”
“Tylen is uninterested in being Alpha,” Toran shrugs.
“At 24, he’s well past the age of taking my title and he’s declined for the past three years.Forcing your child to fulfill your own goals and expectations never ends well so I will not force my son into the position.I was planning to hand over my title to my nephew, Tobias, but he was killed last year in battle.” He takes a moment to pause and reflect on the words he just said, and allows a small smile to curl on his lips.
“I broke Ravenstone many years ago with my cruelty and harshness.Agnes can attest to that.Rionna ….She fixed that.She making it a pack worth its power.If Zane chooses to take my title, he would be carrying on his mother’s legacy, not mine,” he says, turning to look me in the eye.
“Your father did not see your worth and cast you aside, but your mother always believed in you, did she not? Perhaps this is your chance to prove Sebastian wrong and honor your mother’s work for the last twenty years, but again it’s a choice.I will not force you to do anything.”
At my side, I sense my mate’s anger, her hands clenching and unclenching into fists as she attempts to restrain her emotions while her face remains neutral.I lower my walls and take a small peek into her thoughts, dread filling my soul as they trickle in.
“Why can’t we just be left alone?” she sobs internally to herself.
“I just want to raise my son with my mate.I don’t want to be responsible for another pack.I don’t have the fight left in me to once again prove myself to pack members and show what I can do.I don’t want to be a calm and reserved Luna who always has to strive for perfection.I can’t do that again!”
There is a slight tremor in her lips but she blinks quickly and draws in a breath to calm herself down enough to look unfazed by Toran’s proposal.
I turn to face Toran, unsure of what to do.
After years of being told I was nothing more than a waste of space, I am being offered a position worthy of my wolf.
But at what cost? Talia has been through this before and has made it clear she has no interest in leading another pack, even with me voice small and exhausted.
“I need some air.”
“That’s a good idea.This is a lot to take in, in one sitting,” Aurora agrees.
“We’ll need an answer soon,” Toran says as Talia gets up to leave.
“I’ve been tracking Wyatt and Korbin since the event.They should be at Scarlett Haven this evening and it’s only a matter of time before they come knocking at River Moon’s door demanding Zane’s head.You may rest, but you need to make a decision eventually.I’ll be flying back to Ravenstone in two days.If you wish to go through with my plan, you are free to join me.”
I don’t offer a response and follow Talia out, my only thoughts being that of my mate.She walks in silence ahead of me, her movements almost mechanical as she makes her way towards the guest house.
Kota rests his head on my shoulder, fiddling with his toy wolf.
“Mommy is sad,” he whispers to me.
“I don’t like that.”
“I- I don’t either,” I reply, watching Talia walk past the door.
“I just need a minute,” she calls out without turning back.
“Take Kota inside.I’ll be there soon for lunch.”
“Just go inside, Zane, please,” she calls out, breaking into a sprint down the drive towards the woods surrounding the house.
Go after her, she needs us, _ Grayson demands, pacing backI rush into the house, Agnes and Rionna sitting at the table having lunch together.
“Ta-take Kota,” I instruct my mothers, handing over the pup to Agnes and racing towards the door.
Inhaling the fresh summer air as I sprint, I quickly find Talia’s scent and follow it into the woods, hearing a scream of anguish echo off the trees.
Adrenaline courses through my veins and I shift, my heart wrenching as I hear yet another shriek, this time full of anger and frustration.I reach a clearing not long into my run, finding Talia slamming a tree branch against a trunk of a thick redwood tree.
“NOOOOO!” She shouts, swinging the branch against the tree.
“NOOO!” she screams again, smashing the branch to pieces.
“No! No!” she snaps, tossing the broken branch in anger off to the side and collapsing on her knees as she pants in frustration.
“No…” she whimpers, sobbing quietly at the floor.
“Fuck…I can’t bea Luna again.I can’t…I can’t…I can’t,” she weeps, slamming her fist on the forest floor..
“I’ll only fail again…I’m not strong enough to do this again.” I remain on the edge of the clearing, watching in silence as she vents out her anger to the trees.
My walls collapse, a stream of her memories flooding my brain and my heart.
Many times, she stood before Christian or his father only to be reduced to her uterus.
Many nights, she spent locked up in her office planning to build the AEP complex for her pack.She gave her pack her all and in the end, she was still rejected, still demoted, still cast out.
Talia suddenly goes very quiet and she sits up to wipe her tears.
“You followed me,” she whispers, my cheeks heating up for being caught red handed.
“I just…I just needed a minute alone.I’m …I’m okay now.” She just beat up an innocent tree.
Grayson mutters.She is not okay.
Seeing no point in hiding anymore, I timidly approach her and sit at her side.She leans her head against my paws and closes her eyes in exhaustion.
“I’m scared,” she whispers, burying her face in my fur.
“I wasn’t a very good Luna the first time around-“
“Stop that,” Grayson sighs, dipping his head to lick away her tears.
Talia jumps, startled to hear Grayson’s voice in her head.
“Grayson?” she gasps, looking up at my wolf as he wags his tail from side to side.
He responds by licking her tear stained-cheeks once more and rolling over on his back, inviting her to cuddle with him.She takes the invitation, curling up at his side and twirling tufts of fur in her hands.
We lay in silence for a moment as Talia gathers her thoughts and I wait patiently for her to explain them to me pause.
“Nothing I did seemed to be worth anything and I always felt I disappointed everyone.I was told to remain silent during pack meetings and let Christian do all the talking, even if the ideas he was presenting were mine.I was told to always look and speak a certain way because a good Luna is someone everyone should look up to and strive to imitate.Do you know how hard it is to hold your tongue when all you want to do is scream? How hard it is to force a smile when you are told everyday by the person you love most that you are a disappointment? It’s hard to find joy in your work when you are breaking inside, wondering what is so wrong with you that you can’t seem to do the one thing expected of you.” She tilts her head up and looks at me.
“I love you…But am afraid that I might disappoint you because I am broke-“
“Stop,” I demand, Grayson stepping aside to let me speak.I sit up on my hind legs, wanting to make sure Talia understands every word I say to her.
“You’re right.You were not a good Luna.Good doesn’t even begin to cover what you were to that pack.Tears fill her eyes as she hears my inner voice for the first time, my words calming her heart.
“You were more than a great Luna,” I whisper.
“What you did for Silver Crest would be fitting of an Alpha and Christian….He didn’t deserve you.None of them did.But I won’t make the same mistake if I take the title.lt would be an honor to have you as my Luna and I promise I will do everything in my power to deserve I shift back into my human form as she hides her face in her hands and weeps, wrapping my arms around my mate to shield her from anymore pain.Pushing her hands away from her face, I cup her cheeks and kiss the tears away, hoping somehow I can erase the pain with my love.
“W-we don’t need to ma-make any decisions today,” I remind her.
“W-we can ma-make this decision to-to-together later.All I-I want right now is for y-you to be okay.” She closes her eyes, as if committing my words to memory, and leans forward for a kiss, my lips tingling with her touch.
At first, her kiss is as light as a feather, her lips just barely grazing mine, but her eager tongue soon takes command and explores my mouth greedily.
Her fingers slide up my bearded cheeks, burying themselves in my hair and pulling me closer for a deeper kiss. My heart and soul ache to be hers and when she pulls away, I realize I already am.
“Mark me,” she murmurs.