“What the f**k do you want?” I snarl, Jordan stammering on the other end.
“I’m not your Luna!”
I hiss furiously.
“Get that through your head and stop calling me.Your Alpha and Silver Crest are not my responsibility anymore.You chose Vanessa, so ask her-“
“Would you just listen to me!” he blurts out.
I count down my breaths to control my anger before speaking.
“I told you everything,” I whisper softly, pain laced with every word.
“I told you how much it hurt…How much pain I was feeling…I confided in you my worst fears and self doubts …And you made believe that it was all in my head and I just had to try a little harder.You let me believe I was going crazy and that I was not enough.”
My voice cracks a little from the memory of it all but my feelings quickly shift to complete rage.
“But I have found someone who believes I’m enough.Someone who actually listens to me and I will not let you come into my life again to ruin my happiness.I’m done listening to you,” I snarl.
“I don’t trust you or anything you have to say anymore.”
“But Christian is coming!” he pleads, but only I burst into laughter.
“He can come,” I sigh in annoyance.
“He won’t find us.”
I hang up the phone before he can say another word, turning to look at my pup as he snores lightly in his sleep.
Christian is never going to find him, I think to myself, crawling back into bed to hold Kota in my arms.He will never get him.
I find it hard to fall back asleep and just watch Kota as the sun rises, hoping Zane is safe wherever he is.
The morning is relatively mundane when Kota wakes up.
We brush our teeth, comb our hair and dress like any other day but even as we go through these motions, I feel Zane’s absence.
“Mommy, you forgot this!” Kota cries, reaching for Zane’s small bottle of cologne.He stands on the tips of his toes and leans over the sink, grunting as he tries his best to reach it.
I grab it for him and he closes his eyes and puffs out his chest for me to spray him with his father’s cologne.
“Now I’m ready,” he grins, stomping away down the hall.
I follow him into the kitchen where we find Agnes already preparing breakfast.
Kota stomps his feet on the wood floor to make his presence known and Agnes looks up from the stove to greet him, forcing a smile on her face.
It appears she did not get much sleep last night either, dark circles clinging to her under eyes.Her usually glowing skin is quite pale and she looks as defeated as I feel.
“I- help – you,”
Kota signs to Agnes, Agnes’s face lighting up as she hands Kota some plates.
We set up breakfast together on the patio and as we settle down to eat, Zane’s absence becomes blatantly obvious when I have to pull out a little pen and paper to speak with Agnes.
I have been practicing ASL with the girls at the clinic but I am still not proficient in the language to carry a full conversation on my own.
Luckily for me, Rionna arrives and joins us, and she is able to translate for Kota and I.
Butterflies dance in my belly when I notice Kota mimicking Rionna and singing the words he does know as he speaks so Agnes doesn’t feel left out of the conversation.
While they are few and far and between, I am sure Agnes appreciates his efforts.
Zane has only been part of our lives for a few weeks and he’s already impacting our son in such a beautiful way.
Devina purrs happily while watching our baby trying to be like his Dad.
“Nona, how do I say Eggness with my hands?” Kota asks, opening and closing his hands.
“Her name is this,” Rionna explains, spelling out the name AGNES.
Her spelling reminds me that I have never seen Agnes use a name sign before when referring to herself but Zane appears to have a name sign.
“Does Agnes have a name sign?” I ask Rionna who translates for me.
“I know Zane does.She makes the letter Z over her heart every time she addresses him.” Agnes gives a response.
“Name signs are usually only given by members of the Deaf Community,” Rionna explains.
“It’s like an initiation of sorts and it’s a huge honor to be given one if you are not Deaf. Since Agnes does not know anyone in the community, she has never been given a name sign but she has given one to Zane.”
“Can I have aname?” Kota asks, smiling his toothy grin.
“That is for Agnes to decide,” Rionna explains, translating for Agnes who gives a short response.
“She says she wants to give you a good name sign so she will think about it a little longer.”
Kota squeals between mouthfuls of chocolate chip pancakes.
“Kota, chew with your mouth closed, please,” I scold him gently, Kota sitting up a little straighter in his seat and chewing more quietly.
As we finish up breakfast, Rosalie and Celina arrive along with Rio who wags his tail happily by Celina’s side.
Kota is up in a flash and is nearly knocked over by the oversized puppy who showers him in sloppy kisses.
“Good morning, ladies and gentleman,” Rosalie winks at Kota.
“How are you all doing?” she asks with a gentle look in her eyes.
“We’re doing our best,” I shrug with a forced smile.
They join us at the table, Celina sitting beside me.
“I’m sure your minds are all over the place right now so you may have forgotten but…” Celina sighs tiredly.
“The Night of Melodies where we initiate the newly shifted wolves into our packs is coming up soon and we have to start setting things up for the event.Ro and I are heading into town to get supplies in a little bit.Would you ladies like to accompany us on our quest? Take your mind off things?”
Shopping is the last thing on my mind right now but I need the distraction, especially after that call with Jordan and it would be nice to take Kota out for a little while even if it’s just to the mall.
“Who is Jordan?” Celina asks, my body freezing at the mention of that coward.
“How do you-“
“Sorry,” Celina laughs sheepishly.
“Your thoughts are just really loud,” she says, gesturing to her head.
“But this Jordan guy… he’s your Gamma, right?”
“WAS,” I mutter under my breath.
“IS,” Celina corrects.
“Gamma’s are for life.That’s why picking the right one is so important and why I have yet to choose mine.”
“I didn’t get to pick mine,” I shrug.
“He was already Gamma of Silver Crest when I became Luna.I just accepted the bond.”
“Hmm,” Celina hums.
“Were you close?”
“I thought we were,” I reply.
“I thought he was my best friend.Turns out, he was just another wolf not worth a damn.”
“And he called you?” Rosalie asks.
“When? What did he want?”
“He called this morning to warn me that my ex is coming to find me,” I reply tiredly.
“But he’s been looking for me for the past four years and he hasn’t done it yet.”
“And you’re not the least bit concerned?” Celina pries.
“Christian doesn’t even know I’m in California, nor does he know about this Kingdom.I am not in any danger and even if by some miracle, Christian did find me, I’m in one of the safest packs in the state, right?”
I question them, both Celina and Rosalie nodding with pride.
“Besides, Kota has Aurora’s medallion and I am not human anymore,” I add.
“I’m done letting Christian control my life.My only concern right now Is my mate.” Rosalie squeals with excitement.
“It makes me so happy to see you finally accept him as your mate!” she cries.
“And holy s**t, you have his mark!”
My hand goes instinctively to my neck and l stroke the groves of Zane’s mark imprinted on my flesh.
“Aww she’s blushing!” She teases.
“Really. You have at beautiful little family and it makes me so happy to see you accept it.”
A small smile stretches on my face but Celina still seems concerned about Jordan’s call.
“Are you sure there’s no danger for you or Kota?” Celina asks.
“Because I promise, we can help.”
“No,” I shake my head confidently.
“There’s no way Christian would find me here.There’s no need to be concerned.”
Celina seems hesitant but doesn’t press any further, rising from her chair and calling Rio to her feet.
“Well then, we’ll see you in an hour at the pack house for some shopping,” she smiles.
I pack Kota some snacks for the trip and give him my usual sermon regarding strangers.
“Remember, Kota,” I murmur as I tie his shoes.
“Friends don’t make you follow them to places where mommy can’t see you, okay?”
“Okay, mommy,” he nods.
“And we don’t take candy from strangers, right?” He shakes his head.
“Good, now let’s go get Daddy a present for when he comes home” I smile, pecking Kota on the cheek.
We meet Celina, Rosalie and Rionna at the pack house as planned but as we walk out to the drive away, Kota holds onto my hand and squeezes it tightly.
“You okay, Kota?” I murmur, pulling him closer to me.
“Mommy, can I please sit with you?” he pleads, his beautiful eyes glazing over with tears.
He’s afraid to drive again, Devina whines, wanting to step forward to comfort him herself.
“Of course you can,” I reply, lifting him into my arms and carrying him inside the SUV.I set him down gently beside me, buckling him into the car seat and holding his hands.
“We’re going to be okay,” I murmur, pushing his hair away from his forehead.
“Mommy will always take care of you.You don’t have to be scared,” I whisper with a soft smile and lean into his ear.
“Let’s play a game. Help me name the colors of the cars that we drive past.”
The game seems to help take his mind off his own fears, and we arrive at the mall before we know it.
Our first stop is a visit to the florist for Rosalie to finalize the design she had in mind for the event.
Next, we go to the jewelers.
As the godmother of the event, Aurora must hand pick a gift to present to each new pack member.
She had already selected each gift for the recipients weeks ago and it was up to Rosalie to make sure each gift was complete and up to par for presentation.
She is meticulous in her work, going through each necklace, chain, and bracelet carefully.
“I’m going to die of boredom,” Celina mutters as Rosalie requests changes for some of the gifts.
“Do you have dresses for the party?” she asks.
I shake my head, a cool smirk spreading across her lips.
“I presume Agnes and Rionna don’t either?”
When it appears none of us are ready for a party, Celina drags us to a nearby boutique while Rosalie finishes up her chores.
“I’m sure you’ve managed your own Night of Melodies before as Luna but everyone always does theirs differently,” Celina shrugs.
“We stick to tradition.We wear brown linen dresses for the pack run and then dress in pack colors for the party.For River Moon, that’s midnight blue and gold.”
She leads us to the racks at the back of the boutique with several elegant dresses and scans me up and down.
“With your delicate figure, I would try something form fitting so you don’t look like you’re swimming in fabric.”She hands me several dresses and shoves me into a changing room.
“Try the blue one first,” she shouts at me.
I step out in a dark blue dress that has a high neckline and long puffy sleeves, Kota shaking his head in disapproval.
Celina puts Agnes in a one shoulder floor length dress with a cape, making her look like an elegant empress as she steps out onto the floor.
“That’s your dress,” Celina squeals.
“We don’t even need to look anymore.”
We are all in agreement, Agnes blushing as we shower her with praise.
Rionna and I keep looking and as time drags on, Kota grows very restless.I hand him his snacks in hopes of keeping him entertained but as I am trying on a new gown, I hear the words that make my heart rate race.
“Uh oh,” Kota whispers.
I rush out to find Kota standing over a pile of banana chips all over the floor and I do my breathing exercises to keep calm and cool.
“Uh oh, mommy,” Kota sighs, dusting off his little hands.
“I couldn’t open it,” he explains, showing me the now empty tub of banana chips.
“And what do we do when we can’t do things on our own?” I ask, Kota smiling sheepishly.
“Ask for help?”
“Yes, we ask for help,” I nod.
“Now what do we do?”
Kota squeals, bending over to pick up his chips and placing them all in the tub.His hands are all sticky when he’s finished.
“I’ll take him to the washroom,” Rionna offers.
“I saw a kids play center near the food court. I could take him there while you ladies finish up?”
“Thank you,” I smile, bending over to give Kota instructions.
“Be good for Nona, okay? When we’re done, we can go to the art store to get stuff to make Daddy a card.” He nods excitedly and skips away with Rionna.
Kota is very chatty as I take him to the washroom and very independent, wanting to wash and dry his own hands.
As we step out of the washroom, I can’t help but feel as though I am being watched, the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end.
It’s an unsettling feeling but I brush it off, thinking perhaps my nerves are just shot from all the events transpiring over the last few hours.
I did not sleep a wink last night thinking about my husband and my sons off in battle.
We have spent the past 20 years at war and while I am no stranger to Tylen and Toran leaving for extended periods of time to fight, I still fear getting a call one day that they would not be coming home.
Now with Zane with them, I’m even more nervous than usual.
Pushing away my intrusive thoughts, I lead Kota to the nearby play center and he immediately takes off to the tunnels.
There’s a secluded seating area for adults and I grab a seat, flicking through a magazine to pass the time.
Kota’s excited screams make my heart happy and for a brief moment, I allow myself to wonder what it would have been like to take Zane to the playground as a child.
My thoughts are interrupted when a man walks into the seating area, sitting beside me despite there being plenty of seats across the room.
I avoid eye contact and focus on my magazine but the man’s presence makes me nervous.
“Which one is yours?” he asks, leaning a little too close to comfort.
Hoping he’ll leave me alone if I just answer, I point in Kota’s general direction.
“That one,” I mutter, looking back at my magazine.
“Hmmm,” the man hums.
“What?” I ask, looking up at him in confusion.
As I raise my head, the man puts a cloth to my face, my body thrashing instinctively against his.I try to scream but as I take a breath to do so, I feel myself getting light headed.
“Tell Natalia she knows where to find me,” the man whispers, his voice being the last thing I hear before it all goes dark.
I wake up feeling as though someone beat me over the head with a hammer, my temples throbbing in agony.
Looking around, I realize I’m still at the play center, the memory of the man racing back to me.I frantically look around the sitting area but the man is nowhere to be found.
Dread settles into the pit of my stomach as I call out to Kota, but the little boy never answers me.
I search the ball pit, the climbing walls, the slides and tubes, but no matter how hard I look, Kota is nowhere to be round.
“Excuse me, have you seen a little boy, about this high?” I ask a young woman by the slides and gesturing to my legs.
“He’s wearing overalls and blue shoes.And his eyes.His eyes, they’re blue and brown.They’re very different.”
The woman shakes her head apologetically and I suddenly find it hard to breathe, tears springing to my eyes.
Where Is he? Seeing mein such a panicked stale, lhe woman offers to help.
“I’ll help you look.He’s probably just hiding,”
She offers,looking around the play area.
“What’s his name?”
“D-Dakota,” I whimper, looking around frantically.
“He’s only four.He’s just a baby- I-I don’t know where he could- “Hey Rionna, we’re all done!” I hear Talia’s voice call out to me from the entrance of the center.
She, Celina, and Agnes carry several shopping bags in their hands with wide grins.
Their smiles falter when they look at me.
“What’s wrong?” Talia asks, looking around the center for her pup.