I’m at the riverbank, a few miles from the village, staring into my reflection in the water. White wolf with red streaks down my face. I shift back to man and collapse onto the ground, winded, devastated.
Though they’ve followed, shown me through our connection that they’re here for me, they’re both also infuriated with me.
“I don’t fucking understand!” I shout at the sky. In the shadows of the pink moon I see a female form. I blink at it for a long moment as if it’ll give me answers. It grants none.
My eyes meet Jase’s. He’s also shifted back, and his arms are folded over his chest. He stares me down with questions in his eyes. Anger. Disappointment. Confusion.
Lincoln shifts back to man and takes the same stance.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Lincoln demands, angrier than I’ve seen him. Ever.
“I don’t. Fucking. Know,” I growl.
“You want this to be right?” Jase demands.
“I do,” I grind out.
“Let’s go to the Savage house. I heard they’re spending the night. Maybe they’re there now. Let’s straighten this out.” Jase dusts his hands off and jerks his chin to the side, then shifts again.
He’s right. I have to fix this. I have to fucking fix this. The sooner the better. I don’t want the pack to have to choose between us because he wants nothing to do with me. I’ve fucked up and they’d choose him. I shift again to wolf and break into a run. Jase and Linc follow.
We’re outside the house and he’s not coming out. He’s tending to his mate, that poor fucking girl. She’s not a shifter and with no knowledge of our existence before Tyson claimed her, it’s going to be hard for her to understand all this. Not a surprise; we guard our nature carefully. Despite that, I’m well-aware of mainstream culture after spending four years in a mainstream university, so I can imagine how ugly this is going to be. He’ll have his work cut out for him. I feel her distress from outside, like I’m linked to her. Not because she’s mine. Because she’s part of the pack through her link to Tyson.
“Do you feel that too?” I ask Jase.
“Her distress. Her pain.”
He nods, blowing out a long breath.
I’m still questioning my emotions and I’m relieved it’s not just me.
Lorenzo, retired second alpha, steps outside and comes to me. He’s always treated me like a favorite, likely because he not only has daughters, no sons, but also because of being second alpha in the last council, same birth position as me.
He drops his large hand on my shoulder and squeezes.
“Let’s go talk. I’ll follow you home.”
“We’ll come,” Linc says, Jase beside him.
“I need to talk to him. Explain,” I say. “This shit might mean our pack stays incomplete. There won’t be trust. It won’t work unless I fix it. She’s not mine; I’d know it, right? If she were mine, I wouldn’t be fucked up like this.”
“What is it you’re feeling for her, Mason?” Lorenzo asks.
“That’s just it. I don’t know. I just don’t feel right, and I feel like she’s something between us, like there’s a curiosity about her, some urges to get closer, visions of challenging and fighting him, but something stops me, even before everything tethered in the hall. All along I’ve been conflicted. If she were mine, nothing would stop me. Right? What the fuck is this? Is it the man in me or the wolf that’s broken? That shadow that’s moved into me with my wolf, is it trying to edge us both out? My connection to the pack is in the way. Ask Tyson to come outside. I don’t want anywhere near his mate. I just want to talk to him. Just him. See if that disconnect is gone if she’s not there.”
“Wait,” Lorenzo directs and heads back inside.
Lincoln rests a hand on my shoulder. “It’ll get sorted out. It will.” He squeezes reassuringly.
“He’s right. We didn’t come all this way for nothing,” Jase adds.
I rake my fingers through my hair while filling my lungs with air before emptying them slowly.
Riley, Grey, and Joel come outside and the six of us stand together for a moment, saying nothing but feeling distress from Tyson inside. He’s in pain. He’s angry. He hurts for what has happened. All of us do.
“Fuck, guys, I don’t…” I let that hang, unsure of what to say.
“We know,” Joel says. “Got to be witchcraft.”
“Must be,” Greyson says. “Though we don’t know why, we’re gonna find out. My father is reaching out for us.”
“Go home,” Riley suggests. “Get some sleep. Ty is more focused on her right now.”
“And rightly so,” Grey puts in.
We’re all quiet for a moment.
“I need to run some more,” I say as Lorenzo rejoins us with a tight smile. I already know by his eyes he wasn’t able to convince Tyson to talk to me.