Print

Not My Territory - Chapter 15

Tell me what you think!
I shake away the... the… the whatever the hell that was and continue with Charice for another half hour. At this point, I was just reading her diary and she carefully looked through my box.

I was reading entries from last year at this point and marveled at how eloquently she wrote about Anthony.

"Oh, Charice this is so romantic!" My squeal rolls me onto my stomach, facing the soft fire.

"Wait till you get to page 67, Christmas of last year," Gavin’s laughter catches everyone's attention, "That's where things get steamy," he winks and Charice’s face grows red with embarrassment than anger.

"Did you read my diary you jerk?!?" She jumps to her feet.

"Cody did too!" Gavin fesses up instantly.

"Coward," Cody spits.

"You're both dead," she charges at them both.

I place her book on the coffee table further behind me, refocusing on my box. The one thing my father never had the opportunity to taint and ruin with his touch. Inside, my purple notepad laid peacefully, it's pages worn from constant use, aggressive marks, and frustrated tears. Before there was Emerson, before Chester there was my journal. Resting just above it was a box with a bracelet inside, it was a gift my mother had gotten me for my first birthday. Obviously, none of those memories served me but I knew this because of the date engraved in the rectangular gold plate at the center of the bracelet. I wasn't ready to open it yet, it provided me a warmth and comfort that I recognize from Chelsea’s mannerism to be- a mother’s love.

Gazing at the neat black velvet box, a yawn rummages through me followed by irritated eyes. It was time to get ready for bed, tomorrow I’d do laundry, maybe even some painting or piano playing. I'd study the Divinum alphabet and get up to the 15th letter, being able to sound, recognize and write the letter on any given page. With an established plan, I gathered all the items from my box and after sealing the top hopped to my feet, wishing everyone a good night.

At first finding the perfect place in my room for the box was hard but eventually, I went with the corner of my dresser, no longer needing to hide it. I'd get a nice looking box to house all these memories, maybe with a lock or designs all over. But this was for a later date.

I head to the bathroom with too many thoughts burdening my mind. It was as though all the events from the past couple of hours just sunk in. The heat from the water pelted my skin with a luscious consistency that made my skin cool. With solitude established and unfamiliar feeling brews in my stomach, traveling up to my chest and making a home there as I reflected on everything my father said.

Whore. Trash. No good. Abortion. Trevor.

Both my hands hold the wall in front of me allowing the water to glide through the labyrinth of hair, finishing at the center of my bare chest which still burned from remembrance. The few tears I shed mixed with the water easily and by the time they hit my feet, I'm sure they weren't tears anymore.

Much like those tears, I'd change from where I started. I'll be different than what anyone who knew me could've ever imagined.

When I clean the fog on the mirror I admire what I see, a woman and a strong one at that. From the strength of my jaw to the fullness in my cheeks. My talkative almond-shaped eyes and curly hair that stood at attention on my head. It all shone brightly. I love it.

Back in my room, I slip into whichever pajama combination seemed most comfortable and with my tire delaying itself just a bit I decide to use whatever energy I had left to start reviewing the alphabet. Once settled in bed, atop the covers a diligent Chester settles next to me resting his furry head in my lap as I mouthed the letters.

I had just moved to the third one when my door opens slowly, Emerson walks in quietly. Now wearing a red t-shirt and black sweats he walks over to me - a gentleness in his eyes.

"Ready to talk?" His towering at 6’3 combined with a pair of broad shoulders and a fit midsection would've been intimidating or carnal for anyone else, but I found comfort in it all. All our differences seemed to come together so perfectly that even when I was upset at him, resisting that pull wasn't an option.

"Sure," I sigh placing my journal to the side as I pulled my legs to my chest.

"Okay," he sat the end of my bed, facing me from the distance. Over the past 3 months, we worked out a system for disagreements. Once in a private location, we'd bring both our cases to the table and talk it out, holding back no feelings or comments, "So tell me the reason you’re upset,"

"I’m upset because I almost lost all my memories because you thought I was too weak, to go back to my house." The sharpness in my tone made Chester growl.

"I don’t think you’re weak," he sighs looking in my eyes, that calmness till present.

"Could have fooled me," I hug my legs tighter resting my head on top of my knees.

There is silence for a minute, when I finally look up at him, he’s looking at my journal a determined expression on his face.

"What aren’t you telling me?" His question was at the journal but meant for me.

"Nothi-"

"Just say you don’t want to tell me," he warns looking at me sharply.

I drink up his gaze, the calm is replaced by insecurity, uncertainty even, "I don’t want to tell you yet," I say finally, "I want to do it on my own for the most part."

"Can I at least know what it is?" He takes my foot in his hands lovingly, beginning to rub it with tender caution.

I don’t answer immediately, looking outside at my window, hearing the faint howl of a wolf, further up the mountain range. My skin runs cold, but that’s as far of a reaction as I have, especially considering the humongous one sitting at the end of my bed, making my size 7 feet look miniature in his hold.

"I’m trying to learn Divinum," I speak quietly. His body goes erect and his head shoots over to me, eyes searching mine as if looking for the truth, "I started by copying the alphabet earlier today at your office, with the English pronunciations underneath," For some reason, my face grows red and he is agape. His eyes widen and he scoffs, a humored look covering his face.

"You’re learning Divinum?"

I nod taking my left foot from his lap and replacing it with my right. He glances down at it, then at me and I shrug, "You started one."

He laughs to himself and starts rubbing, "Is that even possible?" He says to no one in particular, "I’ve never heard of a human learning Divinum, through speech nor literature," I didn’t know it was such a rarity, was there a reason?

"Why not?" He shrugs rubbing into the sole of my foot, "I didn’t want to tell you because you always want to help me," he laughs at my statement. I'm complaining about my supportive boyfriend, Boohoo, poor me. Gosh, I’m a mess, "I-I just want to do this on my own."

"Okay," he slides my socks back on before turning to face me, "and I’m sorry my actions left the impression that I think you’re weak. You know I admire your courage, we all do," he is looking at me with such intensity that I thought he could see through everything. Proceeding to gently nudge my leg to the side, he gives himself just enough room to climb through, until we were face to face, "But if we went and you had a panic attack, or got flashbacks, damn, if you shed a single tear, I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself Adira." His forehead touched mine, bodies coiled, breaths shared, "Does that make sense?"

"You didn’t have to be so dramatic about it," I grumble rolling my eyes, "Had you said all that instead of what you did say, I wouldn’t have gotten upset."

"And I’m sorry I got you upset," he says crushing our lips together. I respond as I always do. My hands running up the smoothness of his chest to wrap themselves around his neck. But, when he pulls away I look at him in confusion, especially after he lies on his stomach next to me, "I believe the terms of our earlier agreement was a foot massage for a back massage."

He could be an obnoxious little brat at times. Nonetheless, I finish up my terms, knowing the ear full I'd get if I didn't. Once I was completed, my hands hurt just a bit considering all the muscle this guy had but I didn't complain. Emerson for one began his acclamations of gratitude jumping to his feet, claiming to feel like a new were. I laughed shaking my head at how ridiculous he was but then he stalked closer gripping me by the waist as his fingers did a total on my body.

I try to be as quiet as possible, considering everyone was probably asleep but the tickling was driving me nuts and soon I exploded in laughter as his fingers tickled my waist and rib-cage.

"Are we done being mad with each other?" His question is genuine.

"I guess," I laugh kicking him away from areas delicate to touch- his touch specifically.

"Great," he kisses my forehead and settles next to me before he began speaking, "So, just to catch you up, we’ll be having family over in the next week or so for the ritual of De Ortu- Next weekend."

"What’s that?" I stare up at the ceiling but there was excitement in my voice.

"Well, it’s a major ceremony celebrated all throughout our kind, worldwide. It happens every 5 years when the moon has its greatest effect on us and-"

"Wait so the whole full moon thing isn’t just a blockbuster scam?" I turn to face him, eyebrows raised.

"Well contrary to Hollywood belief, we don’t transform into ravenous beasts in the mere presence of a full moon," he nuzzles my neck deliciously making me laugh at the sensation that rippled through my body, "but our abilities are enhanced and to some degree we become more in tune with our animal."

"So if De Ortu," I fumbled on the pronunciation but he didn’t seem to notice, "Is when the moon has its largest effect of what exactly happens?"

"We feast and party with friends and loved ones for 3 days, on the last - we enter a state of almost entire bestiality, for were couples, mates, or just anyone as a matter of fact, this is the perfect opportunity to enjoy each other in a heightened manner allowing the supreme level of ecstasy."

"So a night of sex?" I fiddle with my fingers distractedly.

"Kind of," he smiles shortly, "It dates back to our ancestors, an ancient ritual used to thank the moon for its gifts to us. This was a time when we were more beast than man but the tradition lives on. Sex symbolizes the replenishing of our kind, our unashamed dedication, and love for who we are." It sounded interesting, "Though, considering we are mated, and you are not Were, this means we have to be separated for those couple of days or maybe just the last day."

"Separated? Why?" He grabs my attention with the words.

"Well, as I said I will be more beast than man. My normal chivalrous mannerisms will be entirely absent," normal chivalrous mannerisms - I roll my eyes but said nothing, and he notices with the quick curve of his lips, "I won’t be the same person you’re accustomed to seeing and hurting or scaring you isn't something I plan on doing."

Interacting with Emerson's were was something that thrilled me, it was like playing with a huge, massive dog. It took many steps to get to the comfort level I'm at today but it was an exciting one as well. With this in mind, I could also understand how being complete beast would traumatize every bone in my body.

The other concern was that Emerson and I haven’t explored the entirety of contacts that romance brings. Not to say we haven't tried, but one intrusion or another would get in the way of its completion. With this in mind my insecurities, protectiveness and… jealousy build and I find myself anxiously tracing the embroidered flower on my blanket, avoiding eye contact as the question slides from my lips, "Does this De Ortu festival thing mean that you’re going to be enjoying the festivities with someone else-"

"Don’t even think about it," he stops me before I finish, taking hold of my chin, eyes on fire, "I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to do it, the guys may have to chain me up in the basement or something."

I laugh shortly but realized he was being entirely truthful, "Chains?" I didn’t like the idea of that.

"It'll only be for that last day but we'll figure it out when the time comes," he kisses my nose.

I smile sighing shortly allowing all the information to sink in, "So how many relatives am I to expect?"

"Around 7 or 8, mainly aunts and uncles. Who knows," his nonchalant shrug eased my worries. My phone dings and I sit upright to open the email I just received. It had my work schedule for next week. 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM for 5 days. That’s going to be fun.

"What time do you head out for work?" I ask Emerson tenderly.

"I leave around 8," That’s a bit early but I’d take it, "Why?"

"I got my schedule for next week," I announce settling next to him easily. He whistles at the packed grid table.

"Are you sure you want to work and do the online classes? You know mom and dad would-"

"Are you going to give me a ride to work or not?" I glare playfully.

He sighs giving up the battle, "Sure. We can leave here at like 8:30, to get you there right on time." A soft kiss plants itself on the top of my hand and I smile down at my perfect mate.

"Thank you," I sing softly pelting his face with fresh kisses. He lunges at me not long after, causing another eruption of laughter, I try to muzzle the noise by covering my mouth but the tickling starts again and I can't hold back. When he stops, the residual giggles are still present even when he pushed a curl aside and kissed my brow, cheek and finally my lips.

"All this talk about De Ortu," he growls and my skin kindles a flame, the mood shifting entirely.

"You know what that means?" My smile is mischievous. He hums as he works some magic at my neck pushing me to continue speaking "I think we should try to do it before De Ortu. That way if you're tempted, you'll remember how amazing I am."

He laughs pulling away ever so slightly to gaze in my eyes. My smile matches his, but beyond that I saw something molding itself, "Just say the word," his growl is harmless but fueled my nerves with electricity.

"What's the word?" I was begging now - shameless.

"It's hard for mates to keep their hands off each other," Chelsea had advised me months ago. I was frustrated that all I thought about, dreamt about, smelled, tasted, everything was him, "This sort of wickedness takes over and doesn't really go away," she admitted as we stared out on the porch, " You just kind of find a way to soothe it, then eventually it's yours to control."

She later mentioned that she wasn't sure if humans felt the same thing, but kissed my forehead when I told her my worries just days before.

Now, Emerson looks down at me and my arms pull him closer. Frenzy. He lifts me from the bed, a new light shining in that hazel-blue of his eyes, my legs wrap easily around his waist and I pull him near, feeling his heartbeat through our clothing. Stupid clothing.

"Hmmmm duck," I laugh on his shoulder at his answer to my question. He was always filled with light, "It resembles a word describing what we'll doing for the next couple of hours closely enough," I press my red face to his neck as his effortless walk quickens ever so slightly. Despite my nerves, I was ready, I needed this as much as a person drowning needs air forced back into their lungs.

When in his room, he's hyper-aware of everyone's location, his ears become more erect, nostrils flaring, eyes glowing. It all made me grow even more impatient. I indicated this by rushing my fingers through his hair, slow steady strokes that had him growling, head tilted back in mere seconds.It was a were thing Charice had taught me, used for more than arousal but did the latter effectively.

We were hoping that our previous attempts wouldn't be replicated with the knock to his door and a question, however harmless - that would snap the mood in half. I needed this... now. He picks up on my building urge and sent a deathly smirk to my neck where he plants a kiss.

He begins to close the door but not before sending a bone-chilling growl down the hallway. It traveled fast with a hefty warning, I gave him a questioning look, "I just want to be extra careful this time."

I nod smiling when my insides become softer than jello just as my palms get sweaty - all at the mere thought of what might... will happen. He looks at me from head to toe after I'm placed to the ground, biting on his bottom lip as he stalks closer. He holds my waist with the delicacy of fine China but the possessive grip of a mate-My mate. I gaze up at the mountain of a man, who was willing to do anything to keep me safe, who loved me more than words could tell or actions show.

I reach for the bottom of his shirt lifting it higher, running the palms of my hands along his skin as they climbed. His growl forces my eyes to his after they reappear from under his shirt that was now tossed aside. I pull on a belt loop forcing him forward until I fell back, on the bed. He joins me slowly drawing closer, his eyes golden, the most I've ever seen it. His irises seemed to sizzle on the surface of his eyes.

His body entirely covers mine and before I knew it we both entered a rage of sorts. Clothes were thrown left and right, the skin-to-skin contact exploded and burned inside me. My nails dug into the flesh of his back as if It was moldeable clay but I knew better- it was cement. Nonetheless it did the job of pulling, calling, forcing him closer… Until no space separated us.

I woke to the sound of branches scratching against the window closest to me. I hug the covers tighter to my bare chest, digging my face into the pillow beneath me.

As much as I try I can't seem to return my body to slumber. I turn carefully to face Emerson, he was still asleep, his breathing steady, eyelashes enviously long and full. His five o’clock shadow is prickly under the smoothness of my fingerprints.

I stroke his cheek lightly, admiring the beauty he possesses, the humble yet strong features that carve his face. His body is even more of a marvel. Seeming to be sculpted by heavenly beings, each muscle has a distinction of its own, under the smooth layer of dark caramel skin - he was phenomenal.

The night was more than I could have imagined. And had it not been for the pleasant soreness between my legs I would have convinced myself it was a dream. Despite being the same act, not my first, what I felt was entirely unknown till now. My skin felt electric as if had I rubbed my index finger and thumb together separating them would result in a spark. This all might have to do with the fact that we’re mated, and that he’s not human.

I gaze back up at his face to find those hazel eyes already on me. He pulls me in, the touch of him made my chest light, skin buzzing again.

"Good morning," his voice is hoarse, rumbling against my neck.

"Morning," I trace circles on his bare chest, my hair probably all over the place. But he doesn't seem to mind as he plays with ends of some strands. He pulls me closer kissing my brow before moving down to my lips.

"Mmmm," his purr made my skin buzz in expectation, "If I could have you like I did last night even only once more and never again, I’d still be the luckiest beast on this entire planet."

My face went red but he didn’t notice as he kissed further down, past my bare chest, my stomach. My body started to shiver as I considered his destination, "Why is it that a human learning Divinum is such a rarity?" I had to ask something, focus on anything besides the fact that he was continuing his journey, now kissing my thighs.

"Humans tend to be a bit…. selfish when it comes to our kind." He was speaking with assurance but also distraction, "Whether it be from lack of interest or motivation. I’m not too sure."

"Were you able to talk to Chance about my…. visions?" I squirmed under his breath, now hitting a sensitive spot.

"Mhm," he growls kissing my thighs again, "He said he’ll talk to you about it later." He snarls and after a feeling of pure ecstasy rummaged through me at the contact his mouth made, I decided not to distract myself any further.

A few minutes later, I struggled to steady my heart rate, breathing, sight, anything. I laid in a dizzy euphoria looking up at the ceiling for a moment. He draws circles aimlessly on my shoulder, before speaking.

"Want to go on a hike with me today?" I look over at him with a grossed out face, he laughs but pushes, "Come on, I’ll be there the whole time. Plus you haven't interacted with my wolf in a while, and what I want to show you is almost a quarter as gorgeous as you."

I laugh in his chest, "Fine,"

"Awesome after breakfast?"

"Sounds great," I nuzzle his neck tenderly, tracing my nose up and down slowly, "Do you think we were discrete enough?" my blush is light but I know he notices it

"More discrete than Anthony and Charice doing…. anything." His laughter is contagious. Charice shared that she and Anthony have been yet to explore this area of their relationship - mainly because Anthony claims she was too young to be concerned about such things. I had a laughing fit when she mentioned it.

"It’s not funny," she had complained, "he treats me like a child," her pout made my laughter push harder out my system, causing stomach cramps.

"He’s just looking out for you, and possibly even scared himself." I said once the giggles resided, "I’m sure he means no harm by it, and if you really, really wanted it, we both know you’d have it by now."

She shrugged aimlessly drawing on the couch cushion, "I guess," I gave her an encouraging smile, just as her eyes twinkle in that way that always meant trouble for me,"When did you lose yours?" She had asked with a pout,

"When I was 16," my voice got softer, "and I didn't have someone as awesome as Anthony, who cared to ask or prepare me."

I shake away the rest of the conversation, one that allowed Charice and I to grow even closer if that was possible.

Redirecting my attention to Emerson, I gaze deeply into his eyes - drowning myself in the fire. "Wasn't it weird when one of your closest friends mated with your sister?" The question was random, but he took it predictively.

"A little," Playing with a curl delicately, he speaks, "I beat him up that day because I thought he was making a joke."

"Geez so aggressive," I laugh.

"That's my baby-sister."

"She's almost 18." I laugh.

"Baby-ister."

I laugh raising my hands defensively, "You're so cute when you're in big brother mode," I blow a raspberry on his cheek and he laughs pulling away.

"Ready to get out of bed?" He asks pulling my thigh closer to him-still tender between.

"Mm-mm," I shake my head on his shoulder.

"Well I smell bacon and eggs," he says pushing me to the side.

I glare at him, "Jerk," I laugh, "Leaving me for food."

He laughed heartily walking over to my side of the bed, "Come on, let's shower and go down together,"

"Are you trying to tell me I stink?"

"You smell like some weird sweaty wolf," he roars again in laughter, "the shower will get rid of the sweaty part, the wolf stench is there for another-"

"24-48 hours,"

"Good job my little genius. Now let's go." Without an answer from me, he proceeds to lift me off the bed and rushed to the bathroom.

"Do you know your office nickname is Mr. Hunk?" I ask laughter spilling from my lips as I jog down the stairs behind him, now squeaky clean.

"Woah is it really?" He laughs as we head over to the big table opposite to the kitchen. Everyone were seated and conversation seemed to flow endlessly as usual, even after we sat next to each other.

"So yeah, that's your work nickname," I laugh putting a pancake on my plate.

"What is?" Victor joins our conversation in curiosity. His eyes gleamed especially blue today, ever flawless skin glowing as his attention directed itself to us.

"Mr. Hunk," I say with my mouth half-full, knowing it was impossible to try to conceal the smile I had.

Laughter erupts at the table, "Where'd you hear that?" Charice asks.

"Yesterday when I visited his office, I went to the bathroom and-"

"I'm here!" Cody announces his presence walking through the back door, "I brought along someone not too interesting but he'll do," Gavin follows in behind him rolling his eyes at the melodrama that is Cody.

"Oh thank Heavens!" Chance mocks, "Now the solar system can orbit its center with more precision huh?"

Everyone laughs and they both walk over to give Chelsea a peck to the cheek and nodded at Victor. It was werewolf custom to greet the owners of the home before you settle in, or get comfortable. And even though they all knew each other their whole lives, it was still something they felt the need to do. I admired it.

They pulled out their seats and began eating.

"So Where you guys going?" Charice addressed Emerson and me but only looked at me.

"Hiking," I grumble unenthused. Emerson said if we left right after breakfast we'd get there right on time, to see something I wasn't told the identity of yet.

I wore leggings and a long-sleeved running shirt and would have a vest over it.

"You don't sound too excited," Gavin laughs passing me the plate of bacon.

"She hates nature," Emerson says popping some eggs in his mouth.

"I don't hate nature," I scold him, "I just prefer to admire it from a distance. Away from the bugs. If nature was bug-free I'd be content."

"Winter is ending but it's still pretty cold out, so there shouldn't be too many." Chance says laughing lightly under his breath.

"That's true," Chelsea encourages with a motherly smile, "How are you feeling honey? Did you sleep okay? I know yesterday was a difficult situation to be placed in." She reached her hand out to mine and I gave it a light squeeze.

"I'm okay Chelsea," I say tenderly my hand trembling slightly in her hold.

"And by the smell of it, she slept pretty darn well," Cody adds popping some more bacon in his mouth.

There's laughter all around and my face grows red from embarrassment, "Emerson probably made her forget what happened at all yesterday," Gavin adds viciously,

Another uproar of laughter under the table Emerson squeezes my knee and I smile up at him. He winks popping another piece of bacon in his mouth blowing me a kiss. I laughed shaking my head.

Once breakfast finishes Emerson and I head out after I threw on a vest and he grabbed a bottled water. We start our hike blending into the forest instantly. Emerson walks ahead of me very vigilant of the surroundings in the smallest of ways, he was in his element. It wasn't too hard to keep up, and I knew that we were moving at a slower pace than he was accustomed to but he didn't seem to mind.

For the most part, the forest had just finished waking up, trees stretched their branches to life as the gentle wind picks up just enough to rid the loose snow from their hiding spots between the cracks of the bark. It's been a week since it last snowed, but there was residual ice everywhere and temperature has been a constant 20-30 degrees. Today was a bit warmer though, either way, Emerson and everyone else for that matter barely wore a coat.

Their bodies were much different. Now he reaches his hand out for mine as he stood over a small creek, each of his feet on either side of the icy gap. I take his hand a bit concerned and he notices with a short laugh.

"Don't trust me?" His smile seems to light the forest and I bit back a smile as I glared at him placing my hand in his.

He scoffs and pulls me close before taking me by the waist and hoisting me over the gap. I barely had time to process what happened when without much exertion he pushes himself over, colliding with me ever so slightly, his hand grabbed my waist protectively balancing me. I take hold of his shirt to stop myself from falling and our proximity lessens to nothing.

He growls, eyes glowing so brightly that I'm sure it reflected on my skin. Proximity wasn't something we could handle now, unless we…

"Later," he read my thoughts, "we'll go to the spring later," he backed me into a soft tree trunk, lifting my thigh to his hip as he attacked my neck.

I didn't have much willpower or want to stop him. Soon I was ripping- actually ripping, his shirt from his skin, tearing the stubborn fabric that stopped contact. He threw my vest to the side revealing my long sleeve underneath. Just then a wind swept by and I shivered.

"Don't worry I'll have you warm in just a minute," his eyes were humored at my fragility so I threw him a scowling glare.

"You better," I pulled him closer and laid us in a soft bed of leaves,with the shelter of the forest.

My Mate.

We never made it to the desired destination but neither of us seemed to care as we headed back to the house, hand in hand.

Emerson didn't bother with the shirt, especially considering it was now useless thanks to me.

We made a similar turn and he gave my hand a loving squeeze, trying to get my attention.

"Have you ever looked for your mother’s grave?" The question was heavy.

I took a breath, releasing it in a fog, "A couple of times when I was younger but I never found anything," I think back on those dark desperate times, "Why do you ask?"

He shrugs, "I've never really heard you talk about her, I wanted to help somehow, just didn't know where to start."

"From what I remember of her - of our time together they were delightful. Filled with a warm cozy sort of joy." I sank in the feeling and though Emerson said nothing, I knew he drank every word of what I said, "she put this happiness in me - one my father has been trying to extinguish for as long as I could remember."

"I see it," Emerson took a step closer, "Ever since I met you through that linked mental web almost a year ago, I felt it. This irreplaceable happiness that you shared with me on sight." He stared at me for a minute, a full 60 seconds, "You shared so much of yourself with me - just stepped into love blindfolded and willingly. It's the bravest thing I'd ever seen."

The house was now in sight but neither of us moved, "I remember going to dad that night freaking out," he didn't have to specify the night, 5 months ago when I almost died - hoped to die, "for the first time in my life I was terrified to the core. I felt everything you felt, as if you were falling and dragging me with you. You called out for me to help you and I-I didn't know how to. I went into a rage, ruined an entire clearing. Anthony and Gavin got upset with me because I scared away a couple week's worth of hunt. But it was the most prettified I'd ever been. And to think you'd been living with that feeling your whole life... it tore me shreds Adira.

"Then you woke up worried, scared but when I looked at you, and you looked back, that joy spread through your chest like wildfire. It was the oddest thing, you were dying moments earlier and now... now smiling, blushing at me. Me?!" My body hummed excitedly, my throat went dry and my eyes welled up, "You looked at me as if were some god, as if I hadn't just demolished an entire half mile’s worth of forest, as if I were saving you even though I knew with every ounce of me, that you saved me."

I turned around to find his eyes already on mine, tears leaking from my own.

"Thank you," he kissed my forehead tenderly and I jumped into his arms. He held me for a second longer before kissing me lovingly.

"That was quick," Cody says a little further ahead of us, an evil smirk on his face.

"Did you enjoy the spring Adira?" Gavin asks walking out of the house, "What happened to your shirt?"

"I love nature," Is all I sing as I skip back to the warmth of the house.

"So where exactly is De Ortu going to take place? In the house? Another location?" I could almost see Chelsea’s face examining the place after allowing her home to be the location point for drunk, horny wolves.

"Well as mentioned my dad's pack is important, so is our family name," Emerson said this to me shelves away, at a deeper point in the library, "So we'll be hosting it on our property for those within our region who plan on celebrating. Not at the house but one of our other location not too far off, a bit deeper into the woods than we traveled today."

Traveled. I felt his smirk without seeing it.

"So how many people?"

"Last time we had around 500 or 600, I forgot."

600 wolves! My skin got light and as if he felt my panic he spoke, "But you're my mate and so everyone will know better than to even look at you too long. And since Charice’s Birthday lands on the first day of the celebration she'll be able to join for the festivities for the first time, so you guys can stick around each other."

As if that was a question, "Aw it's Charice's first De Ortu? I bet she's excited."

"Why?"

I rolled my eyes, such a big brother, "Because she’ll finally lose her virginity," I laugh at his red face.

"Why would she do that?!?!"

I loved picking at him, "Because now she's a woman," I dramatized the upcoming birthday.

He huffs in disagreement but doesn't say anything, so I continue with my line of questions, finding it more and more difficult to focus on the notes before me, "So which family members are coming?"

"Uncle and his mate from my dad's side with their sons," he thinks harder handing me another book, "And an aunt from my mom’s side with her mate and son as well. And possibly my grandparents,"

Definitely more than 8. "That's a lot," I say gently, surely the huge house could fit them all with no inconveniences but my nervousness at meeting them built, "Do they know about me?"

"Yeah they do," he smiles over at me, walking with some remaining books at his disclosure, "and they're excited to meet you. All they know is your name, and that we're mates - that's all they need to know."

I smile and nodded.

I had checked the calendar and thankfully the last day of De Ortu was the only day I'd need to comment on my own considering the remaining two were weekends. I had my license, it was just waiting for the right moment to ask Emerson to drive his van. Maybe when he was drunk.

He strides over amidst my planning standing behind me as he leaned forward his hands braced on the space on the table, "These are for you, this way you can study what you want instead of passing the time asking me questions." He was rude and proceeded to lick my neck. I push him away laughing as he seems to glide across the floor.

Now confused I looked at the table to find books on… learning Divinum. My chest felt light. I dove in.

The following couple of days went by all too quickly. Between work, preparations and studying by the middle of the following week I was exhausted. Like everyone else at his office, Emerson had taken the entire week off, only leaving home to drop me off and pick me up at work.

Today was particularly draining, considering 3 of my 5 co-workers didn't show up leaving both I and Jenna- a quiet, brooding soul who couldn't smile even if a gun was held to her skull- to pick up on all the work. Restocking shelves, monitoring the cafe, serving customers, answering questions, not to mention we were asked to stay overtime. 9 hours on my feet, smiling and apologizing to those impatient people who wanted this and that. I was beat.

Steve, my manager applauded us both and gave a long ramble on how our missing coworkers would be reprimanded for their absence - but we all knew it wasn't true. I left after changing into my normal clothes, a long-sleeved burgundy shirt with jeans. I stuff my hands into the pocket of my jacket, tightening the scarf around my neck as a biting wind swept by, waiting on Emerson to meet me at my normal spot.

When a couple of minutes passed, I decided to text him, I knew his relatives would start coming in today and the festival was nearing. He was probably on his way.

More time slipped by and considering the temperature was dropping I decided to take matters into my own hands as I rushed through my purse to pull out enough change for the bus. I was just in time to catch one, jogging to the entrance with exact change.

I send a text to Emerson so he wouldn't have bothered coming. The 20-minute drive took a little over an hour by bus before I was dropped off at the beginning of a 15-minute walk down to the house.

The sun had returned home long ago, yet the street lights hadn't come on yet. I began walking forward when an eerie feeling wafted down the dirt path-paved only by the frequent use of vehicles. Trusting my gut I pulled out my phone and called Charice, I attempted texting her along with all the guys but no one responded- I hope everything was okay.

I could do this, it was only a couple of minutes and standing alone in the dark wasn’t doing me any favors, so I took a couple of steps forward when it happened. Like a barrier, that stench--odorous to the point of tears - fills the air again, pungent and delaying, screaming STOP! I try to ignore it as one of my feet went before the other but it seemed to seep into my skin, under my skin.

It was nothing, I try to distract myself by reciting the Divinum alphabet, by now I was capable of writing the letters, recognizing and pronouncing them. An accomplishment that happened just last night.

The sounds slid past my lips as I ambled down the rocky have the paved path to the house. I was probably halfway there when that smell-that horrible odor - forced its way further up my nose, so much that I had to take a couple of steps back, almost falling to the ground. My eyes began watering and my nose burned profusely as I stepped away from what seemed to be an invisible barrier. Now thick and hefty, the stench moved on for miles, unavoidable, it wreaked of death, rotting fruit, rotting flesh... rotting everything. Some bushes rustled behind me, probably a poor forest creature trying to escape this horrid smell.

Now that I think about it where I presently stood the stench was present but not as potent as when I took a couple steps forward, as though I was peeling back layers of a rotting onion. But pressed for time knowing better than standing out in the dark at night, two days before De Ortu, I had to get home now. The light of the front porch was shining from not even a block away but considering my exhausting day it seemed infinite, and this stench wasn’t helping. Despite all this I pushed forward one last time covering my nose with my scarf as I plunged into the last layer of this onion.

My steps were quick and light and I held my breath for a majority of the journey but even that wasn't enough to stop the tears from squeezing themselves from my eyes, and my nose from the flames that began moments ago. I made the turn into the driveway and, as if by magic or miracle, the odor faded away, the air was clean, fresh and untouched. The sudden transition, however, resulted in a coughing fit of sorts, as my eyes and nose burned endlessly, lungs still not accustomed to the freshness of air after such a journey.

It was probably a dead animal or something. Dizziness began to develop but I climbed the porch steps and unlocked the door, walking into the even fresher air. I clear my lungs a couple more times allowing gallons and gallons of air in. Once settled I take in the silence of the house- was no one home?

Looking to the left I note the bags and bags of luggage placed neatly to the side of the staircase. Soon I heard voices and fits of laughter coming from the backyard placing my jacket in the coat closet I rubbed my palms together, thinking as to whether I should join them. My body felt much better, all besides my nose which seemed to suffer the most, the stench still slowly leaking from the depths of it-like releasing air from a balloon with one small hole.

I settle in the couch to calm the dizziness that seemed to be developing, resting my feet in the couch to take a breath- a deep soothing breath. One turned to two and before I realize it, I had fallen asleep. When consciousness began slithering through, it came in fragments, there was sound all around me at first boisterous laughter and merriment that only a large family can contain.

"Oh!" An unfamiliar voice sounds, "Seems like someone has broken into your couch Victor," the female voice taunted causing others to laugh gently.

I listen closely as more feet shuffle, effortlessly across the ground, soft, joyful mumbling filling the air. The same voice gasps, "Wait is this her?"

I don’t wait for an answer as I slip into slumber yet again. I knew it slept for much longer this time because when I woke up, I was in the all too familiar sheets of Emerson’s bed. Groggily I went to the bathroom washing my face, still lined with bits of make-up, then stripped myself of the work clothing. Settling for leggings and a fitted shirt, I analyzed myself in the mirror- full tired eyes, proud tinted cheeks and upward curved lips. Exhaustion seeped through every pore in my body, my muscles cried out in pain each movement I made- and it was only the middle of the week. I push myself to make a good first impression on whichever relatives I’d meet as I headed down the stairs, curls bouncing on my shoulders as I tried to find energy from some deep hidden chasm within. Nothing.

I get to the bottom of the stairs and the exciting chatter was still going on, this was impossible. Just as I was going to wimp out and rush back to sleep, Chester waddles over to me, excited by all the commotion. I settled on the stairs and he licks at my face, but I barely blow him a couple of kisses as I rest my head against the wall. A heat raged through my body and I felt my muscles crying as the dizziness tripled.

"You good there?" Charice’s voice had a humor in it. I nod at her breathlessly as though I'd just ran a marathon. Doubt swelled her gaze as she sits a step lower, glancing up at me in that way that only she can, "Ew you look like you’re dying."

"Thanks smartass," I kick her and she hands me a bottle of water. That haunting smell still crowded my nasal cavities, and even as I drank half the bottle in one swoop, I knew something else was wrong.

"What are you doing over-" Gavin wanders over to us, "Hey, it’s the woman of the hour!" He greets lovingly, but I couldn’t even focus on that, "You don’t look too good there. Chance," His voice had some urgency now as he climbed up behind me, providing me the opportunity to use his body as a support beam.

Chance was by the entrance in a second, a flashlight in hand as he felt my forehead, then moved the light from left to right before my eyes. I tried to keep up, but I couldn’t. What was happening?

Suddenly a popping noise sounded in the deeper parts of my head, seeming to stem from the center of my nose?

"Blood, blood, blood," Charice stood and walked away, hands up thanks to her homophobia.

I would have snarled at her had my nasal cavities not suddenly cleared up, and that’s when I realized that for the first time since I got home, I was able to breathe clearly, without a faint hint of that nauseating smell. Fresh air rushed into my body and I welcomed the gallons I gasped in, even with the warm blood trailing down my nose tingling my upper lip.

"Adira, are you in any pain?" Chance asks softly- glaring at everyone who was beginning to crowd around me- too close, "Space." The one word was all it took for the vacancy to appear- Emerson was nowhere to be found.

"No," I say out of breath, "But I can breathe." I still tried to grow accustomed to the clean air I was able to take in even as Cody rounded the corner with tissues and paper towels. Chance hands me the tissues and wipes my forehead carefully with the paper towels- putting them aside in his back pockets.

"Could you not breathe before?" His question was genuine.

"There was this stench, surrounding the house," I say softly the breathlessness disappearing, "It smelled as if a whole family of animals died and sat by rotting in sewage for months."

"The barriers," Chelsea gasps from further away.

"I thought she came home with Emerson," Gavin adds smoothly.

"What’s going on?" Emerson’s voice was a relief but sounded constrained, tired, "Is that blood? Adira-"

"Staircase," Another male voice speaks, "She was exposed to the barriers," He adds solemnly.

"Am I dying or something?" I look up at Chance seriously.

He smiles humored, just as Emerson rounds the corner, "No," Emerson’s eyes were confused then, angry and lastly…apologetic, "Has the bleeding stopped?" I pulled the tissues away wiping at my nose carefully before nodding, "Is your head any clearer?"

He motioned for Emerson to help me to my feet and lead me over to the table, where I was ordered to sit straight up, "Wipe any extra blood that drains out," Chance says handing me another tissue. I follow his instructions.

"Is your head foggy?"

"Not as much as before," I say truthfully.

"Muscle soreness?" I nod, "Fatigue?" Another affirmation, "Okay stand up for me," my muscles groaned when I did, he holds out his arm, "Push against it as hard as you can." I try but it was the most pathetic thing I’ve ever done, even considering his superhuman strength, "How long did you walk through that gross smell?"

Emerson tensed behind him, looking over at his father who mouthed something that Emerson didn’t find pleasant, his face lost most of its color but he said nothing. I refocused on Chance, "I walked from the bus stop to here, about 15 minutes maybe 10."

"Did you vomit?" He looks inside my mouth with the light as I shake my head, "Any hallucinations?" No. "Bleeding stopped?"

I nod tossing the bloody tissue in the nearby bin.

"Okay, you should be fine, expect a full recovery in the next 24 hours, but this fatigue and tiredness will probably continue at least through the night."

"What about the nose bleeding?"

"No more of that," He smiles and pats my head in the way I hated.

"Wait what caused this reaction? What’s ‘the barrier’?"

"And I will pass these questions on to your charming mate." He jumps from before me as quickly as his feet could take him and Emerson takes his place.

"You’re so beautif-"

"Emerson," I warn him with a glare.

"Okay," he sighs, "we set up a barrier around our property for De Ortu, to ward off other werewolves from trespassing during the festivities, when all our guards are down. Initially, the plan was that I’d pick you up from work and the barrier would pick up my scent and provide a clear entry to the house… but then I forgot to get you and you took the bus and... yeah."

"You forgot?" We’d explore that later, "Okay, you said the barrier was to ward off other werewolves and that it picked up on your scent, so what is it exactly?"

"It’s a living organism, a colony of them, one that my people refer to as ‘Ima’ They are an evolved species all smaller than a grain of sand but with the power of giants. They coexist with us, we provide them territory with which they can thrive and when needed they allow us their services." I tried to wrap my mind around his words, "The Ima that works with our family was asked to guard our property until the end of De Ortu, starting tonight, and I guess they sensed you and put up their defenses."

"But you said they sensed werewolves."

"It may have been a mix up on my part my love," Victor steps forward, "I didn’t give specific instructions on who to defend against, there was no malintent in their actions."

The back door opened and I noticed as Emerson tensed mildly and knew it was Justine before I saw her float by, unaffected by my interrogation- uncaring. I held Emerson’s gaze when it returned to me, there was something he wasn’t telling me but a whine from a small child reminded me that this might not be the time or place to dig deeper.

"Is there anything else?" I say looking over at Justine, humming to herself, focused on her nails.

He shakes his head, "Nope." It was easy for him to slip into my mind and whisper the truth, tell me we'd talk about later but the moments of silence that followed hinted me that he had no such intentions.

A challenge, "Final answer?" And the words were daggers to my chest.

"Yes, final." His smile made me want to scream at the top of my lungs. Liar! I was taken aback by his words, his smile. All so artificial. I wanted to lunge at him so badly that my jaw tightened.

Instead, I took a deep breath- forcing back angry tears- and gulped my heart that had jumped to my throat, "Okay," I smile up at him, my skin screaming the words Liar! Liar! Liar!, "No harm no foul." I say a bit breathlessly.

*****************************************************************************

Comment Replies

Butterfly: Thank you! You have to keep reading to find out if you're right!

Miha: Every time I want to quit this I remember readers like you exist. Lol. Thank you! Keep your thoughts coming.
By
Published: 11/1/2017
Bouquets and Brickbats | What Others Said
Name: