"She sounds murderous," an unfamiliar voice sounds from behind me, stalking closer, "look at that fire in her eyes," a short laugh, "she’s seeing right through you mate," his accent was unknown to me but carried an alluring weight.
Emerson sends a sharp growl his way and even took an advancing step.
"Relax," Victor warns them both. I look behind me and see a man about Emerson’s age, skin a shade darker, but with the same dazzling charm that all werewolves seemed to carry.
"The name is John," he reaches out a hand to shake mine, I follow suit and he kisses the top. Emerson pushes forward, eyes glowing, but John’s danced with humor, "The moon’s effect is already showing in his territorialism, isn’t it?"
His smile was beautiful but unused based on the discomfort he seemed to have. His body was as ripped as Emerson's, broad shoulders proud stance. Yep werewolf.
"John stop bothering Emerson," another male voice walks in, "we are guests in his home and that is his mate you are speaking to, so if he happens to rip you to shreds because of being stupid no one will say a word of objection." This man most resembled Victor, the same smooth skin, carved from supernatural ebony and warm smile, standing at around the same height and a similar build. He directs his cocoa brown eyes at me and smiled, "My name is Gerard, I’m Victor’s oldest brother and John’s father."
"Nice to meet you both," I smile honestly.
"And pardon these two’s behavior, they’ve been like this since they were in diapers," A woman with straight brown hair and a dimpled smile rushes over, "You’d think being grown adults would change this aspect of it all but it seems to have gotten worse," she scolds John, her son I suppose, with her eyes, "Carla," she smiles tenderly at me.
"Boys," I say as an explanation, with a care-free shrug.
She laughs, giving me a high-five, just as Charice rushes inside.
"You okay?" She scans me from head to toe. I nod, smiling at my closest friend, "Great because tomorrow night we are going clubbing!"
Emerson scoffs, "The hell you are. You know how dangerous it gets around this time Charice."
"We’ll be fine-"
"I’ll have to agree with Emerson on this one honey," Victor adds, "Especially since it will be the first night of De Ortu, people get especially rowdy."
"But it’s my birthday," Charice says without whining--a task that must’ve used up all the willpower she had in stock.
"We'll go with them," Gavin offers up with his other arm around Cody’s shoulder, "Considering they probably want to go in order to break free from the shackles of the mated life, even for a few moments."
Anthony growled and whether it was at Gavin's offer or the use of the term "break free" is unclear to me, but Charice’s ignoring the sound was more surprising. Anthony’s jaw notably tightened and his fists curled but he said nothing.
"Perfect," Charice says smiling down at me, pulling me in for a hug, a needed one considering I felt as though I'd rip Emerson's head off at any given second.
"How was work?" She asks pushing a curl back from my face, with a gentle love that she specialized in.
"Long," I sigh leaning against the table before me, "Three employees didn't show up so I was left with dull Jemma to cater to all the annoying customers. I couldn't even take a lunch break."
"Want me to go beat up the manager?" Charice says partly serious.
"And take the satisfaction from me? Nah I'll pass." The joke flows easily between us.
"Is that my beautiful granddaughter I hear?" A male voice sounds from the now open door.
"Poppa!" Charice chirps and rushed to the main living room to greet whoever it was.
"Grandpa?!" Cody yells obnoxiously causing laughter all around.
Across the room Emerson held my gaze, eyes plain, unfazed, I knew the feeling. He easily climbed into my mind and his voice opened itself, "I know I have a lot of explaining to do-"
"You're lying to me," was all I interrupted with, "Just openly lying to my face as if I can't see how every word is tense." He said nothing, absolutely nothing, "Do you have anything to say about that?" My chest felt tight as my anger boiled, "Emerson!"
"Just... trust me," it sounded like a question, "It's confusing and I know you're mad but, just trust me on this one."
His voice was flat, I huff at the request, "So play the happy-go-lucky oblivious human trophy mate for how long exactly?"
He snarls at me but I'm unaffected by the sound, "Emerson?" Chelsea appeared at the entrance to the kitchen, "Everything okay?"
"Yeah mom," like a switch he smiles over at his mother, not a strain of frustration in his voice. I could vomit.
"Pops is waiting for you in the living room," her eyes landed on me as she walked closer to me, "Feeling better honey?" She rubbed my shoulder and I gazed up at her, surprise filled my being as her eyes spoke the same words as Emerson’s. Just trust us.
That made all the difference, the sacrifices Chelsea and Victor have made on my behalf, anything they asked I’d do, because they never asked. But now, this silent plea was heavy, she squeezed my shoulder.
I nod and swallowed the bile that was rising in my throat. Okay. I stood carefully, still dizzy, Chelsea helped me steady myself as we walked to the living room. I watched as a gentle old man settled in a chair facing the fireplace-away from me. An woman his age also stood by his side her facial expression stoic amidst the smiling cheering faces.
"Daddy!" A woman chirped running over to the man in the chair, I had yet to meet her but by the looks of it, she had to be Chelsea's sister, making that man her father and the woman her mother?
The contrast in physical attributes was starking. Unlike, the smooth Auburn hair that Chelsea carried, this woman had straight black hair, sprinkled with strands of silver caused by age but still with an overwhelming beauty that was all-encompassing. Her eyes were a bluish silver, the blue probably resulting from the mating gene that her husband activated.
Those bluish silver eyes landed on mine with a sharp intensity- that would have startled me had I not been drained of all emotion over the past couple of minutes.
"And who do we have here?" She walked passed the excited woman and straight to me.
Now less than a foot away, I notice that I'm a bit taller, but her personality was so overwhelming that it seemed as though we're on the same playing field--if not she was taller than I.
"She can speak," the sharp comment snapped John’s mouth close.
"Adira Chesterfield, Emerson’s mate," I didn't try to hide the fact that I wasn't intimidated by her in the least.
"A bold one you've got here," she circled me quickly, eyeing me from head to toe, "tell me child how long have you been mated to my grandson?"
"Mated for about 7 months but I learned about what it meant 4 months ago," I say honestly.
"And how has it been?"
"Julia don't badger the poor girl, bring her over here so I can meet my new granddaughter," the old man’s voice was humorous, warm and kind. Julia, as it seems, stepped to the side and allowed me a clear path over to where he sat, still facing the fire.
I walked over unsure of what exactly to do, or say, so instead I waited, "Oh she's just gorgeous," He mused looking up at me, I glance down to thank him for his compliment, the warmth of his personality soaked through the ice of my mood. He was a tender looking man, despite the black eye-patch that covered his left eye, his smile was broad, going from one side of his face to the other, and his tender hand reached out for me.
Easily I take a step closer and he pats the space next to him on the couch, I settle there and an overwhelming peace, a soothing calm drenched my body - to the point that even my muscles relaxed.
"Now that you’re at ease," he winked at me mischievously and I blushed at his charm, "tell me about yourself my darling," he took my hand in his, "I know that you’re my grandson’s mate, and that you’re human, but nothing more. What are your interests?"
"I enjoy painting, playing the piano, singing," I confess softly, "I’m mediocre in all those fields but they’re fun."
He laughs and we spend the remainder of the night, sitting by the fire, him speaking and me drinking up every word that he said. Considering all the places, he’s traveled to and the experiences he’s had, I could listen all day.
"Okay dad," Chelsea laughs walking over, "Adira has had a long day and still has work tomorrow."
I yawn rummages through me and I gaze at his tender eyes, "Thank you so much for sharing all those amazing stories." I was entirely happy, my soul felt enlightened, my heart swelled within.
"And thank you for listening to me for so long," he laughs and stands easily to his feet. I follow the suit and dismiss myself to bed, wishing whoever was awake a goodnight.
I was expecting to see Emerson when I went to my room, but he was nowhere to be found, and though I wanted to hear his reason for "forgetting" to pick me up, for that moment when Justine entered, for instructions on, and reasons for, the front I had to put up, I needed answers. But nothing came. Nothing but sleep.
As expected, I woke before everyone else in the house, and after dressing in the appropriate clothing for this warmer- than-expected weather I head out of my room.
I placed Charice’s gift on her doorknob, an engraved silver-plated bracelet, similar to the one, my mother had given me - the one she confessed to admiring. I was fine with sharing the memory with her, sharing this part of my life with her. She was my closest friend, my warrior, my antidote, and enhancer. She was growing up. I smiled at our memories as I jogged down the stairs to grab a bottle of water before heading out. I had to leave extra early today.
With no sign of Emerson anywhere, not in my dreams, not anywhere I slowly gave up on digging any further.
I begin leaving when John joins me in the kitchen, sweat soaking his tank top as he'd just returned from a jog.
"Morning," his accent made everything sound formal, each word held precision and weight.
I smile at him, "Good morning," I linger for a second longer before reminding myself that the commute there would be longer today, "I'm heading out to work," I feel the need to mention out of courtesy, "So I'll see you la-"
"I don't think Uncle Victor got time to tell the Ima of your scent," he speaks politely but condescension swirled in his tone, "I think it would be best to have a family member escort you to the bus stop."
"Oh," I think about how badly Charice would want to kill me if I woke her. Or if I wanted to endure a 15 minute walk with Emerson, this early in the morning. Maybe Chance could-
"I don't mind," John says without me offering, but before I can stop him, he's already out the door and down the steps, "Coming?"
I glanced my watch anxiously, I didn't have time. So without much of an option, I allowed John to walk me through the path to the bus stop. The first couple of moments were silent as I mused on how clean and fresh the air smelled despite its terror just last night. My muscles still ached and my dizziness maintained an impressive consistency, but it seemed to heal itself as we continued walking.
"So how was your night?" John’s sad attempt to make conversation would have been ignored had I not felt a pull to impress this family.
"Tiring," I speak as honestly as possible, "Yours?"
"About the same," he speaks solemnly, "had a bit of a roughing up by your mate after my sharp words." He laughs at the memory, I tried not to focus on what "roughing up" entailed but pushed my questions further.
"Why do you an Emerson not get along?"
"Well, he took my title from me," his voice was solemn before gentle, "and though it's not entirely his fault, I'd still hold it against him."
"Alpha what?" I slowed my steps.
"Did he not tell you?" A part of me knew that he was aware of my lack of knowledge on the subject, "Well within every familial pack, there is an Alpha and his mate. For our father's pack," one of the oldest and most esteemed that still existed, "This is granted to the oldest son of the following generation. My father is the current Alpha but considering that I was born a couple of months after Emerson he was granted the title of the next Alpha."
"Oh wow," did that have anything to do with the front I was silently begged to put up? The bus stop was nearing, "but why fight over something that's already set in stone?"
"Because it would be boring without a little anger," I laughed a little and we got to the stop, without it seeming as long as it did last night, "And give me your number so the next time if no one responds to your messages I'll be free."
I was a bit hesitant and he picked up on it quickly, "I'm not stupid enough to hit on an Alpha’s mate, that's like signing my own death certificate." He laughs as he inserts his number finishing just as the bus pulled up. He waved me off, waiting a bit before returning to the house.
I spent a majority of my day, not focusing on the fact that yet again, it was only Jenna and I, or that these customers knew all my buttons and pushed them at once, but a peace rushed over me as one word tossed itself over and over in my mind. Breaking down walls, shattering tracks for my train of thought, upheaving all levels of discomfort and hurt that I wished to leave buried. Alpha.
A freaking Alpha.
My phone buzzed in the pocket of my apron and I glanced at the screen quickly - the discontent on my customer’s face not faltering my mood.
It was from Emerson, picking you up at 5?
There was so much I wanted to say, so much I wished to do, instead I responded with a deadly, Sure.
Not yet. My wrath, anger, and disappointment had to wait for a minute longer, or to be exact 2 and a half hours. It was already a long day.
After closing shop early, Jenna and I parted separate ways - I now appreciated her silence, it was calming and a bit impressive to see how relaxed she could remain at all times - whether a customer yelled or not. After splitting the tips, we close 3 hours early and decided to leave.
Emerson's car was waiting for me as soon as I walked out of the store. I climbed inside and instantly the air was tense. I was in the process of buckling myself in when he took hold of my hand, I looked up at him and my chest falls.
Alpha. Liar. Mate.
My mood shifted, "Adira-"
"Just drive," I couldn't stomach this, being in this confined space with him made me anxious, nauseous, dizzy in the worst of ways, "Please," my gentle request coupled with my refusal to look at him was enough for him to bite back his commentary.
He pulled into the road and the first couple of minutes of driving were in silence, and I would have been able to get through it without a single word had I not had that conversation with John earlier. It reminded me of how much Emerson was hiding from me.
I turn in my seat to stare at him, he feels my eyes on him and shifts a bit uncomfortable, I spoke, "So you're the Alpha of your pack," he tensed, but said nothing, "not to mention you blatantly lied to me yesterday for heaven's know why, then I realized that you’ve been hiding things from me-maybe for a long time now and to put the cherry on top you ‘forgot’ about me," I used the term as loosely as he did and it hurt as it left my mouth.
His demeanor softened at the last one but I looked away quickly enough to wipe the stupid tear that fell- it was angry crying, I tried to convince myself. I knew better. He didn’t say anything for a minute longer, and I took the time to stare out the window, wanting to be as far away from him as possible.
"I didn’t forget you," he said tenderly, his voice strained, "I could never forget you - you know that."
"Not anymore," I snapped at him looking down at my lap.
He ignores my biting remark and continues speaking, "I am the Alpha in line for my pack, but I still have to wait until my Uncle passes down the position, and that could take years so that’s why I hadn’t mentioned it." Poor excuse but I let him continue, "I lied because of my grandmother, we all know what she can be like around humans, she hates them."
"I'm not allowed to tell the story, if you want to know you should ask her yourself- though I don't advise it."
"What's going on with Justine?" I push now that he was answering questions.
He's silent for a minute longer before he sighs, "We’re ensuring that she's not mated to me."
The bile rose up my throat, "What are you talking about?!"
Did that mean Emerson and I weren't mated? Was this all just a-
"Stop," he read my thoughts and ended them before they got too bad, "we are mates - you and I, that isn't in question."
"Her genetic trait was activated, she and her family got upset because they believed it was me, but we already proved that-"
"So why are you ensuring that she isn't if you're my mate?" My anger boiled.
"We're just making sure-"
"So you might not be my mate?"
His jaw tightens at the thought and he pulls into the road where the barriers start.
"Look at me!" The heated frustration in my chest bursts and flowed through my veins. This couldn't all be for nothing, what I felt, feel for Emerson is real. I knew it with everything I had and I would fight for it if I had to.
"It was confirmed yesterday," his voice was soft and unchanged, "you don't need to wo-"
"Pull over," he scans me up and down, eyes locking in on mine. Will you run? His hazel eyes asked, "I think I'm going to puke."
My answer was enough for him to slam on the brakes and unlock the door. I jumped out quickly and before I could make it too far the bile that rested in my throat threw itself out.
If Emerson wasn't my mate what would I do? How would I breathe? I felt my lungs constricting just as another fit of vomit pushed itself out. I wasn't even sure where all this food came from, I had barely eaten in the past couple of days. His hands pulled my hair back with a loving effort, but I pushed him away.
Leave me alone!
"Adira," his voice was soft.
"No," the tears streamed down as I stared at the roots of the tree that held my undigested food, "you made me believe that we were forever, that this unlike everything else on my stupid life was solid, unshakeable-"
"It is!" He roared advancing toward me with an anger that would make anyone else tremble in their skin, "Why do you think I've been doing all the stupid tests?! If I didn't believe that you were my mate, if I didn't feel you in my blood, if I didn't look at you and see my entire future why would we be together this long?!?" He started to shift but I couldn't stop him as his words sink in.
"Then why hide it?" My voice cracked.
There was silence, the trees swayed happily in the light breeze, sheltering the world from our anguish, our pain - like the skyscrapers, "I didn't want to hurt you," He sighs sounding more human, "At first it was only supposed to be one test, but then one thing turned to another and-"
"What kind of tests?"
"Blood work mostly, but also emotional one's that test our reaction to certain scenarios. If we were truly mates then that bond that ties us together would force me to react-"
"No," he snarls, "Because she's not my mate, you are. You've always been." He takes a step forward but I step back, the action hurt more than any words I say ever could but he remained still, "I'm sorry."
I would have reacted if I wasn't still processing what was happening. He was so sure of it now, was it because the tests were finished? Or is he being sincere? Was he... was I… my thoughts caved in on themselves and I felt my knees give out beneath me. He took a step forward to help me but knew... felt that I didn't want his help, so stayed frozen.
I knelt before the tree whose roots held my regurgitated meal from days ago, mostly liquid, mostly water. I took a deep breath and tried to analyze what I was feeling but I was just... numb. A familiar feeling.
Similar to when I would get slapped around by my dad, or when Trevor would take something I didn't want to give. At some point during either of those processes my detachment would cross the physical and emotional barriers. It didn't leave till my father’s rage seethed or Trevor climbed from above me. Not feeling anything no matter how hard I tried.
"You have to let me in on what you're thinking Adira," He sounded troubled as if he felt the comparison.
"Nothing," I was winded as I stood to my feet. He opened his mouth to protest but I stopped him, "I'm being honest, I don't know what to think, I can't feel anything, I'm just...numb." He let out a breath that held him up, his shoulders slumped as if he'd just killed me.
"Let's go home," I was gentle as I walked past him to the van door, forcing the door open.
He hadn't moved from where he stood, staring out as if I were still there. I wait in my seat, the lump that settled in my throat spreading to my chest down to my stomach. Exhaustion soaked me, and I wanted to be home.
When he joined me, he seemed to be as mute as I. We drove back in silence for the remaining 5 minutes before we pulled into the house. There were people seated on the porch enjoying the surprisingly warm weather, Gerard and Victor spoke to each other playfully, spotting us as we pulled in first. Charice held an adorable baby as she spoke to an aunt I saw last night but never got the opportunity to speak to. They were all so happy.
"You don't have to pretend that you're okay," he pushed the words out and they stung me as much as they stung him.
I took a deep breath still seated staring out, "Can I stay in here?"
He took a second to think about it before nodding, "Sure, need anything?"
He affirmed as he walked out of the van, nodding at everyone on the porch in a manner that most definitely not like him. When he disappeared inside for the few seconds, he did everyone's eyes went to me, as if they saw my soul - saw my anger.
He left the house with a superhuman speed I wasn't accustomed to, maybe the first day of De Ortu was showing its effects on him. He opened the door holding a cup of mouthwash and a small bowl.
I rinsed my mouth and he tossed the residual liquid to the side turning to face me, "I'll leave the heat on and put a mark around the van, it stops anyone from coming in without your or my permission."
He began walking away, "Where are you going?" My question carried further, louder than I thought it would.
"On a run," he looks at me, his eyes begging me to tell him to stay but I couldn't so I nod and he stiffens before stepping away and jogging to the side of the house transforming into his wolf before he got too far.
I sighed now in the solitude of the van, air passed through me easier than a second ago, with the space to do and think as I please I rested my head on the dashboard.
When Emerson came back 15 minutes later, I was just as lost as when he left. Other than Charice making an attempt to walk over everyone stared at me with a sad confusion in their eyes. No one came closer than Charice, whose birthday I was ruining with each passing second I spent in this stupid car.
Emerson’s wolf appeared jogging to the side of the house where he'd change once he transformed. When he came around, he wore gray sweats and no shirt and for the first time I felt my body groan in arousal. Though it wasn't fitting considering my rage, it was something. So I took it, and by the time he opened the door, I was a little less numb.
He waited for me to say something but when I didn't he took a chance, "What would you like me to do? Say?"
I looked forward and everyone seemed to be awaiting my response, they heard our whispers as loud as day, thanks to their advanced hearing. Of all people, I managed to lock eyes with Julia, whose twisted smile held anger and hatred.
She hates humans.
With reason, I'm sure.
I hate humans too. Maybe we could bond over that mutual hate.
Despite this I shouldn't give her more reasons to hate me, yet I was sad, numb, angry.
Sighing I hop from the seat and he provides space, I look around for a minute, all eyes on me - I push past that disturbing fact. Moving to the hidden space under the porch steps, I pull out the bag that held sporting equipment, amongst them a metal bat.
Wavering sounds of discomfort stem from the porch as I head toward Emerson with the bat in hand. Shedding my jacket I pass it to Emerson marching toward the forest, "Don't follow me," I whisper in his mind and without a second of protest, he walks towards the house, not looking back once.
A couple of feet into the forest, I found the perfect outlet for this boiling that developed in my stomach. It was an overpowering sensation that make my skin feel tight as I digested the truth behind Emerson, behind his family. My grip tightened around the smooth rubber of the bat as I stared at the tree trunk.
Down the mental hallway we shared I felt Emerson slide in, "Don't go too far."
I'm reminded of his words from earlier, Will you run? I didn't respond but felt the door slam, shutting him out for a few moments more. I refocused on the tree trunk and the boiling inside overflowed spreading to my limbs, my brain. The frustration peaked and with all the energy I had in store I threw my first blow.
The forest shielded them from my anger, from my pain, allowing an outlet I hadn't met previously. Alpha. Justine. Mate. Divinum. Julia.
I needed an escape from it all so my mind silenced into a blank canvas and the bat was my paint brush. It might have been minutes or hours that passed all I knew is that when I stopped my palms felt clammy and sore. For the most part my anger soothed, but the numbness was unshakable, so with my muscles now more tired than they'd ever been, I fell to the crunchy forest floor. My legs pulsed, arms felt as heavy as the rest of my body, but my lungs were clear as much so as my mind.
Looking around me I wondered how far I'd get before Emerson found out.
Considering how quickly he forgets about me I'd give him a couple of hours maybe a day or two. I felt a growl of disapproval as if he heard my joke, the sound made me smile. I wrapped my messy hair in a bun allowing cold air to hit my neck sending a shiver of relief down my spine. Still unsure of what to do I stared at the loose dirt beneath me, at the dented metal bat, at the stripped tree. Everywhere I go I cause turmoil.
Pulling my knees up I rested my head against them. My stomach growled but I pushed forward hoping to find some solution to all this. I wish I could be that mate that obviously trusted him, that could go through my day without this icky feeling in the pit of my stomach- but I can't. He's lied so much, to protect me. I take a deep breath his voice sounds from the deep darkness of my mind, "It's going to get dark soon." The concern in his voice made my heart jump to my throat and swell there.
Without a decision of any sort, I pull my body up from the dirt, getting dizzy on the way, but using the bat as a cane to steady my steps, as I headed home. When the forest pushed to the side to reveal the front of the humongous wooden fixture that is our home, I'm taken aback for a second comparing it to the hobble that was my previous residence.
I had a lot here, family, friends, a mate… who cared for me despite his actions. Charice was the first to spot me walking towards the stairs where Emerson sat talking to Cody but his brain was somewhere else. Charice began walking to me but Pops stops her with the raise of his fingers.
Emerson's head snaps up and he starts towards me, stopping a couple of feet back. He eyed the dent in the bat and the corner of his lip pulls upwards with…. pride. My chest felt light.
"You okay?" He asks tenderly reaching for the bat as though I'd swing it at him in any given second. Not too bad of an idea.
I hadn't realized how out of breath I was till I passed it, sweat trickled down my face and strands of hair stuck to it despite the brutal cold.
I didn't answer his question but stared at him, his eyes consumed me in a way that they always did and for a moment I'm dazed. My mate.
"You get me so upset," My voice trembled in angst and I remembered all the eyes that watched us so stopped myself. I creeped into his mind, "I want to tell you to stop hiding things, to trust me, to return the favor of letting me in but I know better than to think it will work."
He slumped and might as well have fallen to his knees, but I took a step forward and wrapped his arms around my shoulders as mine coiled around his midsection, face buried in his chest.
"And I know it's stupid of me to but I trust you," I continue with a steadier voice now that physical contact was established, "With everything. Similarly you can’t expect me to be happily, obliviously waiting for answers, and me searching on my own might not be the safest route. But it…. hurts to have you push me away. I don’t want to feel like that again - not around you."
His arms tightened around me and his head rested on the crook of my neck.
"I’ve been so concerned with how my family and my world saw us that I let protecting you take over," his voice was heavy with regret, "it stops now. You looked at me like... like I was one of them," he didn’t need to explain who ‘they’ were, "and it was like a switch went off in my head, the lights turned on, and I saw you crying, kneeling before a tree."
"It’s not," he growled out loud now, attracting the forest’s attention, in my mind now, "I promised you I’d never make you feel the way they did- the way he did, yet…"
"You made a mistake," I say softly, guilt soaking every inch of my skin, "I’ve made them too."
"No, you’re perfect," he rubbed his nose against mine and despite myself I smiled.
"I surely am not," my tease was muffled by the fabric of his shirt as my arms held him tight, "but thank you for thinking that."
"You are," he pressed his forehead against mine and I pushed back just as gently, "I’m sorry."
"I know," the cold air seeps into my body the flames of anger now gone, "and I know I'm not… the best at this whole mating thing, I'm still learning but... you can't think that hiding things from me will help."
"Yeah," he sighs wrapping his warm arms around me, "we’ll work on it together."
I felt approving gazes from all around and though my chest was still weighed down, it was as though a larger mass had been lifted, from both our shoulders.
"Are you guys done?" Charice yelled from behind, "because I kind of have to cry over Adira’s gift again and I’d want her to see this time." There’s laughter from all around and I looked up at her happily, glad she liked it.
I step out of Emerson’s hold after receiving a kiss to my brow and jogged up to Charice, who handed the baby to her aunt and enveloped me in a tight embrace. We squealed holding each other tightly.
"Liked it?" I smile.
"She cried for like 20 minutes," Anthony yells from further in the house.
"Oh, no and I wasn’t there to cry with you!" I joke and she screams in laughter.
"It’s okay, you can make it up to me later when we go out." She shimmied her shoulders as we walked up the stairs. There the unknown aunt and adorable baby waited to be introduced.
"My name is Audrey, I’m Chelsea’s youngest sister, that’s my husband and mate Kenyon and this is baby Matthew." I gazed down at the little bundle of joy. He was perfect.
"I’m Adira, it’s a pleasure to meet you," I meant it as I looked into the woman’s eyes, the same blue as Chelsea’s the same Auburn hair, all different from Julia. Was that a part of the story that I had to hear from her?
Baby Matthew wiggled from his mother’s arms a tiny pacifier in his mouth as he wobbled over to me. I was shocked at the action and looked at Aubrey for permission. She nodded just as dazed as I was.
I dropped my bag and lifted him, "You’re just the cutest little man, aren’t you?" I looked in his large brown eyes, the curls on his smooth hair that fell down his forehead, the dimpled chubby cheeks all painted perfectly on soft creamy skin. He smiled at me and reached for my face with a small hand. I caught it in my mouth and nibbled at his fingers tenderly. He laughed and repeated the motion, eventually laughing so hard that his pacifier fell from his mouth. I caught it quickly, humored by his joy.
"He likes you," Kenyon notices watching us, in fact everyone was watching us. I grew uncomfortable.
"It’s his first interaction with a human," Victor walks over protectively. It was enough of an explanation to free my worries.
"You get along with him so well," Chelsea mused.
"Because he’s so cute, and tiny," I almost screamed as he looked at me with questioning eyes, unaware of his innocence.
"Em, you better stop her before she starts getting ideas," Gavin warns, laughter laced on his tongue.
Emerson stood by the steps, "Want one?" He shocked everyone by saying, but I saw the humor in his eyes.
"How about 8?" I say excitedly.
"All at once or bit by bit?!" They soon picked up on our joking.
"I say two pair of quadruplets," Cody chimes in.
"Ou! I second that!" Excitement rung through my voice.
"Funny," Emerson walks over, taking my bag from the ground, I thanked him and he continued inside.
"How was work sweetie?" Chelsea asks as I settle with Matthew in my lap, mumbling to himself as he played with my fingers.
"Did you try that pizza place I told you about?" Cody asks from further away.
"No I didn’t get a lunch break."
"Again?" Charice exclaimed angrily, she’s been meaning to kill my boss ever since I started 5 days ago.
"What do you mean again?" Emerson asks walking out with a blanket - he read my mind.
"She didn’t have a break yesterday either." Charice complains ignoring all the signals I was throwing her.
"As a matter of fact you didn’t eat dinner yesterday either," Chelsea recalls, I heard as all the gears in their minds clicked together.
"Adira when was the last time you ate?" Emerson’s voice was deadly.
I stared down at Matthew, but even the babe gave me a worried gaze.
"Adira," he pushed.
I climbed into his mind easily, "Two days ago but only because-"
His eyes bulged out of his head, "He doesn’t look happy." Cody sings.
Emerson marched over to me with an untamed fury before he caught a breath and slowed his action ever so slightly. When close he takes Matthew gently from my arms, kissing his cheek in a way that made my chest light even as he handed him to the nearest person, who was Chelsea in this case. When he refocused on me, I saw the fire cracking on his irises and quietly followed when he pulled me inside by the wrist.
I didn’t object, knowing he was doing his best to contain all the anger was brewing beneath his skin. He sat me around the table, in my normal seat, soon I hear the microwave beep a couple of times and a huge plate filled with food from yesterday was placed before me.
"I can’t eat all th-"
"Try," he handed me a fork. There was no arguing this.
"Adira," he growled so loudly my skin crawled.
I wanted to get upset at him raising his voice but the smell of the food hit my nostrils and I almost moaned. I took up the fork and started eating slowly, he sighed relieved. Moments later, he got down on one knee before me and for a second my heart stops and races at the same time. Soon I realize, he was merely removing my boots from my frigid feet.
I try my hardest to contain my embarrassment refocusing on my food. Come on, Emerson marrying me? Pppffftttt!! He put my boots to the side then took one of my feet in his hands and rubbing softly through the socks. Though, Mrs. Adira Hunt does have a nice ring to it. I smile to myself but remember that Emerson has access to my thoughts so focused on other things instead.
I hummed and chewed content now. He huffed humorously, I gave him a questioning look but he just kept rubbing.
A couple of minutes passed and though I ate less than half the plate, he made I was stuffed. Emerson gave me a disappointed look just as everyone filed in, "I’m full," I whined.
"You didn't eat for two days and that gets you full?"
"That was at least 2 regular plates of food!" I complain, "If I eat more I'll explode."
He stared at me with concern scanning head to toe. I couldn’t resist the urge to hear his thoughts do, I climbed into his mind just in time to hear, "Dammit Emerson how did you not realize she hadn't ate for so long?" He would beat himself up for this one I knew.
I gave him a small smile, stroking his cheek - a reassuring gesture. I placed my forehead on his and he leaned forward to take my lips tenderly. The act held promise.
"I'm sorry," he whispered.
I nod, "I know," I rubbed my nose against his, "But if I eat more I won't fit into my outfit for later tonight." I winked at him taunting.
"If I see any skin you're not leaving," he roared taking my plate.
"How are we supposed to get free drinks if we don't show skin?" Charice chimes in.
"Show them your sparkling personalities," Anthony retorted making everyone laugh.
"Drinks are on us ladies," Gavin winks at me and I throw fake googly eyes his way. Emerson growls at us sharply and I laugh at his jealousy- De Ortu.
"Don't worry guys, we'll be on our best behavior," Cody sings strutting into the kitchen where everyone always seemed to gather. I stood by Emerson and after putting away the rest of my food, he hugs me from behind, his arms wrapping around my chest and stomach.
"Otherwise I'll kill you," Anthony’s shrug held no humor.
"Seconded," Emerson sighs.
"Boys relax, the girls deserve to have some fun without having to worry about you killing someone," Chelsea came to our defenses.
"Let them live," Aubrey chimed in.
"You two are the one's to talk," Victor laughs shortly.
We then listen to their crazy stories from when they were younger. From hitchhiking, to spending nights in the back of some stranger’s van, it was all amazing.
"You have to live," Aubrey laughs sipping her wine.
"I was completely unaware of these adventures," their father scolds and the women laugh between themselves.
"We should get ready," Charice calls to me, I agree and untangle myself from Emerson's hold.
A couple of moments later, Charice and I exited our individual rooms fully dressed.
She wore a tight black dress with a deep cut v-neck, the entire outfit ended at her mid thighs and was topped with shiny red stilettos. She straightened her gorgeous brown hair and had red lipstick and amazing makeup on.
I wore a white crop top, without shoulder straps but sleeves that went down to my wrist. Placed with a pair of leather pants that hugged every curve I had it was deadly. My small waist and (newly) toned stomach shown in the strip of skin revealing my pierced belly button, with a diamond stud peeking out. Tied together with white stilettos and long bouncy curls falling past my shoulders surrounding my well-done makeup.
We looked at each other and the same thought crossed both our minds- they're going to be pissed.
We laugh and looped arms descending the stairs to the living room. No one noticed us at first and we were too deep in conversation to take note anyways, "No." Anthony was the first to protest storming over heading our way.
We looked at him and everyone's gaze landed on us. This would be great.
"Hell no," Emerson growls.
"Ready guys?" Charice asks Gavin and Cody ignoring her mate and brother.
"Looking cute ladies," Chelsea smiled at us, "Adira those pants are-"
"Nope," Emerson storms over as well an anger in his eyes. His grandfather laughs and says something to Kenyon, Gerard and Victor in Divinum, all their eyes glued to us.
"You've gotta be kidding me," Emerson growls at my outfit, "The piercing too?"
"I think it goes well with my outfit no?"
I did a full 360 so he'd get the entire thing, "Is this a punishment for earlier?" He almost cried.
"Little bit," I say honestly, "Plus I haven't gone out in ages."
"We'll go out right now if-"
"Nope," Charice butts in looping her arm around mine, "Let's go fellas." I gave Emerson a ‘what can ya do’ glance before kissing him slowly, mercilessly, eyes locked.
"Bye everyone!" I chirped as we left the front door.
Gavin drove us to the club that Charice said was a mingling of humans, werewolves and other supernatural beings. I was excited but looked over at Charice to find her lost in thought, "What's up?"
"Anthony is driving me nuts," she sighs quietly.
"How? Does it have to do with the deed?"
She nods shortly, "I thought my birthday would mean he's finally shown some sort of interest but…" her voice trailed off, "Maybe he’s not attracted to me enough to-"
"We both know that's a lie," I cut her doubt short, "You're mated, you know what the feeling is like, and you know he's feeling it too."
"Some reassurance would be nice," she sighed but shook her head, as if putting the issue on the back burner, "Ready for a night of dancing and shots?!"
"Yeah!" I sing, "I kinda want to see what the supernatural social life is like."
"Well in Our world we- including you- are seen as some pretty important people, because of Victor’s line. So we get in without reservations and are on all lists, no lines, no nothing." Gavin's announcement was new to me.
"Woah," I knew Victor’s pack was significant in the work world but wasn't aware that importance transcended social barriers, "I hadn't realized that. So it doesn't matter that I'm human?"
"It matters for the gossip," Cody spits, "But otherwise you're good, just stay close."
We pull up to the glass walled club with gyrating bodies and multiple-colored lights spilling all over the room, the neon sign at the entrance read ‘Faded’. I smiled as Charice basically dragged me out, forgetting her strength for a moment. As Gavin promised, we skipped the long line that rounded the corner, and walked through not even acknowledging the security guards who stood patiently.
People complained in the line but the music from the crowded room drowned that out. We walked past the main area, going to a separate reserved area, lined with red velvet ropes, and a guard well dressed in a suit and tie. Alcohol was already laid out on the table glasses all around.
"Alright ladies ready for a good time?" Gavin yelled. We all cheered as he poured us shots.
This would be a good night.
"Let’s go dance," I pulled on Cody’s arm, dragging him to the dance floor.
He laughed but held onto my waist, moving with me to the beat. He wasn’t too bad of a dancer and soon enough, we took the attention of others around, but Cody kept me preoccupied. Halfway through a tall guy with shoulder-length brown hair and fiery blue eyes walked over and smiled my way, adding a wink.
"Enjoy yourself I’ll be right there if you need me," Cody whispers before sliding away, over to some girl who was giving him googly eyes the entire time.
With my previous company gone, the other guy took the opportunity to move forward. I think I’ll call him Zeus. My smile revealed itself to him as his hands roamed my waist, pulling me close as our bodies synchronized.
I shouldn’t have liked it but I did. Maybe it was the alcohol.
"Ready?" Cody asked, it looked as if there was three of him, so I grabbed onto his shirt for stability, "I’ll take that as a yes." His eyes were humored as we walked over to the van, still parked outside.
"Wait, where’s Charice?"
"Waiting in the car," Cody laughs hooking his arm around my waist as we walked out. I waved at the people I had befriended and danced with all night, Zeus included.
I slid into the back seat and my head rested easily on Charice’s shoulder.
Gavin looks back at me with a grin, "I think we did good chap," he looks over at Cody as he pulls out of the parking lot and starts driving.
"I’m gonna give that Anthony a piece of my mind," Charice threatened loudly.
She must’ve been going crazy, because she grew more heads too, must’ve been a De Ortu thing, nevertheless I had to advise my friend, "No, he’s being a good guy and-"
"I’m sick of the good guy routine!" She yelled so loud, my ears boomed.
"Hey, keep it down back there," Gavin said softly, glaring at us through the rear-view mirror. Charice stuck her tongue at him and I found it especially hilarious.
When we pulled into the house, I steadied my stare down enough to read the time on the clock, next to the steering wheel. 2:08 AM. The house was lively, everyone seeming to still be awake. Cody helped me out and up the stairs, pushing open the door as I staggered into the living room. My legs gave out beneath me and I happily landed on the ground, resting against the wall as Charice was brought inside.
"We’re home," Cody laughs closing the door, looking over me.
I closed my eyes for a moment, hoping the pulsing would soothe itself. When I open them, Emerson is before me, eyes humored as he stared down at me.
"Emerson!" I cheer holding my arms up. He takes them readily, pulling me to my feet.
"Hey baby," he smiles kissing the side of my head, "had fun?"
I nodded, "I met my backup mate in case you kick me to the curb."
"Zeus!" Charice cheered, I joined her.
"Zeus?" Chelsea raised an eyebrow, a happy twinkle in her eyes.
"Oh, my goodness, Chelsea," I walked over to her, "he was heavenly!"
"And his name was Zeus?" Aubrey laughs in Kenyon’s lap.
I shrug, "That’s what I named him." There's laughter all around.
"His hair," Charice wooes.
"His eyes," I almost fell to the ground in excitement.
Emerson growled but Victor held out a hand, laughter in his eyes, "She’s just drunk," he explained for me.
"Yeah," I walked over to him, "plus you-"
"I got a bone to pick with you!" Charice yells marching over to Anthony, who had just walked in. He caught her by the shoulders when she tripped forward.
Unlike Emerson, Anthony wasn't’ humored by her appearance, and Charice noticed that immediately. Her joyful retort becoming insecure and frail before his very eyes. His demeanor softened, but she had already pushed him away and marched up the stairs, at an impressive pace.
"Ugh," I groan walking over to Emerson, "she just wants sex Anthony, geez."
I heard someone choke on their drink, Emerson laughed patting my hair, "Okay babe," he calmed me down.
"But it’s true she kept saying that he probably thinks she’s ugly and unattractive the entire time we were at the club, at least before the alcohol hit."
Gavin said something to Anthony and he nodded jogging up the stairs.
"Alright match-maker time for you to go to bed," Emerson says holding me close.
"I’m not tired," I whine turning to face him.
"Okay, but I know that those shoes are probably killing you," they were, "and you're all sweaty." His arms tightened around me.
"Yeah you're right."
Before I knew what was happening, I was swept into his arms and we began moving up the stairs, I waved dizzily at whoever was downstairs, catching John at the last minute.
When Emerson put me on my feet, it was in his room, but something was different.
"Is that my stuff?" I slurred.
"Only a few of them," he said, "I was going to move everything but thought it best to ask you before I did that."
"Why would you put my things here?"
"So we can share a room." His cheeked grew red even soaked in the darkness.
My skin felt light and amidst the dizziness a calm washes through me, "Wait what? Wouldn't you want your own private spac-"
He backed me to the wall, pressing against my body in all his glory, "This is how close I want to be to you constantly." I giggled at the joke but his eyes were serious, "but I didn't want to push that decision on you initially."
"Now you want to?"
"After realizing how… distant I got these past couple of days and how easy it was to neglect you to the extent that I did," he was getting angry with himself, "I think it would be best."
"Okay," I smile, "we can move more of my stuff here tomorrow."
"Or we can get an entirely different room, one that's not yours or mine but ours."
"Really? Where?" My body dipped to the side.
"We'll talk about it tomorrow," he kisses the base of my neck, "let's get you in the shower."
I wiggle from his arms, "I'm too tired," I whined walking closer to the bed.
"Maybe you should," his voice was strained.
"Do I stink that bad?" I raised my arm and smelled my armpits and shirt.
"You smell like men," he bit before refocusing, my face was red with embarrassment, "as if they were all over you as much as I feared."
"I'll take the shower," I laugh yawning a bit.
"I can help," he offers already lifting the shirt up to my silk bra. My chest pushes forward and he takes the invitation, tossing my shirt to the side and unclasping my bra.
"Tomorrow," I hear myself sigh even as my leg wrapped around him.
"Okay," his voice didn't sound recognizably human as he struggles to leave my atmosphere- eventually we untangle from each other, "Shower."
"I think I can do it," I slur but steadied myself. He began to speak but I stopped him, "if I see you remotely naked I might ask you to make me scream till the entire forest hears," I mumble on his lips, "and it's a big forest." He groans on my giggling lips pushing me deeper into the wall.
I smile but pulled away, heading to the bathroom.
"Wicked beast," Emerson growls squeezing my cheeks through the pants.
"I try." My joke lightens the thick carnal essence that filled the room. After my shower, I began to sober up but as soon as I climbed into bed a tire swept over my body.
The first thing I saw amidst the navy blue covers was the fire in his hazel eyes, it made me pull him in.
"I love you," his voice hummed.
"I love you too." Darkness overtook.
The following morning my headache woke me, a pulsing so heavy I had to wait a few moment after each movement before I sat completely upright in bed. Looking to the left of me I notice a bottle of water, pills and a note. I read the note in Emerson's familiar handwriting, a beautiful script, "Take these, then after 10 minutes change and come downstairs."
I follow the instructions and slid into some loose cotton pants and a t-shirt. My headache had entirely disappeared but my body still felt groggy, so I carefully wobbled down the hall to the entrance of the staircase.
The familiar brush of Chester’s tail was absent and then I think back on when I saw him last. Maybe he was downstairs?
"There she is!" Cody screamed.
A pain shot through my skull landing behind my eye sockets as the sound registered in my eardrums.
"Stop being an ass," Emerson slaps him upside the head but doesn't look directly at me.
"You wouldn't be saying that if you knew what she did last night," Cody smirks and he was right. I walk over to the jerk and slapped him in the same spot Emerson had.
"I already know what she did," Emerson shocks us by saying, "you talk in your sleep." Still no eye contact.
"I didn't know you did that." Gavin says with a fork hanging from the side of his mouth.
"Me either," I blanked, what did I say?
There's silence for a minute and Gavin and Cody pick on my not too subtle attempts to excuse themselves- leaving quietly.
"What did I say?" I didn't really want to know, I had a bad feeling in my stomach.
"Don't worry about it." He places a hearty plate of steaming pancakes, bacon and sausages in front of me. I caught him by the arm and I saw the anger in his irises, so much pain.
"I don't want to talk about it."
"But it's not-"
"Adira I said no!" His voice shook the table, the room, and house. I gasped at the sudden explosion, my hair blown back ever so slightly by the wind from his lash.
"Everything okay in there?" Gerard asks rounding the corner, the tension in the air was palpable and Emerson’s yelling was enough of a hint. Baby Matthew in his arms surely did and leaned away from us, cuddling deeper into Gerard's shoulder.
Emerson stalks out of the room and I stand to follow him, but Gerard steps in front of the exit, "De Ortu is establishing its effects."
I won’t be the same person you’re accustomed to seeing…
He had said the words before and I thought I had prepared myself enough for the impact of it when it came yet… and hurting or scaring you isn't something I plan on doing...
"You should finish your meal," Gerard interrupts my train of thoughts with an encouraging smile and I obliged him pushing my shaky wrist underneath the table. Later. I’d deal with it later.
Throughout breakfast my stomach twisted and coiled itself enough to stop the need for me to eat anything more than the couple of bites I had taken initially. Now I stared down at the lake of maple syrup, tracing the Divinum alphabet one letter at a time, sounding them quietly as the time passed. The front door opened moments later and the cool chill at the base of my neck allows me to realize it’s Emerson before I saw him round the corner, calmer than earlier.
I couldn’t hide the still full plate quickly enough, and as if he read my mind his eyes dart towards the meal then back up at me, with anger.
Think quick Adira. "I couldn’t eat knowing I upset you," I say hastily just then people rounded the corner.
"Am I going to have to start feeding you myself?" His humor implied that he wasn’t as angry as earlier.
"It wouldn’t hurt," I smile up at his beautiful physique displayed perfectly under the black t-shirt and sweats.
He walks over to me, one hand braced on the back of my chair, the other on the table right before me, he stalked into my atmosphere like a wolf in for the hunt. Our breathing intertwines and just as our eyes lock, it was as though our bodies relied on each other to function. Instantly, we became one.
"Say his name again and I’ll lose it." His growl snapped me out of my trance. Gently he begins to rub his nose up my neck, I know he meant Zeus, "And as it pertains to the other things you mentioned I can’t fairly…." His anger built just at the thought and he gathered himself before pushing forward, "I’ll need some patience for the next couple of days, my temper is becoming harder to control and I feel-"
I shush him with a kiss, "We’ve been arguing a lot anyways," my forehead pushed on his, "I think it’s fair to take a break for a couple of days."
And that was what De Ortu would mean for us.