That night I was dressed in warm, yet appropriate clothing and we all walked over to the site of the festivities. The host family would be the leaders of ceremonies, specifically Pops the oldest familial representative.
There were several fires set up across the vast area, with hundreds and hundreds of wolves. At the moment they were separated by gender, with the main ceremonial fire between them. Once Pop’s speech finished they would mingle, allowing the moon and it’s forced to guide them to whoever they wish- whether this was your mate or not wasn’t much of a choice you had. But as long as I found Emerson or he found me, then we’d be fine and he’d be allowed to mingle thereafter.
"Don’t drink any of the wine," Charice whispers to me now, "It has a potion inside, that allows us to get especially riled up- an enhancer of sorts. I don’t know what exactly it does for humans, but it can’t be good."
I nodded at her, thanking her for the warning. Pops finished and there was a mass howling, only very few individuals didn’t, the humans, including myself. I was told that there would be other humans as well, very few but humans nonetheless. It hit me as a relief considering hearing all this for another human’s perspective would be nice. Pops said something else in Divinum and suddenly the crowd began moving.
"Let’s go find our men," Charice makes me laugh as we push through the crowd.
More than a handful of men stopped their paths when we walked by and whether it was Charice’s scent or mine, was unknown to me. Once we cleared the mass, it became easier to breathe and see. She took me by the wrist and dragged me to the side where Anthony and Gavin waited- Gavin already catching the attention of 3 women who looked at him anxiously from a distance. Anthony had 3 more than Gavin but was only focused on one individual.
Some men reached after Charice on our way there, obviously interested but she pushed forward. I admired her persistence, apparently it was difficult to resist the attention of the opposite sex during De Ortu.
"Look who braved the storm," Anthony laughs hugging Charice close. Both their eyes glowed a bit brighter, the moon was already having an effect on them.
"I know right, she dodged all those guys pretty well," I commended Charice in her efforts as I rubbed up and down my arms, it was chillier than I expected.
"Dodged?" She focused on me, "I reek of Anthony right now, those men weren’t trying to get at me," She winks and wiggles her brows mischievously.
Me?! That was hard to believe, with all the candidates here I didn’t find that possible.
"It makes sense," Gavin says to me now, "You’re a beautifully unscented human woman, just walking around in the middle of De Ortu." He sipped his wine, "I bet the only thing that stopped half of them from coming too close was the fact that you’re in one way or another associated with the ‘Hunt’s’." He said the family name with a taunting yet prestige tone.
"Ou," Chance walks over just in time, "Looks as though one brave soul dares to get close."
They all laughed and I turned around just in time to face…..
"Zeu- uh... I mean, Travis." It was Zeus, again. I couldn’t hide my shock even if someone paid me, "Nice to see you again."
"And you," he looks down at me from those crystalline blue eyes, his brown hair was tied back a bit, revealing the strength in his jaw. He was a sight for sore eyes, "I didn’t know you were this invested in the were community."
"Invested indeed," Did I just say indeed? I almost rolled my eyes at myself, "So are you here alone?"
"Yep," he stepped closer and I had to tilt my head back to hold his gaze, "And you?" His voice presented itself as a growl, my knees shook without my permission but I stood my ground.
I opened my mouth to speak but Emerson’s voice filled the air, "She’s not here alone," I feel his hands on my waist before they tug me close, Travis’s face went white.
"My apologizes," he blurts now, "I wasn’t aware she was your-"
"Mate," Emerson growled and that seemed to be enough of a dismissal. Travis took it kindly nodding at us both, but not daring to look me in the eyes as he walked away.
I turned to face Emerson, ready to scold him for being so harsh but Chance began speaking, "Damn, if that didn’t send a message nothing would," he and Cody laughed, both now flocked by women.
I refocused on Emerson, who still held my waist in a firm grip, "That wasn’t-"
"Nice?" He finished my sentence for me, "Good, hopefully now he’ll just look from a distance." He was proud of himself so much so that he dodged all the glares I threw his way, "I knew I’d regret not leaving a scent." His nose napped at my neck and I felt my eyes flutter close. No.
I blink them open, "Stop it," I say without conviction.
"Stop what?" His eyes were golden.
"Making me feel-"
"Hold that thought," he whispered tenderly, lacing our fingers and pulling me away, further into the trees. Everyone was too invested in one another to notice our slipping away and as we walked through the crowd, I noticed that this held true for each individual. The young, the old, the middle. Growls filled the air and the moon seemed to be on fire.
He led us to an abandoned fire and sat us on the wooden logs that surrounded it, I appreciated the warmth and reached towards the flame with open palms.
"You were saying that I was making you feel…." He looked me dead in the eyes and I froze. My breath got knocked out of me somehow, I couldn’t move nor breathe but I was in utter bliss. He felt it too, I knew from the trembling in his fists, the spark on his irises.
Suddenly my body was overtaken by something. A feeling so strong that to ignore, it would require complete solitude. I pulled him to sit on the ground, the light layer of ice disappearing beneath his body then climbed over his lap and began stroking through his hair, he growled tilting his head back.
I knew my intentions, and couldn’t stop my hands even if I wanted to, but found myself looking around nonetheless, "No one is near," he said on my neck, "and even if they were, we’re not a concern of theirs."
"But if I don’t have on any clo-" his eyes glowed after he howled at the thought of me without clothing - the reason. My skin ran cold, "Let’s go further away." The suggestion merely left my lips before I was laid on a soft bed of dried leaves and ice, a few feet into the forest. Flashbacks from weeks ago flooded my memories and Emerson noticed them.
"I’ll keep you warm." His smile was devious but he held his promise.
When morning came, I was under Emerson’s covers sore beyond repair. He was already awake, gazing at me, rubbing my shoulder gently.
"Are you okay?" He was anxious, worrying flooding his tone.
"Good morning to you too," I joked, but his eyes held a seriousness that confused me, "What’s wrong?"
"I went way too far last night," he said in a gruesome tone.
"What do you mean?"
He sat up quickly, "I went too far, I let the... the feeling take over. I didn’t even consider if you were in pain, or if I were being-"
"Hey," I stopped his train of thought and sat up, truly in pain. He noticed and his jaw tightened as he looked away. I pushed finally sitting up next to him, "You didn’t hur-"
"You can barely sit," he cut me off.
"Emerson," I sighed with a smile, "It’s okay. I am so happy right now that I’m questioning whether this is real or just a dream."
His shoulders loosened but he was still tense, "I could’ve done worse...I-I wanted to-"
"But you didn’t," I guided his face to mine, "I’m okay." I say the words with assurance, hoping he’d take some but he doesn’t.
"I shouldn’t have drank the wine," was all he said, I wasn’t sure how to respond.
"Babe," I climbed unto his lap ignoring the heinous angst, "please listen to me for a second." He looked at me, "I’m okay. Just a little sore," he began shuffling away, climbing from bed. I tried to hold him in place, hoping to finish my thought, wanting to make him feel better, "It’s normal." He was on his feet.
"I need to go on a run," he says suddenly, throwing on some boxers then sweatpants.
I found it a bit funny, and smiled at my worried werewolf, "I think you’re being a little dramatic."
He glares at me as he begins to leave and I gave him a cheesy smile before returning under the covers for a few minutes. Eventually, I slide from the bed and head to the bathroom, passing the mirror on my way there, then finally understanding Emerson’s distress.
Bruises painted my arms and legs, yet none of the marks registered in my memories from last night. His growling along with the fresh smell of soil and the caressing winter breeze all played a sweet symphony on my body but no pain. I take notice of the bruise in the middle of my right forearm and faintly remembered the restraint, the soft spot in my middle of my thigh from slight, but consistent, pressure from his knees. Regardless all the marks had been the result of a combined decision, between him and I. They didn’t hurt as much as my muscles did, and considering that I consented, and I’d consent again, my conclusion remained unmoved.
Despite the warm weather, I decided to cover the marks by slipping into a flannel, one that fit perfectly just last month but was loose all over now, and some long leggings. I put on some fuzzy socks and laid my hair down, now swaying far past my shoulders. I’d have to talk to Emerson about all these bodily changes, actually, maybe Chance would be better. Throughout the process of my getting dressed, the pulsing ache persisted most present in my thighs as though embedded in the muscles.
I head down the stairs, with more work than I’d ever admit with Emerson around, then make a left at the bottom of the staircase heading straight for the kitchen. Glancing inside, I notice the black skin-tight shirt of my Alpha-to-be-mate as he stared into his cup of coffee. Around him Chelsea, Victor, Pops, and Kenyon were in deep conversation and so I took the opportunity to rush over and hug him from behind. I pressed my nose to the nape of his neck, but he ignores me sipping his coffee nonchalantly, Chelsea laughs at us.
"Are you still mad?" I ask against his skin.
"Detach," his voice is stoic but mixed with a gentle romantic push.
"You’re so grumpy," I kiss his cheek until he smiles pulling his chair back to loop me into his lap. I laugh cheerfully, wrapping my arms around his neck, "So no longer upset?"
"Still upset just milder," he corrects but his eyes get softer, "are you feeling okay?"
I nod, "What’s for breakfast? I can help you cook Chelsea." I rush over to her with an unfamiliar haste.
"Aren’t you supposed to be pained?" Kenyon laughs.
I smile not refuting nor affirming his observation.
"Thank goodness I could use some help," Chelsea pulls me to the counter, "Grab some bacon, sausage and the crate of eggs." I got to work.
Hours later everyone was full and a hungry Matthew drank his formula heartily from my grasp. I already finished eating and couldn’t refuse the babe if I wanted to.
He finished up the final drops and I sat him up rubbing at his back as I placed his bottle in the sink. He burps and begins chewing on his fist looking up at me with admiration.
I saw my future in his eyes, his brown crystals. In that instant I couldn’t wait to-
"We got them!" Cody yells victoriously carrying a -what should be heavy- duffel. Chance and Gavin followed after him, both with filled bags of their own.
"What is all this?" Julia asks just as perplexed as I am.
"A present for his majesty," Gavin laughs as Emerson walks over to look at the bags contents.
"Are those chains?" I ask as I peek closer, "And bear traps? Why would you need bear traps?" I knew they preferred to hunt using their natural senses but maybe they needed more assistance with catering for 600 wolves.
This seemed like a viable explanation, one I would have believed had the room not silenced. Immediately eye contact with me was avoided, even by Julia, that was concerning enough.
"My money's on Adira," Charice smiles at Anthony and he shakes his head humored by her bet.
"She’s not going to like this," Chance sings, "and you can’t entirely blame her for it." Emerson’s glare shushes him, and he raises his hands in surrender as he and the guys brought the duffels down to the basement.
I look at Emerson for clarification, "As you know, tonight is the last night of De Ortu," his words remind me of a conversation we had just last week. The realization hits, and though he notices this he pushes forward, "Those chains and traps will be used to restrain me in-"
"The hell they will," I couldn’t stop the words, and that stunned Julia most of all, a respect glistening in her eyes. I carefully hand Matthew over to Aubrey on my way to Emerson.
"Let’s talk downstairs," he says wisely, no need to cause a scene here.
I follow after him, to the comfortable basement, that would hold as his prison cell for at least 12 hours. Cody and Gavin had already began laying the equipment out creating a semi circle around single section of the room. Chance had already began drilling into the cement and adjusting the shackles to the wall. This was ridiculous! All these contraptions were for hunting animals not for subduing my mate! I could’ve vomited.
"Stop doing that!" I snap at Chance and amidst the noise, the drilling stops.
"Emerson if you tell me to calm down I-"
"Do you guys need the room?" Gavin asks cautiously.
"Yes," my answer melts with Emerson’s, "no." perfectly and I glare at him shortly.
"Okaaaay," Chance sings as they all trickle out.
Emerson begins speaking at me, at me, as though I was a child, "Adira I know it seems extreme but these measures have to be taken-"
"Do they?!" I look up at him, feeling particularly nauseous. The walls almost caving in.
"It will only be one night," he looks away from me, "it’s the only guaranteed way to keep you sa-"
"Screw my safety, don’t you see what you’re doing?!" I stormed over to the site, "You’re going to chain yourself to the wall! Set bear traps! And is that a collar?!" I would vomit, just not now, "And you expect me to just be okay with this?!"
"I don’t expect you to be okay with it," his words are harsh, sharp, building in volume, "I at least expect you understand why I’m doing it and stop fighting the inevitable."
"Inevitable?! So regardless of what I say you’re still doing this?" I gesture to the iron prison with a moat of bear traps.
"I have to," the decision was final and he had surely lost his mind, "Don’t look at me like that. Have you forgotten what I did to you last night? Are the bruises not enough of a reminder? And that was with as much restraint as I could muster considering the circumstances. Tonight, that emotion will double if not triple in intensity, no human would be able to survive that, and no were can stop the transformation."
"So those are my options?" I walk up to him, challenging, "Have you chained up or die?"
"Dammit Adira, are you even understanding what-" he stops himself, "we have to go through with this regardless of how you feel about it."
I was stunned, unsure of what to do or say much less feel. The anger brewing under my skin was enough to make my head spin and my lip curl to one side in a twisted smile. "Okay, fine." Is all I say, "Sounds great."
I saw the uncertainty in his gaze as I turned to leave, the conversation was over. I walked up to the kitchen, with sheer anger rolling from my temple, so much so that all I saw was red and despite myself I needed an outlet for this fury.
"Need the bat?" Charice knew me a little too well.
"Bat?" Aubrey asks tenderly.
"His name is Stan," Charice says walking over to the closet to retrieve the metal bat I used days ago, "he provides her with a healthy outlet for her anger, confusions and frustrations."
"Mostly when Emerson pisses her off so much she can’t even speak," Anthony adds to the narrative, "Like now."
Charice threw the bat my way and I grabbed it storming out of the house in seconds.
"Don’t go too far! Remember De Ortu!" Chelsea’s warnings blend perfectly with the wind and I stay close enough to the land but right where my normal tree stump was.
Hours of merciless assault hadn’t done the job it usually did. Stan was bent all over, the largest injury straight through the middle bending it about 20 degrees to the left. I didn’t let this stop me and though sweat dripped from my face and every muscle I had ached, I pushed onward.
Now I stared at the nothingness in the forest around me, trying to listen for the hidden everything. For a minute I was able to relax, but then I heard voices, one's I didn’t know. The barriers were open and I was made immune to them so for the most part I was safe, but my grip on Stan tightened.
Slowly the words became clearer and a ringing began in my left ear almost deafening to me.
"Leave her be," a voice sounded, "if she’s unaffected by the Ima, and on Hunt territory she must mean something to them."
"Is she the mate?"
"Let’s have some fun." Suddenly something blurred behind me then to the left. I waved the bat left then right, but eventually I stumbled and landed harshly in the dried leaves. My ankle ached and so did my head, I touched the side and felt the warmth of blood, confirmed with sight.
"Oh shit," One of the voices sounded.
"What do we do?" There’s panic.
They continue speaking in Divinum too fast for me to keep up with. I focus on my ankle and head, standing carefully, holding Stan firmly in my grasp as I rushed towards the house.
Suddenly an unusual feeling raged through my body, my mouth locks up, and my facial muscles tensed then relaxed, straightening then seeming less terrified. Without my own will my hands put my hair in a high bun- a technique that quickly covered the bloody gash in my skull. I jog up the porch steps, ignoring the blistering pain on my left ankle but so much out of control that the terror distracted me from the pain. With a speechless and expressionless exterior I walked into the house, hoping someone would say something, anything.
Upon entering the living room, after knocking my boots free of snow, I was greeted by Charice’s exclamation.
"You killed Stan," she sounded genuinely shocked and directed all eyes to the evidence in my grasp. Normally the attention would unnerve me but in this instant I was forced to remain emotionless, "Do you at least feel better?"
No! I can’t control my body.
I wished my eyes would speak as much as they used to, but without answering I shed my jacket and picked up Stan to return him to the closet.
"I’d say that’s a no." Kenyon’s words reflected a different kind of answer.
I want to tell them to look at me but instead I continue to the closet. Internally my lungs felt as though they were being crushed from misuse, my fingertips were hyper sensitive and my head thumped aggressively.
But my body continues the closet.
I hear chatter coming up the stairs and seconds later Gavin, Cody and Chance open the door to the basement blocking my path momentarily. With quicker-than-human reflexes, I dodge their aversion but not quickly enough for Cody to miss what I held.
"What did you do to Stan?!" He called out dramatically.
There’s laughter all around and I screamed again glancing at Emerson this time, Look at me! Then to everyone else, Someone just look!
Despite my efforts I turn away, heading to the kitchen to grab a bottle of water. Terror pushed through my veins like a wildfire and my lungs dried then crushed themselves but I tried to focus my attention elsewhere, avoiding interactions with those around. Without any impact of my own, the stillness in my body began to fade but my emotions were securely concealed, my mind was a prison to itself. I feel blood flowing down the side of my face and reached for a napkin to clean the evidence, if only someone would-
"Adira are you bleeding?" Aubrey looks over at me and like that I take everyone’s attention. Thank the heavens! Despite my relief I continued to dab at the blood and placed the napkin down and my hands in my lap afterwards.
"Sweetie?" Carla’s voice was nearer but all I could do was stare down at my hands in my lap, at my trembling wrists.
"Adira," Chelsea’s voice now, the concern of a mother, "honey, what’s wrong?"
"Maybe she’s still upset?" Gerard suggests.
"That’s not it," Victor asserts walking before me.
Chance edged closest, "Adira, respond to me if you can."
I tried to, I screamed but nothing. Instead, I stared down unable to stop the trembling in my wrists- wondering why I was shaking this profusely. Was it normal for humans to shake and quiver like this?
"What could’ve caused this?" Julia asks suddenly worried, then her head points in Emerson’s direction, "Try volitantem. Maybe it’s a latch."
Everyone quiets at the possibility of me having something I knew nothing about. Emerson follows his grandmother’s instruction and walks into my mind. Suddenly as the mental door swings open, he hears my screaming and jumps back a bit, shocked at the noise.
Instantaneously the wind inflates my lungs, and a moisture coats it’s surfaces. I cough as though I had been underwater this entire time and just got up for air, a coolness rushes over my skin as feeling returns. I’d never been happier to embrace the pulsing in my skull, aching in my limbs and tire overall, as the numbness faded and I felt again. Lastly a ‘pop’ sounded from inside my ear and then warmth flowed out. I sighed relieved and rested my head on my arms against the table.
"What’s happening?" Aubrey asks pissed, "Who did this to her?"
"Can you hear me now?" Chance asks me gently, not in a way that made me feel as though I was incompetent, so I nod, "Can you speak?"
"I can," my voice sounded unusually rusty, as though I’d been held by my throat- a feeling I know all too well.
"What happened?" Chance asks still a far enough distance from me, he picked up on my observation, "A couple of minutes ago marked an hour till the final night begins. This means we have to follow certain ceremonial procedures, one of which involved not being able to touch anyone who isn’t someone we plan on being bound with for the rest of the night. If we accidentally touch someone, we pose the risk of being attached for the remainder of the night." The fact shocked me but I noticed everyone, including the women, were a far way off, "But back to what happened."
I recounted the story for them and an anger stirred around the room, one so tangible it made me shift in discomfort, but no one seemed to notice. Matthew cried a far way off and Aubrey looked at me longingly. If she touched him, she’d be bound.
Without thinking I jump from the stool, a pulsing ache sources at the joint in my ankle spreads up my leg, to my knee and hips. It was as though all my injuries worked together like a human sized connect-the-dots. I lost my footing and lacking a firm grip on reality, considering the head injury, I collapsed landing on my hands and knees. Above me I heard an argument in Divinum but proceeded to gain my footing, when I finally stood up Emerson was being spoken to by his father.
I begin to move forward, and my body swayed to the right, "Slow," Pops warned nearer to me, "Your body can’t handle much more."
I nodded at him, slowly walking over to the uncomfortable Matthew, passing by the entrance to the staircase, when John jogs down accidentally bumping into me. Without thinking, he grabs me by the shoulders, stopping me from slamming face first to the ground- an injury that would be fatal. The room stills at our contact, but John only straightens me seemingly unconcerned.
"What happened to you?!" He questions after viewing my injuries, still holding my shoulders firmly.
"Let her go!" Emerson growls from the kitchenette.
"Relax!" John snaps at him, "I didn’t take part in Ortu last night or the night before." This fact seemed to ease everyone’s worries and that confused me. Gavin picked up on it quickly.
"It means that as long as he doesn’t take part tonight, he can’t be bound to you." The explanation clarified a whole lot.
John led me back to the kitchen, sitting me carefully on the stool I was previously in. He took Matthew easily in his arms and the baby’s fussing stopped. I was handed the babe and John disappeared behind me returning with a wet towel. Emerson said something to him in Divinum, a taunting in his voice. I hear no response from John but everyone returned anxiously to their seats, everyone but Emerson.
John made a sound of sheer annoyance, before taking Matthew from me, and placing the warm towel in my hand, "I’m not allowed to touch you any further than I have already. So sadly I won’t be able to help you clean that wound up,"Emerson growled but yet again John seemed to ignore it, "I’ll bring you a mirror so you’ll be able to see it clearly. Then I’ll get some sterilized cloths so it doesn’t get infected."
"Thank you," I say it genuinely, considering I probably ruined his plans for the night.
"It’s no problem," he glanced down at Matthew before disappearing for a minute longer.
Sadly, I was accustomed to taking care of my wounds, thanks to my heinous father but it was never something I enjoyed doing. I let my hair down being careful to part around the injury, separating the clean from the messy.
I use the warm towel to dab at the area, wincing every now and again but pushing through regardless. By the time John returned the towel was half filled with blood but the cut was almost entirely clean.
This was my least favorite part. John and Emerson could tell but neither said anything. John placed the mirror along with the medicated cloth, before me. I took the fabric with a shaking hand and began dabbing at the area gently. I withheld the screams of pain by biting my lip, so hard I thought I bit through skin.
"Here," John handed me a rolled up towel, something I could bite on. I took it eagerly knowing I barely cleaned a quarter of the injury.
"This is ridiculous," John spoke but continued to Emerson in Divinum.
The response was quick and short. John’s was a bit longer but made Emerson so upset he began advancing toward him.
"Both of you cut it out!" Julia yells from the other room.
The 6-foot-and-some wolves eased their movements and maintained the peace just like that.
I plan to continue when a dizziness clouds my vision and my will to keep pushing dissipates, I turn to face Emerson, "Please let him help," I say referring to John, "Emerson I..I-I can’t clean it anymore." My weakness slipped through and my eyes fill up.
Víctor says something in Divinum and Emerson looks at me... through me. Victor speaks again and John responds quickly, "Don’t push it," Kenyon warns his son.
John walks over and hands me Matthew then pulls up a seat for himself settling near enough for his cologne to waft its way to my atmosphere. I ignore the piney scent and focused on the baby as the medicine stings my flesh.
"When you’re finished, I have to analyze it to see she’ll need stitches." Chance adds concerned, "Which one of you will have to do, without a numbing agent." Well that would feel great.
John continued cleaning and helped me clean up afterwards, "No stitches," Chance concluded to my relief but gave instruction on bandaging the injury.
John applied it and said he’d be willing to offer his help throughout the night.
I thanked him profusely, meaning it. When he left, Emerson walked closer and looked down at my bruised ankle then one's on my shoulder and arm from last night.
"It all looks like the same attacker," he says this more to himself, "you wouldn’t be able to see the difference."
Instantly my head snaps up and an anger seethes within me as I look at him incredulously. My body had been through enough, too much for me to raise my voice so I spoke softly, knowing regardless of where they were everyone in a 50ft radius would be able to hear me as clear as day.
"If-" My voice cracked and I managed to take a strained breath, "If I could let you understand how much it bothe- no, disgusts me to hear you compare yourself to people who went out of their way to hur-" A shaky wrist and another breath, "You’re a werewolf, right? A werewolf. Not entirely human, but also not some wild animal. Correct me if I’m wrong but I did not fall in love with some feral beast in need of detainment, nor an abusive wild creature. None of that. You’re my mate. Mine. And me being human does not mean you should thwart the very qualities that make you yourself because doing so might make me comfortable."
His head tilted slightly to the left as if he couldn’t believe I said what I did. Around us silence was our comfort and though normally it would bother me, my body ached too much for my brain to retort to established habits. He opened his mouth to speak but I stopped him
"With that being said you will stop referring yourself, your people and your culture as if it was a disease, you will fully embrace all the qualities of being a wolf that I love and the parts I’m getting accustomed to. Stop thinking that when I look at you my first reaction is fear. Falling in love with you has been the best thing that has ever happened to me and you being a werewolf was just the cherry on top, so stop trying to take that away from me. You always tell me how talented, intelligent and strong I am,so from now on I need you to start treating me like it."
He looks at me, a fire in his eyes, ready to speak, but I had to touch on one last topic before I lost my mind, "One more thing," I stare at him straight in the eyes now, "And I need you to use that superhuman auditory capability of yours to listen to each word I say, because it’s driving me nuts," The air around us seemed to freeze, "Emerson Hunt, if you apologize for or give me that pitiful look after we’ve had sex ever again-"
"Adir-" his smile made my heart melt, as he ran a hand down his face.
"It will never happen again." I continue, being entirely serious, "I’ll chain my knees together if I have to."
"I can break chains." His voice was especially lewd but I glare at him, still upset even when he walked near, "Okay," his tone is gentle, reminding me of the man I fell in love with, "I’ll stop, everything. I just didn’t want to make this difficult for you. With everything you told me about growing up and all the… instances, I took it upon myself to prove I’m different."
He was directly in front of me now, being especially careful not to touch, but close enough to soothe my constant itch to be with him. I tilt my head to get the perfect angle for gazing in his perfect eyes. Suddenly, I remember an open field all amidst the depths of the hazel-turning-blue hue. His worries and fears were in there too.
I reach forward but stopped myself, half-forgetting and hoping speech will give the comfort I wanted my body to, "Emerson," my everything, "I’ve known you were different ever since I saw you in person 7 and a half months ago and... even before then I was convinced you were a figment of my imagination for 9 months. You were so pure it was impossible that you could exist, then, by some act of fate, you suddenly... did." I hear soft ‘aww’s’ from behind us and Emerson rolls his eyes at his family’s eavesdropping, "So stop trying to prove yourself, because there’s nothing left to prove. I’m yours."
His growl made my bones shiver and I cheesed up at him, "I understand," he leans forward, "I’m sorry," he leans so far down, that we’re eye to eye.
"And.." I urge.
"And you were right."
"Mhm," I bite the corner of my lip, "And…."
"And I’m yours." He smiles pressing forward to kiss me, but I pull away last minute.
"The final night," I warned him and he rolled his eyes annoyed at it's very existence, "Let me try something." my voice is gentle and a thrill rushed through me was I deepened eye contact. Stepping into our mental hallway I walk through the door where he should be, and he was, "Is this okay? Does it count?"
"I don’t think it does," Without a second thought he took my hand and kissed it before looping it around his shoulders. He does the same with the other and held me close now, "I love you." He kissed me slowly, in the way that make my body awaken, "But with that in mind," he pulls away, kissing my neck, "I still have to be chained up in the basement," I hated the thought, "I know you don’t like it or find it necessary but it has to be done. The part of me that you love, all the parts, including the wolf, will become whole tonight." The thought seemed to excite me but I pushed forward.
"What’s wrong with that?" I asked now willing to listen.
"It means I will be entirely animal, 100%. Not werewolf. Just wolf. The portion of my brain- my controlled sense of humanity- will be gone. I don’t want to do it, but it has to be done."
I guess I could live with it for one night, "Okay," I buried my face in his chest and he squeezed me close. It didn’t hurt like it should have- remembering when I had no voice, but spoke here, wherever, and whatever this was.
"Alright the sunset has passed and that means everyone should be getting ready for the finale," I nod and we step out of the mental room. Now sitting in the kitchen I realize we gathered an audience.
"I have so many questions," Chance looks at us fascinated, Julia gave the same look.
"No time for questions," Emerson sighs before looking at John. He speaks calmly almost apologetically, John responds in the same manner and Emerson seems to ask something else. His cousin nods and heads to the basement.
"See you tomorrow morning." I wouldn’t be going to see him in that state so John must be locking him up for the night. Matthew begins to whine in the distance so I limp over, taking him easier in my arms. Everyone else starts to leave, heading to the main site.
"Stay safe, and inside," Victor warns me, "If anything happens stick close to John." I smile nodding at him. They left and the house got quiet yet felt full. I smile down at baby Matthew, then walked him over to the living room. There’s a growl from beneath us, in the basement and I squeeze Matthew close to stop myself from rushing down to help, but that might make it worse.
Only when John resurfaced from the basement did I let the babe roam free.
"Okay," John brushed his hands in his pants and sighed before heading over to me, "So what are you plans for the night?" I’ve warmed up to him over time, understanding him more clearly than his accent initially allowed, but comprehending nonetheless.
"Stay in and babysit," I say looking over at Matthew, "Try not to go downstairs," I whispered this part but knew he heard it as loud as if I’d yelled at the top of my lungs, "I’m sorry about roping you into all this." I felt the need to apologize.
"Don’t sweat it, I could’ve avoided the whole thing but that wouldn’t help with much considering you’d be in more pain and alone." If he allowed me to fall, "There will be other Ortu’s."
"Still sucks," I sigh flipping on the tv and checking out the cartoons for Matthew. He becomes duly engaged and settles by John’s feet. His older cousin lifts him carefully, blowing bubbles in his cheeks before settling him in his lap.
I lean my head back taking slow deep breaths. The world spun around me, and even as my head thumped all I thought about was Emerson.
"Maybe you should eat something," John was staring at the TV, "your heart rate is escalating and the blood loss isn’t helping with healing your ankle."
I nod and struggle to my feet then over to the kitchen, "Do you want any?"
"Sure. Extra meat if we have it." Werewolves got particularly hungry during Ortu. I served him what would be the equivalent of three regular plates of food and he smiled at the portion.
I placed my own food before me as he settled a sleeping Matthew in the nearby play area. I flipped the channel to a thriller that was going on and he returned with napkins and a drink.
We are in silence for the most part until we heard the mass howling from miles away. My skin ran cold but I focused on the screen, it seemed to have gone on for hours but I knew it was merely 15 minutes. When it faded away the ringing continued in my eardrums.
John distracted me, "I always forget how little humans eat," his laugh is a confident mix of nerves and authority. I appreciated it.
"You all just eat a whole bunch," I tease.
His smile is gentle, "You’re acclimating well I suppose?"
"Everyone asks me that," I say softly, sipping my drink, feeling my body thump beyond my pain tolerance.
"I bet. Would you rather we stop?"
I thought over the question, "No, but I’d like to learn more."
"About you," he looks over at me suspiciously, "I-I ...erhm I mean like werewolves i-in general." My nervous stuttering didn’t help my case.
"Well consider me a resource." He turns in the couch to face me arms wide in invitation, "Whatever you would like to know, few free to ask."
I hesitate for a moment and he notices then, with a gentle look, he returns his gaze to the TV, though his body still faces me. I allow a few moments to pass before asking me first question, "Why do you have an accent?"
He chuckles deeply, "I appreciate the honesty," Then, "I’m from the western provinces in The Divine, this is how we speak there mostly."
"Oh, where is Emerson and his family from?"
"The South, there the dialect mostly resemble Human English, which is why you don’t really notice their accents."
I nod and he brings us each a beer. I take the beverage gladly, glancing over at the still sleeping Matthew.
"Anything else? That can’t be the best you’ve got."
I laugh gently, and turned to face him, "Why is it that human mates don’t normally learn Divinum? I mean I get that it’s a difficult language but I can’t understand why no one would’ve tried."
He takes a long swig before he spoke, "There have been attempts but they all stop eventually, with claims of supernatural experiences. Uncomfortable one's. When they told our government about it, they tried their hardest to ban the action, with hopes of sustaining the roots of our ancestors." He rolled his eyes and took another swig, "People still try but it’s greatly shunned upon. Are you learning?"
I nod, drinking a bit more, "No strange occurrences to account for though." Other than those instances where I freeze up and enter metaphysical states of either past or future. Or a couple of months ago when I swore, there was a woman in my bedroom, who disappeared without a sound, within a second, "Nothing."
"Well the best of wishes to you," he tips his beer my way and I smile gently.
"What was your childhood like?" I realize the intimacy of my question and decided that further explanation was necessary, "I mean, growing up part wolf. I read about it and stuff but that’s not the same as hearing it."
"I suppose it’s the same as any average human upbringing," he looks at me probably assuming I could relate to that. I pretend that I do, "With a lot more biting and way more of the ‘talks’ than humans I think."
I laugh a bit red-faced, "Why?"
"Well wolves can become independently sexually active as early as 13 until they hit puberty at 18." This information was missing from the textbooks, "So loads of those ‘don’t get anyone pregnant’ talks happened."
I smile and soon our conversation floats to more comfortable grounds, movie tastes, hobbies, book recommendations. Four beers and two half-watched movies later a yawn slithers past my lips.
"We should get some sleep," he laughs looking over my shoulder at the clock. 2:31 AM. I peep over at a fast asleep Matthew while helping John clean up. I bring the last four bottles to the kitchen and just as he begins to mention another story there’s a banging at the front door. Three harsh quick sounds that seem to silence the friendly atmosphere we built.
John becomes alert, smelling the air carefully, chest puffed out and standing in a way that made his 6’2" stance even more threatening. A confused expression crossed his face, but he refocused on me and placed a finger over his closed lips. Quiet. I could be quiet. I stayed still, holding firmly on the bottles that I had planned on throwing out. It goes quiet but there’s shuffling on the porch and I see someone peeking inside. Would they try to break in? What if it was the people from earlier? I find myself trembling at the thought.
John notices and removes the bottles from my hold, places me behind him and carefully covers my mouth, all without making the faintest noise. The banging goes on again and John rolls his eyes before whispering to me, "Take Matthew and go upstairs. It’s probably just some drunk from Ortu."
I knew there was more to the situation but thought better than asking now. So I followed the instructions, carefully walking over to Matthew, considering my ankle wasn’t healed. I lifted the mumbling babe into my arms and hurried up the stairs, John didn’t open the door till I completely disappeared. Once in my old room, I set baby Matthew in his crib and proceeded to close the door. I listened carefully, but heard nothing other than mumbling, but even then that was enough. I knew that voice.