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Alpha Girl Chapter One

 

 

Alpha Girl

 

Chapter One

Sage and I burst through the forest as we ran blindly, away from the haunting howl of Sawyer’s voice. I felt him shut down inside of our bond. 

He went completely numb and it killed me. 

‘I’ll be right back,’ I kept saying over and over, mostly to assuage my own guilt. 

He stopped responding, but I knew he had a war to deal with. 

“We need to be careful not to step into Ithaki land,” I told Sage as I leapt over a fallen log. There was a visible line on the ground made of crushed blue stones, and I hoped we were on the right side of it. I was running away from Waterfall Mountain, which I knew to be Ithaki land, and toward the direction Astra had run when we’d said goodbye. 

Sage was in wolf form behind me, but I was running as a human. For now. My wolf was begging to come out, but I still wasn’t sure if that was a good idea. I wanted to have a good first impression with the Paladin people, and I didn’t want to roll up to their homelands and be like, Yo, I’m your alpha and I need ten thousand men, and I’m also a split shifter. Everything is fine, nothing to see here.

Wolf Angel is what Arrow had called what I was.

Maybe they would be cool with it … me, my powers, the fact that I was about to ask a very big favor… 

‘Alpha?’ Astra’s voice suddenly boomed in my mind and I stopped dead, catching my breath. I didn’t want to run too fast and lose Sage, so I wasn’t using my super speed powers.

‘Astra! Where are you?’ I spun around, scanning the dark forest. I felt her. It was hard to explain, but I knew she was near. My body thrummed with power the deeper we stepped into this land.

Pack, my wolf chanted, excited at the prospect of seeing Astra. I’d sort of mentally glossed over the fact that I’d bitten her and claimed her as my pack member. But now I was completely confronted with it. 

‘Alpha! You came home!’ Her jubilation spread through my limbs until a bubble of laughter burst from my chest. Sage looked at me like I’d gone mad as I ran in the direction that I felt Astra. 

‘I need to speak to you, and Arrow and … everyone,’ I told her.

My wolf was beyond excited to be here, but I was tempering that excitement and focusing on the goal. 

I needed a couple thousand warriors by morning. I’d promised Sawyer and I would come through. 

“Alpha!” Astra’s excited scream ripped through the dark night as Sage and I altered course to follow the noise. 

Suddenly twigs snapped all around us in a circle, and floodlights turned on. We both froze. Astra burst from the trees, grinning just as over a dozen warriors, all naked but for a suede junk cover, stepped out with bows and arrows, spears, and knives. Rich blue paint streaked down their cheeks in thin lines, and they looked absolutely one hundred percent ready to kill us both. 

Sage’s head snapped to me and I swallowed hard. 

“Alpha!” Astra threw herself in my arms as I embraced her, wrapping my arms around her thin form and ignoring the twelve angry men glaring at me. The earth vibrated under my feet and my wolf pounded against my chest, begging to be freed. 

“She came!” Astra pulled away, pushing her brown hair from her face as she grinned at the armed men. “Praise the Father, she came like I said she would!”

The men didn’t lower their weapons, they simply glared at me with disdain, nostrils flaring. “City wolf,” one of them growled. “Go back home. You’re not welcome here.”

I cleared my throat nervously. “Actually, if I could speak to Arrow—”

“Go home.” Arrow stepped out from behind the line of men and the hurt in his voice caused a frown to pull at my lips. “We don’t want any more of your charity.

So that’s what this was about. I saved their lives with food and they were acting like dicks over it? Astra spun, crossing her arms over her chest as if they’d pierced her with their nasty words. “What’s the matter with you?” she shouted, her voice shaking. “This is our alpha! She’s come to save us. She’ll heal the land and our people.”

I swallowed hard as Sage’s gaze flicked to mine, wide-eyed. 

One of the men, holding a knife, lowered it to his side and stepped out from the trees, deeper into the floodlights. Pale light and shadows danced across his perfectly toned body as I met his hardened gaze. He looked about twenty-five years old, and had a scar running from the bottom of his eye to his lip. 

“Is that right? Are you here to save us like my brother and Astra say?” He tipped his head to Arrow, who promptly looked down at his feet. “Or are you just a witch who has tricked everyone?”

I recoiled at his accusation. I wasn’t expecting this frosty reception. “I … I’m not a witch. I came because I need help. The city wolves are at war, and obviously I’ll help you in return, if—”

Every single warrior burst into laughter then, and I heard even more voices, men and women, from deeper in the tree line behind the bright lights. 

Fuck.

The floodlights had tiny solar panels on top of them, and when I let my eyes adjust I noticed the shadowy figures in the trees looking down on us. Hundreds of people listened on. 

“You want our help because your stupid alpha started a war?” He spat at my feet and I felt the wetness brush across the front of my legs. “You’re not my alpha.” The scar-faced man growled and everyone cheered in response, all of them. Their laughs and yells of agreement rang into my soul, twisting into me like a hot knife. 

Unbridled rage ripped through me at his disrespect toward me and to Sawyer, and I couldn’t hold my wolf in any longer. She burst from my chest. One second she was a ghost and the next she solidified, hitting the scar-faced dude in the chest, knocking him on his ass and making him drop his knife. 

Gasps rang throughout the forest as my wolf peeled her lips back, saliva glistening on her teeth as she eyed his throat. I knelt beside her on the forest floor as dozens of Paladin warriors stepped close. I stared Scar Face down as he looked up at me with wide blue eyes. 

“I am daughter of Running Spirit, granddaughter of Red Moon, and if you ever spit on me again, I’ll rip your balls out with my teeth,” I growled. 

A chorus of female whoops and cheers ran throughout the forest, but the men stayed silent. I was well aware of the challenge I’d issued, but I wasn’t going to let this prick ruin everything. Pelts of fur ran down the man’s face as his wolf started to emerge. A firm hand fell on my shoulder, and then I was yanked backward, my wolf retreating with me. 

I spun to see who’d pulled me off, thinking it was Sage, only to see Arrow’s piercing blue eyes. 

“We have dominance fights that end in death. I would take it easy until you learn the rules here,” Arrow whispered in my ear.

Oh. 

People sometimes got in fistfights for dominance in Wolf City, but it wasn’t like a real dominance fight you heard about hundreds of years ago. Was I ready to get in some fight right now and kill this guy to prove to them I was an alpha? I just came here for help. I needed help. 

“But I’m…” I couldn’t even say it now. It felt wrong. Was I an alpha? Astra and Arrow had begged for my help and I’d merely sent them food. Oh God. Guilt and shame burned its way across my skin until my entire face felt hot. 

“The title of alpha needs to be earned,” Arrow murmured under his breath, as his brother fought his wolf’s change. “You’ve earned a bit of respect with the women just now, but the men won’t be so easy. Your charity food delivery, instead of coming to meet everyone, was a poor choice.”

Shit. 

I opened my mouth to speak, but the man who I’d just knocked on his ass stood and glared at Arrow. 

“Can she stay, Rab?” Arrow asked. “Prove herself? Enter the alpha trial?” 

Alpha what now? Stay and prove myself? Fuck that, we were at war. 

“No. I need your help,” I pleaded. “I can’t stay. The witches, fey, vampires, they are all together now. They are marching on Wolf City as we speak. I need warriors or thousands will die. Please.” 

Rab, or whatever his name was, gave me a maniacal grin, the thick scar pressing his lip down in a lopsided sneer. He stepped closer to me, slowly. My wolf gave a low warning growl and he stopped. 

You need warriors?” he asked, and I couldn’t get a read on him. “You need our help or your people will die?”

I nodded. “As many as you can spare. And in exchange I’ll send more food, monthly even—”

“You need warriors … okay, then, we can send you some weapons.” His grin widened and the men cheered and clapped their hands. 

I frowned. Confused. Weapons. Like spears and arrows? No thanks.

“I don’t need weapons, I need—”

He growled in my face and I froze. “We didn’t need food! We need our land healed. We need our pack’s power restored, our crops replenished. You put a Band-Aid on a bullet hole and now you expect us to help you?”

He laughed, tipping his head back, and the men in the darkness of the trees joined him.

Fuck.

He met my gaze and his eyes flashed golden yellow. “I’d rather turn into a human and starve to death than follow a cowardice alpha like you.”

He spun then, giving me his back, and walked away. 

Each one of his words lashed into me, cutting deep into the bone, into the very core of who I was. I’d rejected Arrow’s plea for help to restore their people and their land, and then I’d come and asked for the same thing. 

My body sagged with shame. Arrow had told me thousands would die and I needed to return home to help them, and I’d sent dried food and fucking firewood. This was a moment of reckoning, one that would haunt me for the rest of my life if I didn’t choose wisely. 

“You’re right!” I yelled, and Rab froze. 

An eerie calm washed over the space as a chilly wind rose into the air, whipping my hair around my face. 

“When Arrow and Astra told me they needed my help, I panicked. I don’t know your ways, I only just learned who my real father was, and my life has been hard enough. I was selfish. I wanted to get married and live an easy life and not have to worry about other people’s problems.” My lower lip quivered with the truth and it felt dirty in my mouth. I wanted to spit it out. 

Boos came from the trees, but they were soft, accepting and admonishing at the same time. 

I lowered my head, thinking of Astra and Arrow’s heartfelt pleas.

Our people are dying.

The land is dying

Our magic is dying.

Come home.

I’d just … ignored him. My throat constricted with emotion and I cleared it, steadying myself. “I’ve come home,” I declared, the goosebumps on my arms standing up as the wind rushed past me faster. “I’ve come home to save our people and our land, if you will forgive me and give me a chance. Let me prove I’m worthy to hold the title of alpha.”

Rab spun as the people in the trees started to beat on the trunks with their fists, cheering as they screamed into the night like madmen and women. It was savage and beautiful, and my wolf tipped her head back and howled at the moon right along with them. This felt right, this was where I belonged, where I was needed, but as soon as I thought it, Sawyer’s pained wail sifted across my memory and I swallowed hard. 

I needed to be alpha. I couldn’t let these people down, my people. I needed to do both. Be both a Paladin and a city wolf. 

“Send the warriors I need by first light and I will stay. I will stay here as long as needed and do whatever is required of me to save this land and these people.” I gestured to the trees and the howls and cheers got louder in agreement. More of them must have come, because it sounded like a chorus of thousands all echoing into the treetops.

Rab watched me with two thin, blue slitted eyes, cold and calculating. “I’ll think about it,” he said.

His nonchalant reply angered me. I’d fucking apologized, laid myself bare. I was willing to do anything. Using my vampire speed, I zoomed across the clearing and got into his face. “Now it’s your pride and selfishness that’s showing!” I screamed in his face, and the voices cut off. 

He huffed through his nose, trying to control his wolf, but his eyes went yellow anyway. 

“Don’t make me draw a line in the sand,” I whispered. 

I would, I would ask for volunteers, those with me to go to Wolf City, and I would go against him even though he was clearly in charge. He opened his mouth to speak when a small, delicate hand brushed his shoulder. 

We both turned, blinking out of our rage-fest to see Astra looking up at Rab with an angelic smile. Her mousy brown hair was tucked behind her ears, and she wore a patient and understanding look that neither of us deserved.

“God wants this. She’s blessed. She will bring a thousand years of prosperity to our people. I’ve seen it.” She raised her wrist and held the scarred bite mark in his face. 

‘Pack.’ My wolf echoed her gesture and I had to blink back tears at the risk she was taking for me. Making up some prophecy or whatever she was doing to get him to agree. 

The trees shook, people whooped, drums even started to beat deeper off into the trees, and Rab gave a resigned nod to Astra. Reaching out, he brushed his thumb across her forehead in a delicate, loving gesture. “Our priestess has spoken!” he bellowed, spinning in a circle.

Priestess? I looked at Astra more closely. Was he talking about her? She was in her mid-teens, meek, shy, wearing no headdress or fancy regalia.

She simply gave me a small smile. 

“Because I trust the mouthpiece of God, I will allow this city alpha to prove herself to us.” His voice projected into the trees, which shook like a troop of monkeys were rattling their branches. 

“And the help? For … the city wolves?” I asked. 

He sneered at me. “What does God say of that?” he asked Astra.

She looked at her feet, quiet.

‘Please. We need help or thousands will die,’ I begged her.

‘God does not condone war,’ she said to me.

She flicked her gaze up to Rab. “He is quiet on the matter,” she told him. 

Rab chuckled, shaking his braid. “Then we will be quiet too.”

“I’ll go!” Arrow stepped into the open circle, grasping his spear and looking out at the shapes into the trees. “I will go at first light to lend help to the new Wolf City alpha. A new alpha who is different from past ones. When he learned of our crisis, he used his military to give thousands of pounds of food and firewood. I will help that alpha as he helped us.” He stamped his staff on the ground, and a single tear leaked from my eye. 

Arrow knew it wasn’t Sawyer who approved that food delivery. It was his dad, but there was too much bad blood there. I could see it. He was trying to make them think differently about this new alpha and I loved him for it. Sawyer was different, and he would be a different alpha than the ones before him.

“I will stand with Arrow.” A man came out into the open, wielding a badass looking blade. All of these men were seriously sculpted from stone, hardened warriors in the best shape of their lives.

“New alpha? What’s new about someone who’s been bred to hate us for a millennium?” someone yelled from the trees. 

Dammit, I wish it were lighter out and I could look that bastard in the eyes. 

Thrusting my left hand into the air, I let the light catch on my giant engagement ring. “The new alpha, Sawyer, is my fiancé, my true mate.” I stopped talking because they’d gasped at that. “And he knows I’m half Paladin. He doesn’t care. If we work together, both of our packs can benefit.” 

It was like it was the knowledge they needed to throw themselves behind the cause. One by one, I heard them. 

“I’ll go!”

“I’ll fight with Arrow.” 

“Screw the vampires!”

Relief crashed into me. I’d made a promise to Sawyer, and I was keeping it. 

Or was I? 

I’d said that I would be back by morning with warriors. But now…

“Come on, I’ll show you to the guest house.” Astra pulled my hand and it sank into me that I was going to stay here. 

Nerves churned in my gut and I’d completely forgotten Sage was there until she stepped over to me, wide-eyed and wearing a half shredded t-shirt and sweat pants. “You’re staying here? What have you done?” 

I … followed my heart and it split me in two. Again. 

Arrow raised his fist into the air. “Go home and tell the warrior of your household … we leave at dawn!” And a chorus of the Paladin equivalent of an oorah rang out, but it was more of a guttural ouh ouh!

I walked over to Arrow and stood before him as my wolf nuzzled against his leg. He grinned and dropped his hand down to rub the top of her head. I swear sometimes she was more dog than wolf. 

‘I resent that,’ she said and I bristled, still not used to our bond.

‘Sorry.’

“Thank you. Truly,” I told Arrow.

He bowed his head to me. “Thank you. For coming home.” 

Home. That word on his lips felt so right, so much so that it made a stone sink in my gut. In what world could Sawyer and I get married and live together if I were alpha of these lands? I shook off that problem for future Demi. 

I didn’t want to ask how many warriors they would get by morning, I just had to trust it would be enough. Arrow, being Rab’s brother, seemed to have a lot of pull in the community, and I knew he’d just stuck his neck out for me and I really appreciated it. 

I made my hand into a fist and held it out to him. He frowned and I grinned, grabbing his hand and banging them together. “Fist bump. Goodnight. I’ll be up first thing to see you all off.”

He chuckled, shaking his head. “City girl.”

I smiled and Sage inserted herself between us. “She’s marrying my cousin FYI, but I’m single.”

I smacked her arm and Arrow looked down at her, confused for a second, then her words seemed to dawn on him. “Oh, I’m mated,” he said, and Sage frowned, stepping away from him with a pout. Every male here was distracting eye candy. I wasn’t going to deny that, and clearly Sage had noticed.

“You are? I’d love to meet her,” I told him as movement picked up behind us and everyone started to disperse. I’d always felt a brotherly vibe from Arrow. Was he hot? Yes. But he was sweet and helpful and … totally in the friendzone.

“Tomorrow morning, at first light,” he told me, and then Astra was back, tugging my hand. 

“Alpha, come. I’ve been working on your guest home for weeks. Come and see.” She pulled me away and Sage and I followed her. 

Weeks? 

I shared a look with Sage. 

“I knew you would come.” Astra grinned, as she pulled me into the dark trees past where the floodlights had brightened the meadow, and we were plunged into darkness again, only the moon to light our path. There was a flagstone walkway covered in moss, and suddenly my eyes adjusted, noticing the appearance of hundreds of people to the left and right of the path. Some were climbing down from the trees where they had perched, others just stood, arms crossed, talking in hushed tones and watching me closely. 

Every three feet was a little solar garden light that lit our path—and also the faces of some seriously pissed-off women. 

“Taking our men off to war already, Alpha?” one snapped as I passed by. 

I ignored her and yanked on Sage’s arm when she opened her mouth to retort. It wasn’t the time. I needed to go into a dark room and tell Sawyer what was going on and then cry myself to sleep. My wolf leapt into my chest then, and I nodded for Astra to lead the way. I was ready to see where Run had grown up, the land I was supposed to heal and the place in which I was going to lead these people should I be found worthy.

* * *

The path led for a good twenty minutes before the dim lights of a bustling village shone in the distance. Sage and I shared a look. 

Whoa. 

I didn’t know why I expected grass huts and torches. The wall encompassing the Paladin land was made of a deep red brick and stood strong over seven feet tall. Two ornately decorated wrought iron gates stood open, with two soft lights on top of the pillars that held each gate. Again, each light had a tiny solar panel at the top, like the ones you would get for your garden at Home Depot. It wasn’t a strong light, just enough to illuminate the buildings’ shapes and walkways, but I was impressed. Astra skipped along the path to the gates and nodded at the two guards that stood there. 

“Told you she’d come!” Astra told them. 

Their eyes ran over Sage and I both. “These two city wolves have your permission to be here, Priestess?” one of them asked with a sneer. His pec twitched and Sage and I shared a look.

Man, these guys were ripped. They must work out all day long and eat zero carbs, because there wasn’t an ounce of fat on them. 

Astra rolled her eyes. “It’s our alpha! She came!”

My heart broke at her words and I could see Sage’s eyes getting misty. The way she spoke about me, her tone, it was full of reverence and excitement and absolute trust.

The guards stepped aside, glaring at me with suspicion.

Priestess. That word again. I’d had no idea when we’d met Astra in the cages of the dark fey realm that we’d met the priestess of the Paladin people. Everyone seemed to defer to her, even over Rab. Which was surprising since she was so young and meek.

The second we were in the gates, Astra turned right, heading down a small lane, and we passed house after house, all relatively the same size and the same deep red brick with a thick brown muddy concrete between the lines. The bricks looked hand packed, not machine made, as each one wasn’t exactly perfect, but the masonry was beautiful. The homes stood sturdily with hand-blown glass windows and clay shingle roofs. I felt like I was in Europe or something. This quaint village had such exquisite artistry work that if it were photographed it would earn the appreciation of many people in the human world. Each home had little flower boxes outside what I assumed was the kitchen window. They hung full of herbs I recognized: rosemary, chives, cilantro. 

Although I was enchanted with this village, with each step I was dreading having to tell Sawyer what I’d just done, so I stalled by asking Astra about the buildings. 

“Did you guys build these? Or…” I let my question linger.

Astra nodded. “We make everything here. Bricks, cement, glass, iron work. Our loom broke, which is why we needed the blankets,” she explained. 

I bobbed my head as I took in everything around me. It was … clean, rustic, beautiful. Natural ground cover dotted the side of the walking path with rich ferns and tall grasses, and each home was landscaped lightly with whatever trees and plants were there when they moved in. It looked like they hadn’t moved a single blade of grass or fern, and built their homes into the landscape. But as I looked closer in the moonlight, I noticed some of the leaves looked burnt, curled in with a black fuzz encasing them. 

I stopped, leaning forward to inspect it. 

“Plant death. Started when Red Moon died. The alpha’s power bleeds from the land and this will cover the crops until we have nothing left. Our people will sicken next.” Astra’s voice came from behind me and my heart squeezed.

Plant death. 

After Red died.

This was … my fault. For weeks I’d been in Wolf City just gallivanting around in my Range Rover with my giant engagement ring and they were…

My hand went to my throat as I whimpered.

“The village is beautiful. Do you have running water?” Sage asked quickly, noticing my discomfort and changing the subject, for which I was grateful. 

Astra nodded. “Of course.” She pointed off in the distance. “The men fill the gravity fed water tower once a month from the lake, and we have an electric pump fed by solar. We are completely off-grid here, as you might call it in the city.” I followed her line of sight and thought I saw the outline of something, but it was too hard to tell in this light. 

Guilt gnawed at my gut, and I could tell from Sage’s pained face it got her thinking as well. 

City life in essence was … frivolous and definitely not off-grid. 

“Here we are!” Astra bounced up and down in front of an adorable little redbrick cottage with a bright blue door. “I’ve been filling the pantry all day with the freeze-dried food you gave us, and got some blankets in there too. I knew you would come home.” She threw herself forward and wrapped her arms around me again, squeezing me tightly, and I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. Maybe it was our connection, maybe I was just tired, or turning into a total wuss, but Astra had the most innocent soul and I couldn’t take it anymore. When she pulled back, I wiped my eyes quickly and had to swallow my sob.

“Astra… thank you. This is very kind. Where do you sleep?”

She pointed to a building directly across from my guest house. “In there, obviously.” 

My gaze ran the length of the giant building. It was the size of ten of the little cottages. Dark red brick ran the length of the large rectangular building; the clay tiled roof shot high up into the sky. There was no cross or anything like that on top, but it looked like a church.

It had the pointed top like the ones I saw in Spokane, near Delphi. 

Sage and I shared a look but said nothing. Did Astra … hold church services here? Were the Paladins a religious people? They sure talked about God a lot. Was a priestess in the Paladin culture like a pastor? I was so fascinated. 

“Well, I’m exhausted.” Sage yawned and I concurred, pulling myself from my thoughts. We bid Astra goodnight and stepped inside the small guest home. 

It was adorable and simple, and absolutely perfect. Everything was handcrafted with expert care. The couch was a wrought iron bench with huge plush padding that had been dyed a bright yellow. The coffee table was wrought iron as well with blown glass. It had little bubbles and swirls, which gave it a rich artistry. 

“So you’re staying?” Sage turned and looked at me. She emptied her face of emotion, but I could hear the disappointment in her voice.

I just didn’t have the energy for this right now. Especially knowing I had to also have this fight with Sawyer. 

I sighed. “Let’s talk in the morning. I’m beat.” 

She nodded, yawning again. “Fine. All of the guys are insanely hot here. I know what I’ll be dreaming about tonight.” 

I chuckled. “What about Walsh?”

“Who?” she joked, before disappearing into a room with a wink. I heard the oofh of breath leave her as she seemingly leapt into a bed, then I went in search of another room. Down the hall, past a bathroom, I found a light blue blanket draped over a wrought iron four-poster bed. I collapsed onto the thick cotton mattress, kicking off my shoes. 

Rolling onto my back, I stared up at the plaster ceiling. It had been dyed a light yellow and I wondered where they got the dye from. Turmeric? Or did they barter for paint? It was incredible to see a self-sufficient place like this… 

I was stalling by thinking of other things rather than mind texting Sawyer. 

I had to get this over with. Taking in a deep breath, I sent him a message. ‘The Paladins will help.’

Relief coursed through our bond from him and seeped into me.

‘Oh, thank fuck, Demi. Now get back here before I go insane.’ I felt his anxiety and also grief, probably over his father.

Silent tears rolled down my cheeks and onto the pillow. ‘Sawyer … I … told them I would stay and help in exchange for—’

Don’t fuck with me like that. I’m too fragile right now,’ he interrupted, and I winced.

This was going to be harder than I thought. 

‘I’m serious. They won’t help us unless I step up to the plate and claim my alpha heritage.’ 

‘Demi, I will cut off my own foot, remove this ankle bracelet, hobble into the woods, and drag you back here if you tell me you are serious again.’

I gulped. ‘I’m … serious.’ I thought of the plant death. ‘Sawyer, their land is dying. They aren’t like the city wolves. Their power is—’

‘Woman, you’re going to kill me.’ He cut me off with an exasperated sigh that bled throughout our bond, bringing with it feelings of helplessness. ‘I’m going to go fully gray and die of heartbreak.’

‘Sawyer, listen. Their power is tied to the alpha. And their land. They need me to survive,’ I pressed, and he was quiet for a whole minute.

‘Demi, I’m in the middle of a war right now. I can’t really have an entire conversation. Will I see you in the morning or no?’

My throat pinched with unshed emotion. 

‘No. But obviously—’

‘No?’ I felt his pain slice into my chest. ‘Demi, your parents are hiding in a bomb shelter. Raven just got here asking about you. I’m waiting for my future wife to show up so I can wrap my arms around her as I bury my father in the ground, and now you tell me you’re not coming back? What am I supposed to do with that?’

For someone who couldn’t have a conversation right now, he sure was chatty. Guilt wormed its way into my gut. He was right, it was awful—I was fucking awful for doing this to him in the middle of a war with his father dead. But… ‘Sawyer, they wouldn’t help without me giving them something. Their land is dying, the people are hurting, and I’m not just going to leave them. It’s not who I am, and not who you fell in love with.’

I felt him soften. Tender feelings of love and compassion bled into me.

‘Okay, babe, I get it, but I can’t just traipse into the woods and camp out with you there. I’m alpha, my father just died, we are at war, and I have an ankle monitor on that we still can’t get off. What do you expect me to do?’

My heart panged at the mention of his father again. I wanted to be there with him, and I still didn’t know what this alpha stuff required of me. ‘I know, and this won’t be like last time when I got lost in the Magic Lands. I can come see you. I’ll send the warriors in the morning at first light, and then I’ll check things out here and see how I can help. By tomorrow night I can zip back over and see you again and we can come up with a plan.’

There was silence and I felt his attention divided. Finally he spoke back to me, his voice strained.

‘Zip back over? Demi, my love, we are at war. Our woods are on fire. They’ve just released dark fey into the school grounds and the Ithaki are getting involved. It’s now or never. Come home and you can go to the Paladins after the war settles down, after my ankle bracelet comes off. I’ll go with you. I’ll live in a tent by your side, do whatever it takes, my love—just not now.’

A sob ripped from my chest, and I had to slap a hand over my mouth to muffle it. 

‘Sawyer, the land is blackened and dying. They aren’t like your wolves, they will start to get sick too if I don’t step up to my responsibilities. I have to be here right now.’

He was silent so damn long I had to call his name again. 

‘Sawyer?’

I felt my agony mix with his, merging together through our bond, coalescing like a tornado, threatening to rip us both in two. 

‘Demi, loving you means I support whatever your desires are. If you really want to stay there and … help the Paladin people, then … I support you.’

My heart felt heavy, like a stone in my chest. Sawyer was the epitome of the perfect man and I felt like I was letting him down. 

‘We will be together soon. I promise,’ I assured him. 

‘I gotta go now. Read the note I gave you, okay?’ He sounded disappointed, but there was nothing more I could say. I’d completely forgotten about the note he’d shoved in my pocket when I’d seen him in the war room in his parents’ house.

‘I will. I love you, Sawyer. I love you so much. Thanks for supporting me.’

‘Goodnight, Demi. I love you too.’

I lay there for a moment letting this hollow feeling spread from my chest through my limbs. There was no good way out of this situation. It sucked no matter what. Either way, someone was going to be disappointed.

Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out the letter and sat up, leaning into the window and letting the outside porch light cast its glow onto the white paper. 

I unfolded it, confused about what it was and how he could have written me a letter before he even knew I was coming here. He’d have had no time between the vampire attack at the hotel and getting his mother back to his house after his father’s death. 

The second I saw his cursive script across the page, I finally let the sobs free. 

Engagement speech was scrolled across the top.

He’d written a speech for our special night, something I hadn’t even thought to do—one he never got to read. 

My heart pounded against my chest as I read the next line. 

Demi, loving you is easy.

From the first day I met you, I saw your strength, your fire, and a little bit of your pain.

Tears streamed down my face and onto the paper. 

And I knew that day that I had met my equal, my better half.

Where I am hard and unyielding, you are soft and forgiving. Where my mind thinks in straights lines and squares, yours thinks in swirls and arcs. 

Demi, we are not exact copies of each other, but we are perfect for one another. You are the one I choose to love, the one I choose to place all my bets on, my future wife.

You love your family and friends with a loyal fierceness that gives me pride to watch, and I am lucky enough to be one of those people. 

Thank you for choosing me. Thank you for saying yes. 

I burst into tears then, my vision blurry as I read the last line. 

(Now kiss her). 

I fell back onto the pillow, clutching the letter in my hands, and sobbed into the blanket as my emotions overwhelmed me. I just wanted to marry him and be normal.

But there was no normal here, no going back now. We were at war, and if I was honest, my time running for my life through the Magic Lands had changed me. I was a fighter, a survivor, a Paladin alpha. I couldn’t just ignore that and sit back in a glass castle with Sawyer and be his wife. 

I did want to be his wife, I wanted a life with him, but I had my own path to walk too, and the agony of not knowing an immediate solution for Sawyer and my relationship tore at me until I finally dozed off.

 

Read the rest here.

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Frankie B
Frankie B
12 days ago

Love love love it!!!!

Katy
Katy
12 days ago

SOOOOOO EXCITED!!!