1… 2… 3… In… and out.
I sat outside in the fresh air amongst the trees, breathing carefully as I focused on clearing my mind. I‘d been working on these techniques over the last two weeks, and it was coming along nicely. Or at least, it seemed that way. How well it held up when it came time to actually use it, I couldn‘t be sure.
However, I‘d definitely been getting better. Creating distance had seemed to have worked a little since every day that passed, I felt her presence a tiny bit less. Almost enough to make me wonder if it was possible to just wait it all out until I was completely free of her. The only thing was that, unfortunately, at the rate I was going, that might be maybe months or even years away. Something we probably didn‘t have time for, much to my disappointment. Settling for just strengthening my mind would need to be enough in the meantime.
But… there were also some downsides to my improvement too….
I got up from the ground and brushed myself off, walking back towards the cottage. It wasn‘t that I didn‘t like going there, but I‘d be lying if I said it hadn‘t been getting… difficult.
Upon entering, I immediately took off my shoes by the front door and was about to shout out that I‘d returned, but something caught my attention before I could do so.
There, laying on the couch, I saw that Aleric had fallen asleep and was looking so peaceful.
What I wouldn‘t give to walk over, curl up next to him… feel his warmth around me… taste his lips against mine.
I quickly shook my head, pushing away that idea as far back as possible. These thoughts were becoming more frequent these days the more I regained control of myself. Similar to the negative emotions Thea had instilled inside me, my own natural ones were causing me issues of my own now.
…Not that it probably mattered anyway.
Over the two weeks that had already passed, I couldn‘t help but notice how it seemed almost as if Aleric was avoiding me. He would sit and chat for only small periods of time before abruptly leaving, either to his bedroom or on another patrol. Truthfully, it was starting to feel a little lonely.
And whilst I had promised myself not to get romantically involved with him, it didn‘t seem to stop me from thinking about him that way. A part of me was craving his attention, even if that was only a little bit. Hell, even some proper eye contact once in a while would have been nice.
‘Yet it seemed stupid to think he was trying to get away from me… right? I was surely just overthinking
things, even if he did literally leave mid-conversation a few days ago… and start eating in his room more often… or rarely initiate conversation unless he had to….
I sighed and sat on the armchair opposite the couch, watching him.
What the hell was I going to do about this? It was making my training more difficult with all these added uncertainties in my head.
Giving in and confessing seemed selfish… especially when these days it seemed like he didn‘t really want anything to do with me. Did he miss home maybe? Resent me for having to play babysitter? If I did tell him the truth and I got what I wanted, would it just be a reaction from the mate bond opposed to what he actually wanted? That was the main question I‘d been asking myself for weeks now. One that still weighed heavily on me.
…But then, what was one more selfish deed in the pile of things I‘d already done in this life? If it was just
one final time to do something I knew I shouldn‘t… when it would feel so, so good… surely that would be okay, right?
I‘d accidentally seen him just after he‘d had a shower the other day, catching a glimpse of his chest before he‘d tugged on a shirt. It was times like that which made it difficult to do the right thing. Especially when I could still recall how he felt pressed against me, how perfectly I fit there….
“…Why are you staring at me?” he suddenly grumbled out, eyes still closed. It caught me off guard enough to make me jump in surprise.
My chest began racing as if I‘d been caught doing something I shouldn‘t, even though I‘d just been sitting there silently the entire time.
“1–… I um, I just got back from… uhm training,” I stuttered out, my cheeks burning.
He sat up and started rubbing his eyes with one hand, ending each movement by pinching the bridge of his nose. It seemed like he really had been fairly deep asleep if he was acting this tired.
“…And what are you doing now?” he asked, still not looking at me.
Was it actually all in my head when it seemed so apparent that he was annoyed at me? Had I done something since coming here to p**s him off maybe?
“I‘m… ah, I‘m sitting here?”
He nodded his head quietly. “Alright, I‘ll go on another patrol before dinner then.”
And with that, he got up and headed to the door.
“W–wait, you just woke up. You don‘t need to rush out yet. You seem tired.”
He didn‘t turn around or respond in any way though as he started putting his shoes on. Odd since I would have thought that he‘d prefer to shift for a patrol. Something he wouldn‘t need shoes for.
But his blatant disregard for even acknowledging what I said sparked a mild annoyance of my own, one I‘d purposely been pushing down these last few weeks believing I was just overreacting. Clearly, I wasn‘t making it up if he wouldn‘t even reply to me anymore,
“Aleric, seriously,” I said, getting up to approach him. “Is something bothering you? Ever since we came here it‘s like you can barely even look at me.”
Considering everything going on at the moment, I didn‘t exactly expect him to give me any sort of courtesies but at the very least I thought we could hold a conversation. He hadn‘t been acting all that strange when we were still at the Winter Mist. This felt like something more specific to us coming here.
“Aria, leave it,” he said, still without even turning back.
But I was tired of this. Tired of living with a brick wall.
And I grabbed his arm so he was forced to turn around and look at me. A sight that almost made me jump back as I caught a glimpse of his face.
Or, more accurately, a glimpse of his eyes.
Because they were dark. Dark enough to tell me that his wolf was threatening to surface.
“...W–what..?” I asked, taken aback by his appearance
And suddenly I found myself being pushed against the wall, his head travelling to the nook of my neck as he took in my scent. He didn‘t continue to touch me as he did so, but he didn‘t need to for it to send a shiver through me.
“… You‘re driving me crazy,” he growled out. “I‘m trying to respect your space but you‘re making that exceedingly difficult.”
He‘d never been this direct before and I found myself frozen, completely taken off guard by the sudden turn of events. I could feel the warmth coming off his body as he stood so close to me, and it was unexpectantly making me want more despite the situation.
“Over these last few years, I‘d like to think that you‘ve helped me to become a much more patient person …,” he continued in a low voice. “Though you might be pushing my limits a little bit too far now. I don‘t know what‘s going on in your head lately, but I‘m pretty sure it‘s not Thea since my wolf has been clawing at me inside every day since we arrived.”
The mate bond.
This was just because of that.
But then… didn‘t that mean….
And my face went red realising that he‘d been able to sense how much I‘d wanted him over the last two weeks.
It was no wonder he‘d been running to get away from me.
“I‘m sorry.” I said quietly. “I… I forgot that you‘d be able to pick up on that.”
And he let out a strained exhale as he took a step back, rubbing his eyes again.
“If you‘re going to think about Cai, can you at least keep it to your own room? Just meet me halfway on that one. That‘s all I‘m asking for. I think that‘s more than fair.“
“I‘m not… –what?” I said, confused by how we ended up here. “Why would you assume I‘m thinking about him? We‘re not… we‘re not like that anymore.”
“…Because you two made up before we left? I saw you two together under the tree, remember? Cuddled u p saying you love him?”
So, he must have overheard our conversation a little, confusing the situation. Clearly, he‘d missed the most important part though; the bit where Cai caught me in a lie over how I truly felt about Aleric.
“What? No! No, I do love Cai but… we‘re just friends. It didn‘t mean anything beyond that. We don‘t see each other that way anymore.”
“Then… then what have you been thinking about?”
And limmediately shifted uncomfortably on my feet, realising I‘d now dug my own grave. It seemed like there was no way to avoid the topic now.
I stared at something behind him, literally anything else, too nervous to meet his eyes.
“I was thinking about… how I wish things between us had been fixed before I‘d ruined everything,” || answered. “About how you‘re now connected to me regardless of whether you want it or not. How, after everything I‘ve done, you‘re now tied to a girl who‘s broken.”
“And when were you planning on telling me all of this?” he said, moving closer to make me look up at him. “When were you going to let me make that choice? I understand your situation, Aria, really, I do. You feel like you have a responsibility because of the things you’ve experienced; because you once saw a future where similar scenarios ended badly… but I‘m not a kid. Let me make up my own mind and make my own decisions – good or bad. I don‘t need you to be responsible for my choices.”
“I just… I don‘t–”
“Then don‘t use me as an excuse because you‘re scared of being vulnerable. Just tell me that.”
And I stood there, meeting his gaze as all my fears of rejection and guilt flew through my head.
I hadn‘t even needed to elaborate and yet he‘d picked up on the exact issues holding me back. It was proof of how, once again, he was able to read me so well. That, despite the absence of the mate bond for me, that there was still a connection between us that ran deeper. Something stronger and irrefutable. He was right. I should have told him. I should have given him the chance to make the decision himself instead of just assuming it on his behalf.
“So, tell me… And I mean, tell me honestly this time..,” he said, bringing me out of my thoughts.
His hand then came up to my face, cupping it just below my jaw so I wouldn‘t turn away. Not that doing s o would have even crossed my mind for a second. In fact, I wanted nothing more than to melt into his touch entirely, to finally give in and stop feeling guilty for wanting him.
“Tell me what you‘ve been thinking about these last few weeks,” he whispered, his face moving in closer t o my own.
“I‘ve been…,” I started but my brain went blank as his proximity sent another shiver through me.
And his lips… they were right there. Promising to give me the relief I‘d been craving so badly lately.
I snapped into focus again, looking back up into his eyes.
“Tell me,” he repeated.
“I‘ve been thinking about… you,” I answered. “About how much I wanted you.” ...And those words ended up being the last thing I said before everything turned into a frenzied blur.
His free hand immediately found my waist, pressing me against him, and his lips enveloped my own. It was like we‘d both been starving as we hungered for the other, everything happening so quickly. A response probably resulting from how long the two of us had been holding back now.
It didn‘t take long for my body to then find the wall behind us, his hands supporting my weight as I clungt o him. With one of my arms around his neck, the other was grabbing at his chest greedily, feeling his body against me. Constantly wanting more… and more… almost as if an insatiable desire was moving me forward.
And though I was giving myself over to my yearnings completely, I‘d never felt more in control than I did i n that moment. That there was not even a shred of doubt in my mind that this was exactly where ! needed to be.
“I want you,” I moaned against him, repeating the words he‘d wanted me to admit.
Because I was hungry for so much more than just this.
He‘d been kissing me along my neck, but the sensation was making me grow impatient. I couldn‘t take it much longer. I‘d thought about this so many times over the last few weeks that I didn‘t want to wait. I wanted to feel his skin against mine.
“Tell me that you‘re mine,” he growled in response, pulling away just enough to look at me with his still dark eyes.
But was that even a question?
I used to always say that Aleric held my life in his hands and, though different, that still held true in this timeline. He possessed a power over me unlike any other, supporting me even when that wasn‘t always easy
He‘d saved me countless times and sacrificed his own desires just to make me happy, despite receiving n o respite or recognition for doing so. If he wanted me after all of that, and was certain of that choice, then there was absolutely no argument to be made here.
Towed him my life, my soul, my very reason to keep going. I could walk through fire for him a thousand times and it still would not be enough, knowing I was only alive because of what he‘d done for me.
So, of course I was his. Through and through. No matter what life I ended up in, no matter what that ‘entailed.
“…I‘m yours,” I breathed against him.
And he immediately lifted me off the wall, taking us over to the couch; the closest piece of furniture in the vicinity. Clearly, just as impatient as I was.
“Take this off,” I demanded, grabbing at his shirt.
And it became a sequence of us both undressing the other, only taking small moments of slowing down t o admire the other. A sight I revelled in looking at.
I might not have been from this timeline originally, but there was no question that this was my* Aleric. That I was always meant to find my way here, regardless of how it happened,
With his arms supporting his weight over me, he began placing small kisses all over my body, sending shivers through me where he touched. And I watched him as he did so, wondering the entire time what
was going through his head. I had so many scars and bruises these days that I knew parts of me were not pretty to look at
But he answered the question for me without even needing to ask. An answer that I had not anticipated, feeling that it was so far from the truth.
“...You‘re perfect,” he said, his gaze quickly coming back up to lock with my own.
And the way he was looking at me, so serious in its intensity… it was the same way that I‘d come to learn meant he was being completely honest. The same look that would pierce through everything else and allow me to believe his every word.
...And that fact alone ignited my restlessness once more, no longer able to endure the agonisingly slow pace we‘d come to.
I wanted him now. I was done waiting even a second longer.
“Aleric,” I whined, arcing my body up against him, and hoping he‘d get the hint.
And his lips immediately captured my own again with a renewed urgency; his hand that had been tracing me suddenly trailing slowly lower…
… Trailing until, eventually, a gasp escaped me. The small feeling of relief finally being granted under his touch.
A feeling that he continued to build up, making a dizzying pressure start to form within me. An unyielding sensation that he didn‘t stop no matter how much I squirmed under him, accompanied by more kisses and nibbles to my ear, my shoulder, my chest.
“Is this what you wanted?” he asked, his breath tickling my skin softly. Referring to the last few weeks of m e craving him.
But I simply shook my head in response.
“No...?” And, to my dismay, he then pulled away to look at me, his dark eyes burning into my own.
A reaction that was the complete opposite of what I wanted.
“No… I want more.”
And a sound left him that did all sorts of inexplicable things to my insides as he quickly obliged, realising exactly what I was truly after.
He grabbed my thigh tightly, hoisting it up around his waist and, without making me wait even a moment longer, I felt a different kind of pressure replace where his fingers had just been seconds earlier. I felt ash e pressed his length inside, filling both my mind and body completely. Now, there was only him as he consumed my entire being.
This is what I‘d wanted. No, what I‘d needed.
And a cry of pleasure left me. Something that sounded out in unison with a groan of his own as I adjusted around him.
Everywhere felt alight, my body responding to his in every imaginable way, and we stayed like that for a moment, breathing heavily as we took a second to just enjoy the immeasurable satisfaction.
How had I been missing out on this the entire time? It seemed criminal. I felt so incredibly intoxicated by his touch, his scent, his warmth…
“Aria,” he then said, his forehead resting against mine.
It was his way of telling me what would happen next. But I didn‘t need the warning. I was already more than ready.
And suddenly, I felt him begin to move, pressing in further before releasing. A soon-to-be repeated chain of movement continued to steal small moans from my lips; encouraging a rhythm to build between us as he thrusted into me.
A rhythm I found myself completely caving into.
But I could tell that he was still holding back though, doing his best to restrain his strength from hurting m e. He was trying to be gentle in how he moved, his touch never pressing more than necessary.
Only I was past the point of wanting to be treated like glass. I didn‘t want to feel fragile anymore, like ! was incapable of handling more than this because of everything happening.
No, I wanted to feel alive, like equals… I wanted to feel everything I could from him.
“…More,” I murmured against his shoulder.
...And he immediately stopped, looking down at me with eyes containing a mixture of surprise and l**t.
“What did you just say? You want even more than this?” he asked, almost as if daring me to say yes.
My heart raced at his words, wondering just what he had in mind with that sort of reaction.
“… Stop holding back,” I found myself saying, a little in disbelief over my newfound confidence.
And he immediately pulled me up and spun me around, so my back was pressed against his chest; moulding me to his body as he now knelt. An unexpected result from my initial request.
“If you insist,” he whispered in my ear.
And I felt him push inside me once more, stealing yet another cry of pleasure from my lips, my mind forgetting whatever I‘d just been worried about.
With one arm now wound entirely around my torso, I became completely trapped against him as he began to move again; helpless in the best way possible as his pace and force increased from earlier.
Every emotion we‘d been suppressing for so long was bubbling to the surface, driving us forward as we succumbed entirely to our desires. There was no room for doubts or second thoughts here anymore, just pure needs that were begging to be gratified.
I was utterly under his control as he moved, feeling that same pressure building up with every thrust he ‘had to offer; now stronger tenfold from before. Truthfully, I was already close to my limit as I offered myself to him, giving him whatever he wanted from me… but then his free hand found its way in front, between my thighs, and it was game over from there.
“Aleric,” I cried out
If he kept going like this, I wasn‘t going to be able to hold on much longer….
“What is it?” he asked innocently, teeth gently grazing against my ear… my neck… my shoulder…
But whilst he was asking me what was wrong, I couldn‘t help but notice his own pace had just increased. A sign he probably wasn‘t that far behind me.
“I‘m going to….“. I tried to say but couldn‘t get the words out.
Harder and faster he pushed into me, his actions became more fervid as he touched me, quickening as the seconds ticked by, sending me closer and closer to the edge until….
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With one final scream of pleasure, an electricity of ecstasy suddenly ripped its way through my entire body, making me succumb to a moment of pure bliss. I‘d reached my boiling point and instantly came completely undone against him.
Wave… after wave… after wave, it swept through me, making me tremble with every second that passed. A n intense bodily reaction beyond comprehension… and I apparently wasn‘t alone in that either as I felt Aleric then reach his own release, the sound of his groan filling my ears behind me.
We both collapsed to the couch not long after that, our heavy breathing in unison as I savoured the feeling of his body against mine for a while. It was as if I‘d finally been able to scratch the itch that had been bothering me for so long.
Though, if I was being totally honest… and this wasn‘t to say there was anything ‘wrong‘, but there was maybe just one thing….
“Aria,” Aleric then said softly by my ear, his hand travelling down my body again. …Well, that answered that. Apparently, he was able to read my mind so perfectly yet again.
| spun around to face him, weaving my fingers through his hair as we kissed once more. And we proceeded to pick up where we‘d just left off, though slower to savour the moment this time. A time that then became the second of many more that occurred that night. …Who needed sleep anyway? I was on vacation. Sort of.