#Chapter 18 I Want To Reject
Five Hours Earlier
I stare at the flier in my hands, my hackles raised. It’s a reward poster, not the kind people pin up to find lost pets or missing children, but the kind law enforcement agencies use to locate wanted criminals. It has precisely the same format, asking for tips or any information regarding the whereabouts of Volana wolves, listing details on how to identify them and promising monetary compensation for any solid leads.
A crude illustration was plastered beneath the words, displaying a woman with black hair and two-toned eyes. She looks nothing like Selene, but the descriptions provided offer enough details for even the most clueless wolf to identify members of her lineage.
“Where the hell did you find this?” I ask Aiden in horror. When he’d called me right before my father’s celebration insisting it was an emergency, I’d known something had to be terribly wrong. Aiden knew how important this event was, he would not call me away for no reason. Even so, this was worse than I’d imagined.
“One of our spies in the East came across it just outside of Calypso territory. Thankfully it doesn’t seem to have spread any farther than that.” His warm brown eyes survey me curiously, “Do you have any idea why they’re looking for Volanas?”
Everyone in Elysium knows what Selene is, but I’ve gone to considerable effort to gloss over and downplay her lineage, and no one knows the secret of her blood. I study my right-hand, hating myself for questioning whether he can be trusted. Other than my family, I trust Aiden more than anyone, but Selene’s safety is too precious to risk.
“I know that Blaise Denizen is a cruel and twisted man.” I say, referring to the Calypso Alpha, “If he wants Volanas, I guarantee it isn’t for anything good.”
Aiden eyes me for a second, and I know he caught my evasion. Instead of looking offended he simply asks, “You have reason to believe he’s a danger to Selene?”
“I know he is.” I admit.
“Is that why we sent spies East in the first place?” Aiden questions, “You thought something like this might happen?* Now I do hear an edge in his voice, and I can’t blame him for being annoyed. He can’t do his job if he’s working with incomplete information.
“Yes.” I concede softly.
“What the hell, Bastien?” He snaps, “Do you really trust me so little?”
“It isn’t like that.” I promise tiredly. “I promised her I wouldn’t share this secret with anyone, even you.”
“When it comes to the safety of my Alpha’s mate – my best friend’s mate – I need to know what’s going on.” He declares harshly. “I don’t have to know the details, you don’t have to betray confidences, but I can’t protect this pack if you’re withholding intelligence.”
“I know brother, I’m sorry.” I reply honestly, “The fact is simply that Blaise will kill Selene if he finds her, he’ll kill any Volana he finds.”
Aiden scrubs a hand over his face. “We need to be proactive.” He waves the flier in the air, “This reward is only going to get higher and spread farther. We either need to neutralize Denizen, or make sure the truth can never get back to him.”
“I’d like nothing more than to get rid of the man.” I grumble, “But I’m not Alpha yet, and even if I was – he’s the most powerful pack leader on the continent. We‘d need an army to take him down.”
“You’re right.” Aiden agrees, “We couldn’t win a war against the Calypsos. But who said it has to be a war?”
I snort, “So what, you want to assassinate him?”
Aiden grins, “You have to admit the idea has its merits.”
I can’t help but laugh. “That’s true enough.” I mean it, I’m already fantasizing about disemboweling the cruel leader. But for the time being let’s focus on increasing surveillance and spreading counter-propaganda. Publicize some of Blaise’s less savory
#Chapter 18 I Want To Reject
pursuits, the more unpopular we make him, the less people will want to help him.”
“Popularity isn’t your problem.” Aiden reminds me, “Money is. Few people actually like the man, but plenty would help the devil himself if he offered enough money.”
I’m staring at the poster again, a new thought crossing my mind. “Who do we have that’s good with graphics?”
Aiden shrugs. “Eddie’s pretty good in a pinch.”
Inod in agreement, “See if he can duplicate this. Set up a new phone line devoted to tips and replace it with Denizens.” I say, the plan coming together as I speak it. “Put them up everywhere, across the continent, all the way to the east, replace as many of his posters as possible.
My beta’s brow furrows, “Why would you bring more attention to this?”
“First because I want to know who is calling and what they’re reporting. Second, because if we can get to Volanas first, we can help them.” I explain. And third, because if people think they’ve already reported a tip, it won’t matter if Denizens real posters actually spread this far, anyone with information will think they’ve already contributed it.”
Aiden nods in agreement, “I’ll get Eddie on it right away.”
I thank him, “in the meantime we need to figure out security for Selene after the rejection ceremony.”
Aiden grimaces, “Are you sure you want to go through with this?” He boraches carefully, eyeing the flier, “Especially now?”
“My job is to do what’s best for my mate.” I speak the words I’ve chanted in my head over and over again these past few weeks. “She’s never had any choices in her life and deserves them now. She’s in love with someone else, I want her to be happy.”
“And what about your happiness?” Aiden demands, “Don’t you deserve to be happy too?”
No, I think. Not really. I killed my best friend, I abandoned his sister after promising to care for her, and I forced my traumatized mate to marry me – even if it was for her protection. “If Selene is happy, I will be too.” I answer. I tell myself I’m being honest, and part of me believes it, but deep down I know that watching someone else make my mate happy will destroy me.
Even so, it’s a fitting punishment.
“Man this really isn’t your day.” Aiden says, standing over me with his arms crossed over his chest.
I groan, too exhausted to do anything other than swat at him from my position sprawled out over his couch. I feel as if I’ve been
I came straight to my Beta, who welcomed me in with open arms and only light teasing.
“You do realize they drugged you?” He says pointedly.
“Who is they?” I ask savagely.
“If I had to guess I’d say it was Selene’s new friend.” He answers, referring to Amanda, who almost killed my mate with her little pool assault. “But honestly it could have been any one of the harpies.”
“The harpies?” I repeat in confusion.
“All the silly she-wolves who used to chase after you just because you were the Alpha’s son.” He expounds, “You know the ones, they almost revolted when you married Selene and I guarantee they think they have a chance now that you‘re splitting.”
“How the hell does anyone even know about the rejection?” I snarl, “We haven’t announced anything.”
“You know how gossip is around here,” Aiden admonishes me, “The walls have ears.”
I swear fiercely, frustrated beyond words. “We need to find out who is responsible – and what the hell they gave me.”
“Already on it.” Aiden assures me. “I nabbed your glass from the dinner table. We’ll get it tested.”
I sigh with relief. “When did you figure it out?”
“Halfway through dinner?” He reflects uncertainly, “About the time you started growling at the waiter for refilling Selene’s water glass.” I wince, not remembering that particular detail. “Don’t worry about it too much – you were behaving oddly but you didn’t
say or do anything too wild. I was getting ready to cart you out of there but Selene beat me to it.”
“You should have acted faster,” I grouse unfairly. “I shouldn’t have been alone with her.”
Aiden brushes off my foul mood like the easy going person he is. “I acted the best I could based on the information I had. And Selene was the best person for you to be with under the circumstances
“I almost marked her!” i snarl furiously
“But you didn’t.” Aiden reasons coolly, “If you’d gone away with anyone else it would have been a disaster. You would have caved to one of the harpies and created a scandal or lashed out at one of the men for trying to keep you from your mate. Instead you took the edge off and got through it.”
“Barely 1 mutter mutinously
“Stop whining.” Alden scolds, “We have more important things to worry about. Someone in this pack thinks they can drug their future Alpha and get away with it. Do you want to prove them right, or do you want to make them pay?”
I don’t answer, distracted by a persistent buzzing in my pocket. I pull out my phone, finding Selene’s photo plastered across the screen, announcing an incoming call. Guilt swirls in my stomach, I can’t handle talking to her right now. With a heavy sigh I hit the decline button
After my third call goes to voicemail, I close my eyes bitterly. Today has been too much. Sometimes being with Bastien feels like being a human yoyo: First he’s sweet and flirtatious, then he abandons me. He comes to my defense, only to ignore me afterwards. Then he’s all over me, only to walk out when things start to get truly heated.
It’s frustrating. When I hear the outgoing message of his voicemail on my fourth call, I make a decision
“Bastien, call me.” I say, “I want to talk about our rejection ceremony as soon as you can. I can’t wait five days: We need to move
. UaJUCI UVESILLASwer viy Caus
3 Days Until the Rejection Ceremony
I haven’t seen or spoken to Bastien since the night of Gabriel’s birthday party, despite my efforts to get in touch with him.
I barely slept that night, though I never sleep well without Bastien. I tossed and turned, wondering where he’d gone, what had happened. It’s clear to me that he was drugged, but I cannot even begin to understand everything that happened between us in those few short hours. All I know is i’m done.
The last few weeks have been a blur, more confusing and eventful than any since we married. I can barely think straight with everything that is going on, but I think I’ve finally understood that Elysium – and the life I’ve lived here – is in the past.
I was never meant to stay here forever. I do not belong, and this chapter of my story is ending fast. Our rejection ceremony is in three days, after that I will start fresh somewhere new.
My selfish heart wants nothing more than to spend every last second of my remaining time with my husband, even if he doesn’t want me there. Regardless of my wishes, it is not an option. I don’t know where Bastien is or how he’s feeling, though I imagine it must be a considerable relief for him to finally be free to do as he wishes in life.
I’m on my way to the library, intent on researching other packs to help me decide where to go once the rejection is complete. I know embarrassingly little about the world beyond this city, and though I know well enough not to go anywhere near my mother’s pack, I don’t have the faintest idea where I should turn for refuge.
I’m seated on the city line bus, watching Elysium fly by outside the tall, wide windows. I’ve only ridden the bus a few times over the last few years, mostly in moments like this one when I don’t want Bastien to know what I’m doing.
I know my husband well enough to realize that though he might not want to be married to me, he would never approve of me leaving. He and Gabriel think of me as their responsibility, their ward – neither will want me out of their sights.
I scan the paper in my hand, a quickly jotted list of nearby territories to get me started. I catch the man beside me eyeing the paper too, and quickly fold it closed. There had only been one available seat when I boarded, and though my neighbor’s leering gaze has made me nothing but uncomfortable, I’ve comforted myself with the knowledge that this is only a short trip.
When the bus finally pulls to a stop outside the library I rise to my feet so quickly my head spins. I stride quickly from the oversized vehicle, my stomach dropping below my navel when I realize the man who’d sat next to me departing as well.
I make for the library entrance with a racing heart, unsure whether my instincts are trying to warn me of real danger or if my past trauma is playing tricks with my mind. I slip inside the historic building, pulling an armful of volumes from the shelves and finding a table near the circulation desk.
Once I’m sure I’m alone I dial Bastien’s cell, still anxious about the man from the bus. I hide my phone beneath the curtain of my hair, worried the librarian might take offense if he realizes i’m making a call. However there was no need to be concerned, because Bastien doesn’t answer. My call goes straight to voicemail, as do the next five calls I make.
I shouldn’t be surprised, I’ve tried calling him a dozen times over the past few days to no avail. I understood his silence before, after all I clearly told him in my texts and voicemails that I wanted to discuss the rejection ceremony. I can sympathize with the desire to avoid an unpleasant conversation.
But this is different. I need him – and he isn’t here for me.
I spend more than an hour pouring through the texts, feeling marginally more confident when I finally leave, but still undecided about where I should go. I like the idea of the Eros pack, who control a vast territory in the west, but I worry about their ties to the Nova’s.
The Eros pack leaders had been at Gabriel’s birthday, their heir rescued me from drowning. They knew me. If I went there would they betray my location, the existence of my child, to Bastien? The same problem was true of the Vega pack. I need to avoid our allies. I think firmly.
As I’m leaving the library I notice a familiar scent, one that makes me stop in my tracks. It is not merely the fact that I recognize