#Chapter 20 Bastien And Arabella Buy Rings
Drake sits across from me, appearing surprised but sympathetic as he processes my revelation. “Bastien doesn’t know?” He asks.
“No.” I confirm simply, “And he’s not going to find out.” I rub the back of my neck, “Our situation has always been complicated, but Bastien is a good man. If he found out the truth he would never go through with the rejection, and I won’t have him stay with me out of pity or obligation.”
“For what it’s worth,” Drake offers kindly, “I think he’s a fool for wanting to reject you at all.”
“Then you’re one of the few.” I reply honestly.
He frowns, “Is the baby the reason you’re leaving?”
“It’s the reason I realized I had to go,” I confess, “But in all honesty I don’t think I could have stayed either way. I don’t want to watch Bastien marry someone else.” Hot tears burn my eyes, “And I’m sick of being the pack side show. I need a fresh start, someplace where nobody knows me. Where my baby and I can be safe.”
Drake squeezes my hand. “I understand.” I swipe at an escaped tear and he offers me his napkin. I take it with appreciation, dabbing my eyes. “If you want to come to Asphodel, I will help you in any way I can. We’ll find you a place to live, a job, we’ll introduce you to the pack as a distant cousin and never mention the Novas at all.”
I blink in surprise, a kernel of hope blooming in my chest. “What about your father?”
“My father is getting older, most pack business has been under my control for a few years now.” Drake explains. “If I tell him it is important we help you, on your terms, he will respect my decision.”
“I don’t understand why you would do this for me.” I state warily.
“Has the world truly been so cruel to you that kindness is cause for such suspicion?” From anyone else the words might have sounded self-righteous or judgemental, but from Drake they merely sounded aggrieved.
“Yes.” I confirm icily, “It has.”
He frowns deeply, taking my hand again. “I’m sorry, Selene.” He professes, “It won’t have to be that way for much longer.”
“Truly?” I ask in disbelief.
“Truly.” He vows, “Have you thought about how you want to do it?”
“How I’m going to leave, you mean?”
“Not really, I’ve mostly been thinking about the after” part of the equation.” I wince at my own shortsightedness.
“That’s alright.” Drake insists.
“It has to be soon.” | announce abruptly, “before he can figure out that I’m with pup.”
“Don’t worry.” He advises, “We’ll come up with a plan together. By this time next week, it will be like you were never here.”
1 Day Until the Rejection Ceremony
The day before our rejection ceremony | slip away to Elysium’s shopping center, intent on purchasing new clothes and supplies for my imminent departure. Drake and I talked for many hours on Sunday, laying out plans for my flight from Elysium.
He helped me realize that slipping away in the night would not be enough to truly escape. As I already suspected, Gabriel and
Bastien’s sense of responsibility for my wellbeing would result in a search, one that would extend into Eros territory and may not be thwarted by the Alpha’s protection alone.
If I truly want to be free of my past, I must sever myself from it completely, leaving no room for doubt or second guesses among those I leave behind. It had not been easy for Drake to convince me to fake my death. After all, I do not want to hurt the people! love with such a cruel lie, but in the end I saw that there is no other way.
The only chance I have to start fresh is if I end my old life once and for all. My past cannot catch up to me if no one ever comes looking for me, and the only way to keep my baby safe from the likes of Arabella, is to make her believe it does not exist.
I know a day may come when I regret these decisions, but for now the desire to turn over a new leaf is so overwhelming that I feel nothing but relief.
As I stroll through the mall, more and more bags accumulating on my arms, I let myself imagine my new life. I dream of my baby, of the home I will build and life I will lead. I dream of being normal, rather than some pathetic victim; an incomplete wolf so broken that I cease to have a place in the pack.
I start to feel warm and light, as if I am walking on air. Every purchase I make is another step forward, another puzzle piece bringing me closer to my goal. I do not think about the pain I will cause, only the joy to be found ahead.
Then I see them.
Through the shining glass window of a high end jewelry store, I can clearly make out Bastien and Arabella bent over a jewelry counter, wide smiles on their faces.
Irrational hurt lances through me. After all, here I am daydreaming about faking my death and putting people I love through great pain, yet I have the temerity to feel affronted by my contract husband planning his own future with the woman he loves.
Then again, love is never rational and Goddess help me, I do love Bastien.
I do not know when Arabella was released from the hospital, but she looks perfectly well now. She is beaming, so full of love and beauty that my stomach revolts – not that this is anything new. These days I’m nauseous more often than not.
Perhaps it is the fact that our rejection is still before us. Bastien and I are still married for the time being, and it seems wildly insensitive and disrespectful for them to be publicly advertising their relationship this way.
I stride across the atrium in a daze, coming to stand at the entrance of the jewelry store with blazing eyes and flushed cheeks. *Please tell me I am not seeing what I think I am.
Bastien and Arabella turn toward me in surprise, and I find myself shrinking back, unsure of where I found that sudden wave of confidence.
“Selene – ”
“Let me, Bastien.” Arabella cuts him off, placing a graceful hand on his arm. “After all, jewelry is women’s business.”
My husband’s face twists up in concern and confusion, but Arabella is already striding toward me. She links her arm with mine as if we are old friends, pulling me out of the doorway and away from the windows so we won’t be overheard.
“We are still married you know,” I remind her hotly.
“Yes, you’re married.” Arabella drawls, “For one more day. After that he’s mine. If I were you, I’d let it go before you make things even more uncomfortable than they already are.”
“You’ve got a lot of nerve.” I tell her. “First with the stairs, and now this. Are you really so desperate that you cannot wait until the papers are signed?”
“Sweetheart the moment the papers are signed Bastien and I are going to be married. We have to have a ring in advance otherwise we’d have to wait even longer.” Arabella croons, “And we’re done waiting. You‘ve kept us apart long enough.”
“That was never my decision or choice.” I argue.
“What, like it was mine?” She hisses, baring her teeth. “I didn’t have any more say in this than you did, and it’s worse for me.” Arabella insists. “You might be his mate, but that bond is not a choice. He loves me so much that your bond seems like nothing in comparison. He loves me so much that he is forsaking what nature ordained.”
I stumble backward, not understanding her strange words. She pursues me, a wolf stalking a rabbit, “You‘ve stood in the way of that love, love so powerful even the Goddess cannot break it.” She growls. “Does that make you proud? Are you happy to know
how badly you’ve ruined our lives?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I insist.
“Oh yes you do.” She snaps, “You know exactly what you’ve done and if you think that brat you’re carrying can change anything now, you‘re sorely mistaken.”
“That brat.” I repeat harshly, “You mean the baby you tried to kill? Your husband’s child?” My anger raises empty threats to my lips, “how do you think Bastien would feel if he knew what you tried to do to his heir?”
Some of Arabella’s composure slips, and her blue eyes flash, “But he’s not going to know, is he Selene?” She retorts, “Don’t forget you showed your hand.” Her clawlife fingers catch my chin, tugging it up so I have to look her in the eye. “You don’t want him to know. You want to leave – but you’ll never be able to get away if he finds out the truth.”
“Maybe not, but I might be able to show him what a snake you are.” I combat, “And that’s got to be worth something.”
Pure rage bleeds into Arabella’s saccharine expression, “If you say so much as one word to him, I will finish what I started in the hospital.” She threatens. “If you want your baby to live, you’ll keep your mouth shut.” She growls, “And when you leave, you will never come back.”