#Chapter 23 Postponing the Ceremony
The day after my father’s murder the sun rises just like it has every morning for eons. Its rays filter through the gauzy curtains adorning our bedroom windows, announcing dawn’s arrival as if this day is no different than the millions which came before.
This cannot be. Surely the sun cannot shine on a world where my father does not exist. Surely the earth cannot keep spinning when his life has winked out forever.
Yet they do. The world forges on as though nothing has changed – oblivious to the loss of one of its most remarkable creations.
I wish I could snuff out the dawn as brutally as someone did my father’s soul.
All I have left of him now are memories. Every plan we made, every expectation or imagined future is gone. We will never speak again, never go on another hunt or share another laugh. Our relationship is an artifact of the past, an unfinished book whose final chapters will never be written,
I cannot bear it.
What’s worse is I know this is only the beginning. Few wolves outlive their mates by very long, even when they die young. The grief eats them alive, wasting away their physical forms until there is nothing left. How much longer will I have my mother? How long can she survive without half her soul?
The horrible likelihood is that I will soon be without any parents at all, and I’m already losing my own mate. Though the parting may not be as tragic, it will be just as final.
My father’s death bought me one more night with Selene. She’s stretched out on top of me, her breath a warm breeze on my chest, rustling the coarse hair scattered across my pecs. Her serious brow is furrowed even in sleep and I gather her close, afraid to wake her but needing to feel her skin on mine.
Her lashes flutter, parting to reveal her stunning irises. It takes a moment for the memory of last night to rise to the surface, but I know the moment it does. Her face crumples, leaving sleep completely and replacing the sweet innocence of slumber with heart rending grief.
My pain is reflected so clearly in Selene’s eyes my heart forgets to beat. “I was hoping it was all a bad dream.”
“Me too.” I admit, running my fingers through the silky blanket of chestnut hair streaming down her bare back. “I just want to go back to sleep and stay there until this all goes away.“.
Selene does not tell me it’s never going to go away, or that I cannot hide from reality. She simply rests her cheek over my heart and forlornly whispers, “I know.”
My wolf, who has been swinging like a pendulum between sorrow and fury ever since walking into the Alpha’s office last night, quiets ever so slightly. Selene is, and has always been, the only thing that can truly soothe Axel.
“Listen,” I blurt out before I can lose my nerve, “I know the ceremony was supposed to be yesterday but…” My voice is pure gravel. “I can’t… It’s too much.”
Her small body, which had gone tense when I started speaking, liquefies. “It’s alright Bastien, the ceremony can wait until you’re ready.”
Axel and I relax in unison, but my relief is only temporary. There is one very large problem with her concession.
I’m never going to be ready.
In a matter of days Odette has gone from a beautiful, vivacious she-wolf, to an empty shell; a shadow of her former self. Bastien is scarcely better. After emerging from our apartment the day after the attack, the elder council formally recognized him as Alpha, pushing him deeper into shock and confusion.
Though we all knew Bastien was next in line for the role, pack leadership had been the farthest thing from our minds in the wake
#Chapter 23 Postponing the Ceremony
of the murder. It seemed distasteful and disrespectful to revoke the title from Gabriel so quickly, but the council was determined there should not be any lapses in governance.
Now, instead of taking time to grieve with his family, Bastien is trying to balance running the pack with overseeing the murder investigation, planning his father’s funeral and caring for his mother. I help him as much as I can, especially with Odette and the memorial, but there are simply not enough hours in the day to get everything done.
Bastien barely leaves his office, and I’ve heard him snarling at Aiden and Donavon more than once when they’ve attempted to coax him into taking a break. The two Betas have become so desperate they decided to call in reinforcements, worried that if he doesn’t stop soon he’ll collapse.
Unfortunately for me, I am the reinforcements.
We‘re in the kitchen and the huge men are hovering over me whispering instructions while I balance a silver serving tray in my arms. “Don’t take no for an answer.” Aiden is saying. “You don’t have to be forceful, just persistent.”
“Cry, if you have to.” Donavon adds.
“And maintain physical contact.” Aiden interjects, “it will keep him calm.”
Honestly, they’re speaking about Bastien as if he’s a wild bear. Only with great effort do I keep my eyes from rolling into the back of my head. “You do know we’ve been married three years, right?”
The Betas exchange a glance, “Yes.”
“I know how to handle my husband.” I state simply, making a shoeing motion so they’ll clear the way to the hall.
They do as instructed, and within minutes I’m outside the office door. Bastien doesn’t look up when I enter, his attention is glued to a stack of papers splayed out on the mahogany desk. I set the dinner tray on the coffee table and move to his side.
Bastien reaches out blindly, snagging my hand and bringing it to his lips while he reads. “Thank you, sweetheart.”
“Will you eat with me?” I request softly.
“I wish I could, baby.” He replies immediately. “Maybe tomorrow.”
Pulling my hand from his, I adopt my most intimidating pose, locking my hands on my hips. “Bastien, you need to eat something.” “When I reach a stopping point, I will.” He lies, still not looking at me.
“You haven’t reached a stopping point in three days.” I remind him. “You‘ve got to take a break.”
Bastien sighs heavily, “Not right now, Selene.”
“When I can.” He evades.
For the first time in my memory, I summon a growl. It’s weak and not the least bit intimidating, rumbling pitifully in my chest like distant thunder – very distant.
Bastien freezes, pulling his gaze from his work for the first time since I entered. His silver eyes pierce straight through me. “Did you just growl at me, little wolf?
I try to keep my gaze level with his, but instead find it skittering back and forth as I put my foot down. “You need to eat.”
Bastien drags his eyes down my body to the offending foot, then back up to my flushed face. Though his countenance is wholly disapproving, I’m certain I see the corner of his mouth twitch – the first glimmer of light he’s shown in days. “Is that any way to speak to your Alpha?” He purrs ominously.
I notch my chin up, “You’re not my Alpha right now, you’re my husband.”
Bastien unfolds from his chair, rising up and up until he’s looming over me in all his glory. He looks angry, but his voice is warm. m always your Alpha.” He declares firmly, “But since you seem to need reminding – bring the tray.”
I can’t pull my eyes away from his, “What?”
“You wanted me to eat.” Bastien replies simply. Bring the tray.”
Logic trickles into my brain and I slowly retrieve the dinner tray, bringing it over to his desk and setting it down on a freshly cleared spot. I lift the lid and turn to leave, but Bastien loops an arm around my middle and pulls me into his lap. Despite my initial shock, I can’t help but sink into his arms, even as he hands me a fork.
I clasp the silver implement between my fingers, shooting him a bewildered look. “I’m not the one who needs to eat.”
“No.” Bastien agrees, “You’re not.”
After a moment it occurs to me that he wants me to feed him. He confirms it with an arched brow and smothered grin. “Be a good little wolf and show your Alpha you haven’t forgotten your place.”
Blushing scarlet, I spear a morsel of steak from the overloaded plate in front of us and raise it to his lips. His sharp teeth close around the tines, pulling the b****y red meat free and slowly chewing. His heated gaze never leaves mine, and I find it increasingly difficult to weather the weight of his stare.
Feeding him this way is oddly intimate, as well as making me feel completely at his mercy. Even so, pride swells in my chest that l’ ve succeeded in getting some food in his stomach where the others failed. Not for the first time, I wonder where Arabella is in all this – not that I mind her absence.
I suppose it would be inappropriate for her to be here when Bastien and I are still technically married. It wouldn’t look good in front of the pack.
About halfway through the meal, Bastien relents, stealing the silverware from my fingers. I think he’s going to continue eating on his own, but instead he offers me the next bite of food. After a moment of hesitation I snag the offering between my teeth, savoring the juicy meat and wondering how the tables turned so quickly. There’s no doubt Bastien still holds the power, but being served this way makes me feel warm all the way down to my toes.
When the plate is finally empty, I settle back against Bastien, sated and drowsy. The baby is making me sleep constantly, but I’ve been resisting as much as possible over the last few days. Of course, the added bonus of dozing on my husband is that it might force him to rest too. Take that Big Bad Wolf.
Just as I’m drifting off, I catch sight of a brightly colored flier peeking out from beneath the pile of papers on Bastien’s desk. It’s easily within reach, and I pull it from the stack, “What’s this?”
Bastien goes rigid, and a moment later I understand why. The paper in my hand is an advertisement for a bounty being offered by the Alpha of the Calypso pack: Blaise Denizen.
Wanted: Volana wolves of all ages
Cash Reward: $1 Million for reliable intelligence