#Chapter 41 Three Years Later
It still feels strange to sit at my father’s desk
When I first took over as Alpha I continued using my personal study for pack business, but after a few months Donavon suggested transition to the official executive office. I reluctantly agreed, and though I’m now used to sitting in Dad’s chair, 1 know I will never truly fill his shoes
Taking care of the pack is the only thing keeping me going now.
It took a long time for me to find my way as a leader: sabotaged by forces beyond my control and mourning the loss of my mate, only the danger posed to my pack kept my head above water. Over time doing whatever was required to protect the pack evolved into true governance, and one day I woke up and realized I was no longer merely going through the motions
In some ways this was my enemy’s biggest mistake. If they hadn’t continued trying to destroy my family’s legacy and weaken the Novas, I probably would have given up. Instead they gave me a reason to fight.
Not a day goes by that I do not miss my mate, that I do not wish I could turn back the clocks or trade the Goddess my life for hers. but I’ve come to believe helping others is a far better tribute to Selene’s memory than wasting away in grief, failing countless others the way I failed her.
As if he can hear my thoughts, Aiden appears in the doorway with a cursory knock. “We’ve had a report from Eros lands. A sighting of a mother and child – both Volanas.”
My brows raise skeptically. In the three years since Selene died, the tip line has never received a valid report of a Volana sighting A few false tips have come in every so often, but none which have ever panned out. Before today I was starting to think my mate might have been the last of her kind. Still, I could never bring myself to shut the system down.
If there is even a small chance another wolf like Selene is out there and in trouble, I have to protect them. I’ll never forget the way she stormed out when I suggested other Volana’s didn’t matter because they were not my responsibility. Of all my regrets, the number of lies or implied falsehoods I let Selene believe for the sake of politics and subterfuge remain high on the list.
Normally I wouldn’t go to investigate myself, but it’s extremely rare to hear of two Volanas, and I’m long overdue for a diplomatic visit with our allies. I haven’t seen Drake Cavanaugh since my father’s funeral, and though we have been in regular contact since his step–father retired from being Alpha, we’ve yet to have a formal meeting as Alphas.
“Assemble a delegation for travel to Asphodel.” I instruct my second-in-command. “Our cover is a diplomatic mission Donavon and I will handle the Cavanaughs while you investigate the tip. Bring along whoever you need for the search.”
Aiden raises one dark brow, “You want to go in person?
Inod slowly, “Something feels different about this one.” I confess, “I can’t explain it, I just feel like I have to see it through personally
He accepts my instincts without question. “How soon do you want to leave?”
“What do you mean the Novans are coming to Asphodel?” igrit out slowly, barely able to believe my ears.
My Beta, Hugo, passes me a printed missive, detailing an imminent visit from Bastien Durand and a full diplomatic envoy. “They’re going to be here within the hour.” He states contritely, bowing his head in apology. “The message came in last night after wed already left for the day.”
My wolf sits up at attention, hackles raised. “Do we know why?” An unplanned and urgent visit like this is never a good sign. It means something is wrong, and they didn’t want to give us any time to prepare a defense or cover up.
Do they know? My wolf wonders sharply.
Chapter 41 Three years later
How could they? I think back, trying to smooth down the hairs standing on the back of my neck
“The dispatch simply says there are critical security matters to discuss,” Hugo shrugs,
F**k My wolf aripes. Not Good
“You know what to do.” i direet Hugo
“Yes, Alpha “Before he reaches the door, the other wolt pulls up short, swearing under his breath
I c**k my ears outward, immediately zeroing in on a rising cacophony from the water garden in front of the Pack House, The commotion is already rippling through the residence, sentries serambling to take up defensive positions and destroy evidence.
We‘re too late.
* They’re already here.” I declare, resignation blooming in my bloodstream. “Brace yourself. This is going to be ugly.”
I smell her the moment I step out of the car, faint at first whispers and traces on the air and through the vaulted ceilings of the opulent Pack House. Axel is already going berserk, despite the fact that it can’t be true. We must be imagining it.
Do you smell that? I ask Aiden and Donovan as the Eros officials lead us inside
I wasn’t sure I was right. Aiden confirms, I thought I must be misremembering but
It’s Selene. I growl, I don’t know how, but it’s her scent.
Bastien, she’s dead. Donovan reminds me unhelpfully
I know my mate’s scent! Axel responds for me, speaking directly to my Betas’ wolves in a true rarity
Just take it easy, this could be some sort of trick Aiden advises.
I knew it. Axel is clashing for control, running himself ragged trying to break free. I knew she wasn’t gone. He rages,
There were always a lot of things off about her death. I remind them. Things that didn’t make sense I never felt our connection break, I never felt her go the way my mother did when Dad died,
So what you think the Eros’s took her and staged the fire? Donavon inquires, To what end?
I don’t kn- At that moment Drake Cavanaugh appears at the top of the staircase overlooking the foyer, and all thought leaves my head. While I could smell hints and whiffs of my mate lingering in the public garden and communal spaces of the house, the Eros Alpha reeks of her
They’ve been together very recently, and from the strength of the aroma, they’re together often. The only reason he isn’t already dead is because their scents aren’t intertwined in the way of mates. He hasn’t marked her, not she him.
Aiden and Donavon’s strong hands and the barrier of Cavanaugh’s own guards prevent me from launching my body at the other man. “Where is she, what have you done with her?!” I thunder, fangs salivating,
“Good to see you too, Durand,” Drake drawls, descending the stairs with easy swagger “take it you’re looking for someone?”
“If you’ve hurt her I swear to the Goddess you will not live to see the moon rise.” I vow, thrashing against the wolves restraining
“Am I supposed to know who we’re talking about?” Drake replies, nonchalant.
My wolf breaks out of my body with a roar, shredding my clothes and bursting forth in a tomado of black fur that throws off all constraints. Betas and guards scramble to contain the threat and shield the Eros Alpha, but Drake simply stands there assessing my furious, glowing eyes and hostile bearing with cool disinterest. “I don’t understand you, Durand” He announces, “if you were too much of a fool to appreciate what you had until it was gone, that’s no fault of mine,”
“What are you talking about?” Aiden demands, his own wolf pushing at the surface
#Chapter 41 Three Years Later
“Your Alpha seems to think I’ve taken something from him.” Drake replies, rolling his eyes. “But I assure you I’ve done nothing of the sort.” He continues down the stairs with a lethal expression. “What’s more, I don’t give out personal information about my pack members – no matter who’s asking.” Another grumble of rage escapes me and Drake continues, “In my experience if a she wolf feels the need to hide from a man, she has good reason.”
“Here’s the problem, Cavanaugh.” Donavon interrupts, We’re talking about the Alpha’s mate, who was a target for kidnapping and eventually murdered – or so we believed, How are we to know she’s here of her own free will, unless we can hear it from her directly?”
“You can’t.” Drake answers unapologetically,
“Then we’re going to have a problem.” Alden hisses menacingly.
Drake surveys our aggressive demeanor and belligerent poses, exasperation clear on his face. After a moment he sighs, pulling out a cell phone and bringing it to his ear. “We have a situation.” He says when the line clicks open. “I need you to meet me at the pack house, right now.” His green eyes flash in my direction, “Come alone.”
I change into a fresh set of clothes while we wait, my questions, threats and demands falling on deaf ears. After ten minutes the scent of honeysuckle and freshly fallen snow begins to grow stronger, no longer residue left behind in past wanderings, but the pure, undiluted source moving nearer.
I’m out the door in a heartbeat, racing out of the pack house and into the water garden like a man possessed. At first it’s only her scent, the intoxicating perfume I was sure I would never smell again. I breathe it in greedily, scanning the public park for the aroma’s origin.
My heart stops when I see her, and it doesn’t start again.
This is a dream, it has to be. A cruel twist of memory conjured into my sleeping mind. Any minute now i’ll wake up in the car, hours away from Asphodel and heartbroken all over again.
Selene stands directly across from me on one of the floating pathways, bathed in golden sunlight and more beautiful than any of the flowers surrounding us. She wears a short sundress, her luscious hair flowing freely down her back and eyes of blue and violet glowing out from behind thick black lashes. She’s watching me sharply, frozen in her tracks with a tumult of emotion flickering behind her carefully guarded expression.
When our eyes meet the earth crumbles beneath my feet, and I know she feels it too. The world around us disappears, our
surroundings fading to a dull gray blur and leaving only Selene in full, breathtaking color. Axel howls with joy, calling to his mate in a fit of pure instinct even though we both know it can never be answered.
Only this time, it is.