#Chapter 43 Volana Child
A decade of planning, three and a half years of hard work, and it might all be undone by a f*****g tip line.
I’ve gotten lax, lazy and discouraged by my plans’ low yields. Somehow I missed the developments in the Calypso pack, the search for Volana wolves that could return Selene to Bastien’s orbit.
In some ways it was inevitable. Bastien was bound to visit Eros lands one day, but I always imagined i’d have time to prepare, time to obscure Selene’s presence in Asphodel and erase her scent. I would have been able to hide her, if I’d only had the time.
Granted, it’s not as if things were going off without a hitch before. In fact, Bastien has proved to be imminently more resilient than I predicted. Rather than crumpling under grief and the crushing pressure of leadership, he’s persevered, growing even stronger and sharper than before.
Maybe I should have killed Selene after all. If Bastien’s mate had truly died he would never have been able to recover, let alone make a comeback. Even so, I could not bring myself to destroy such an innocent life, no matter her relationship with my cousin.
She understands what it’s like to have everything stolen. She understands having to rebuild a life from scratch, and not having any power or control in your own fate. Not like Bastien and his father, not like the Betas and leaders of the Nova Pack who have never wanted for anything, who have known only power and privilege. They owe their entire lives to accidents of fate, lucking out by being born first or being born wealthy.
It’s not as if I was born without any advantages myself, or like I haven’t enjoyed any turns of good luck. The difference is that I have also lost. I paid costs no one should bear, despite deserving so much better. I may be at the top of my game, but I could have achieved so much more by now if I was leading the Novas; they are the most powerful pack on the continent, second only to the Calypsos. At their helm I could turn one pack into an empire.
One day soon I will see the fruits of my labor, when I finally destroy my cousin and take my rightful place as Elysium’s Alpha. But first I have to find a way to get Selene away from Bastien, and make sure he never learns about Lila. I need him weak and vulnerable, to take away his reasons to live- not give him more to hang onto.
I don’t understand the Calypsos’ hunt for Volana wolves, but I don’t particularly care about that – so long as Selene is far away from Bastien. She’s going to have to leave Eros territory, at least for a little while. I hate to see her start over yet again, but she’s done it twice already – what‘s one more time?
“How do we know you aren‘t saying all this to scare me into coming back to Elysium? Selene questions, her slender arms wrapped protectively around herself.
Axel is pulling at my limbs, it’s our job to soothe her, she shouldn’t have to comfort herself.
If we go near her now she’ll spook. I argue.
He refuses to listen. She has her wolf again. He purrs, sending out waves of affection to the animal lurking beneath the tiny brunette‘s skin. She can feel the bond.
Selene stiffens slightly, narrowing her eyes in my direction and shifting restlessly. Feeling it doesn‘t seem to be softening her up.
Cavanaugh has been lying to her, whispering all sorts of vile conspiracies in her ear. Axel asserts fiercely, we just have to explain.
It’s not just Cavanaugh. I admit ruefully, alive or dead, we still parted on very bad terms.
We have to fight –
Of course we‘re going to fight for her. I growl, cutting Axel off. We simply can’t do it the way we used to. She’s grown up: she’s stronger now, more sure of herself. I’m afraid the days of cuddling her into submission are gone.
“I wouldn’t lie about this.” I admonish the accusation with stern rebuke, “you know better than to think I’d ever frighten you for my own gain.”
#Chapter 43 Volana Child
“Hold on.” Drake steps forward with raised palms, “Slow down and back up. Why are the Calypsos after Volana wolves?
I return my attention to Selene, closely studying her countenance. “Does he know?”
My mate averts her gaze, shaking her head and biting her lip.
“Do you want to tell him? I prompt, stepping nearer.
Luminous two-toned eyes travel between us, and I can feel her uncertainty as if it’s my own. After a long moment with no resolution, I decide, “If you’re this unsure, the answer is no. This isn’t something you take chances on.”
“Would one of you please explain what‘s going on here?” Drake grouses.
*All you need to know is that Blaise Denizen has bounty out for information on Volana wolves. He’s been looking for one for years and if he finds Selene, he will kill her.”
Drake’s eyes leap to Selene. “There’s been a bounty on you all this time and you never told me?
Ha. Axel says smugly, Not so close now, are you swamp boy?
“I forgot.” If she tried telling me such a blatant lie, i’d threaten to put her over my knee, but somehow I don’t mind her disrespecting the Eros Alpha this way.
“Why would he kill her?” Drake demands of me.
“Because he‘s a rabid dog without a leash.” I summarize coldly. “When I discovered the bounty I set up a shadow system so that we could intercept anyone trying to turn in a Volana before Denizen‘s own search could spread to this part of the continent.”
“You kept it going all this time? Selene interrupts abruptly, finally registering my earlier words with an odd catch in her voice.
*As I said, none of the reports we‘ve received have ever identified a true Volana.” I explain. “But yes, I kept it going just in case.”
And thank the Goddess you did. Axel exalts.
Drake opens his mouth to speak, but Selene is still looking at me with wide, wary eyes. “Why?”
“I’ll explain that and much more if you‘d only give me the chance, little wolf.” I offer earnestly.
Instantly throwing up the walls which had surrounded her since we first reunited in the garden, Selene straightens up and glowers at me, ignoring my words.
“So you‘re telling me that a member of my pack tried to report Selene to a homicidal maniac in exchange for money? Drake demands.
“In their defense, they probably don‘t know Denizen is homicidal.” i concede.
“I’m sorry but I find it hard to believe anyone calls that kind of line thinking good things are going to result.” Drake snarks, “Did you trace the number?”
“That‘s why we‘re here.” I begin, changing my mind halfway through the thought, *Or it was. Now that I know my wife is alive there are a few other things I‘d like to work out first.”
“Ex–wife.” Selene and Drake correct in unison.
Though I have plenty of anger for my mate at this moment, she isn‘t the one I turn on. “Stay out of this. I bark at Cavanaugh,
“I’ll stay part of this until Selene asks me to do otherwise.‘ He answers, moving around his desk to stand in front of me. Which, if you hadn’t noticed, she isn’t doing.”
Almost a full head taller than the Eros wolf, I take great pleasure in towering over him, exuding undiluted menace, “Selene isn’t the one you should be worried about right now.” I instruct ominously, in fact, she isn‘t yours to worry about ever.”
“She chose me.” Drake proclaims with bared fangs, “That means she is.”
“I would be very careful if I were you, Cavanaugh.” I snarl, you‘re coming dangerously close to challenging me for my mate and ! guarantee that isn‘t a fight you can win.”
Before any more threats can be spoken, Aiden and Donavon enter with Drake‘s Beta, Hugo. “Enough of this. Donavon growls, fulfilling his inherent role as pack mediator. “Swinging your dicks around isn‘t helping anything, and it’s especially not helping
#Chapter 43 Volana Child
“How am I supposed to help Selene when he won’t tell me why Denizen wants them?” Drake hisses.
“We don’t know that either-” Aiden starts, trailing off and surveying the Eros Alpha curiously. “Why did you say ‘them?
“What?” Drake’s eyes widen almost imperceptibly, betraying the falsehood in his answer, “I meant Volanas as a whole.”
Donavon swears under his breath, and Aiden turns to face me with the bearing of an exhausted soldier. “Alpha,” He sighs, “We all forgot – in the excitement about Selene. the report wasn’t just about a woman.”
I finish the thought for him, a sense of foreboding spreading through my limbs. “It was a mother and child.”
As one, we turn to look at Selene, finding only an empty office and a very smug looking Cavanaugh.
BOMANN 4 ESTRY
At first I hadn‘t realized what Drake was doing when he joined my rebuttal about the status of my marriage, but as soon as Bastien turned away from me, I understood. If there’s one sure fire way to distract an Alpha, it’s to provoke their possessive instincts regarding their mate, and my friend’s willingness to enrage a bigger, stronger wolf gave me time to slip away.
By the time I get to the apartment I’ve changed routes and laid so many false trails i’m actually a bit afraid the Nova wolves might have beaten me home, but I’m counting on Drake to safeguard my location and force Bastien and his men to track me the old fashioned way.
I push into the apartment with a sigh of relief, dropping my keys on the table by the door and kneeling to intercept the tiny bundle of love already rushing my legs. I scoop up my giggling daughter, my heart swelling with happiness despite the urgency of our situation I‘ll never get used to the rush of joy I feel every time I return home after being parted from her, as if it’s been years and not hours since I last cuddled her.
Hello my sweet pup. I croon, breathing in her perfect scent as I drop a few kisses to her hair. “I missed you. Did you have fun with Mrs. Brooks?”
The babysitter stands on cue, tidying up the kitchen table and smiling over at me. She was a doll. The elder woman reports, gathering her bag. “Same time tomorrow?”
“No actually. I correct “I’ve decided to take the weekend off, but I’ll call you about next week. I promise.
As soon as the door closes behind her, I look into the miniature mirror–image in my arms. Lila really is my carbon copy, in all ways but one. She has my hair and eyes, my skin and bone structure, my voice – but her expressions and mannerisms are all Bastien’s. 1* m not sure how it happened, after all, aren‘t those traits learned rather than inherited?
Apparently not because though my own features are gazing up at me, they‘re wearing Bastien‘s smile. It strikes me today more than ever. I still can‘t believe he‘s here, and I can‘t believe how viciously Luna has been fighting me to be near him. Even now, holding the most important thing in my world, she complains
I want to go back, she whines, I miss him.
You don’t know him well enough to miss him. I snipe internally, I do and I promise, you don‘t
i stride into the nursery, setting Lila down and beginning to throw clothes and toys into a bag while she tells me about her day in half–formed sentences and misshapen words. As much as I usually adore this part of the day, right now I don’t have an inch of brain space to focus on tales of coloring, puzzles and petting 2005
I have to figure out my next steps. I know we have to get out of the house, but I don’t have the first idea where to go. My immediate concern is Bastien, but there’s also the Calypsos to worry about. What are we going to do? What are we going to do The words play over and over in my head.
Go back to Bastien Luna offers unhelpfully. Our mate will protect us.
Our mate” didn’t want me at my worst, he doesn’t get to have me at my best. I argue
My phone pings, and I scramble to open the screen certain Drake is texting me with a warning about the Novans in
instead I find instructions of a different kind.
Get out of Asphodel.
A car and driver will be waiting at the furst land crossing out of the Lethe Lagoon. Take the car leave the driver
The GPS has been pre programmed with an address known only by me, follow the directions and drive to the intended locatam Secure safe house has been prepared for your arrival. The residence is equipped with one month’s worth of supplies.
Do not leave until the all clear has been given,
Further instructions will arrive as events develop
Mommy. A little voice sounds to my right Are Isten?
I‘m sorry angel, Mommy was distracted. I confess with a gentle smile Till tell you what if you can play by yourself for a few minutes, then we can go for a car ride and you can tell me absolutely everything about your day
“Car ride?” She squeaks excitedly her blue and violet eyes wide and excited Cars are such a rarity in Asphodel that even a short trip out of the marsh can be truly thrilling
*That‘s right. I grin. in fact, we might be in the car for a very long time
By the time I track down Selene‘s apartment they‘re already long gone.
After my mate snuck out of the Pack House and left me squabbling with her new – Well, whatever Drake is to her, my Betas reminder about the full extent of the tip we received threw me through a loop. I’d been so stunned to learn Selene was alive that everything that‘s happened in recent months flew out of my head. Even after I remembered the reason we came to Asphodel, my thoughts were too scattered to recall everything.
Axel had immediately started vying to chase after Selene, but all I had time to do was send out a mental command to one of my sentries with orders to track her. I tumed on Cavanaugh then I thought you said Selene was the only Volana in the territory?”
“I did. He confirmed curtly.
*Then there isn‘t a Volana child in Asphodel?” Aiden clarified.
*Listen, I don‘t know what all your tip comprised, but you said yourself that there have been a great many false sightings or mistaken reports.” He shrugged, “For all we know the tipster saw Selene standing next to a kid in a shop and assumed it was hers
It does not escape me that he has not truly answered the question. “Why did Selene run out of here the way she did?
“You‘ll have to ask her that.” He smirks, “If you can find her.”
In the end it took my sentries three hours to find Selene‘s home. In the three years since we parted my little wolf has learned a thing or two about evasive maneuvers and I can‘t deny part of me is proud of how difficult it was to track her.
We found the cafe first, where I lingered to stare at the photo of the venue‘s grand opening. Selene stood beaming next to the Alpha and his family, appearing almost exactly as she had when I saw her last, Other photos surrounded the first of notable visitors, special events and staff birthdays. The changes in my mate became more visible with every new snapshot as she transformed from haunted halfling to confident she–wolf.
My men scoured the space while I gazed dumbly at my beautiful, lost little wolf, wondering why she never talked about opening a cafe, or even working in Elysium. After it became clear she had not been to work in tours, we continued down the road to a modest apartment building covered in her scent.
We were on the stairs the first time I caught a whiff of a new aroma: like Selene, but decidedly not. The same delicate blend of snow and flowers, muddled with balsam and ash. Axel perked up at the first trace. What is that?
I think you mean, who is that.
We have to find it. He urges. It feels important.
By the time we entered the apartment, the second scent had risen to equal the strength of my mates as deeply ingrained in the home as she is.
Clearing the rooms one by one, we confirmed what was already obvious, Selene is not here. I moved through her cozy home even more slowly than I explored her cafe, taking in every sight, every detail. Her life here is so different than our life was in Elysium. I’m beginning to think I was an even worse husband than I knew. Was this what she always wanted and I just never saw? Never listened?
Axel has been whining from the moment we stepped inside, from the moment I realized to whom the second scent must belong It‘s obvious a child lives here. Even if it were not for the toys and sippy cups scattered through the home, the photos reveal ail. Selene, glistening with sweat and exuding pure bliss as she cradles a newborn in the hospital a baby with two different colored