“We have a problem.” A deep voice thunders over the phone line.
My senses sharpen, locking onto the familiar sound, “I thought everything was set for the next phase?”
“It’s not that.” My longtime ally answers. “Bastien found Selene.”
“Excuse me?” It takes a moment for the air to return to my lungs, “Selene is dead. How can he have found her?”
“It’s possible she’s not as dead as I led you to believe.” He hedges.
“What the f**k does that mean?” I hiss, “Either someone’s dead or they aren’t. Besides, you didn’t lead me to believe anything – 1 did it, not you!”
“Yes well I got cold feet!” He blurts out, “I pulled her out, alright? She’s been in Asphodel until now without anyone being the wiser.”
This is unbelievable. I always knew it was a bad idea to join forces, but I never imagined the idiot could screw things up this badly. I swear, only men make such stupid, block-headed mistakes. The b*****d probably got it into his head he was in love with the little halfling and got cold feet.
“And her brat?” I demand. “She was breeding, you remember?”
“Luckily she had the sense to tell Durand the kid isn’t his.” My partner promises, “But they’ve met. She told him about your involvement, and from the looks of it, he believed her.”
I clench my eyes shut, rubbing my temples and praying for patience. “What does that mean?”.
“It means the enforcers are on their way to arrest you.” He announces solemnly, “You don’t have much time.”
My eyes snap open, darting to the window in search of flashing lights. Finding none, I begin yanking clothes and provisions from my drawers, “Is that all?”
“For now.” My friend reports, “Do you have a plan?”
I laugh without humor, unzipping my luggage with excessive force “I always have a plan.”
“So what is it, where will you go?”
“That doesn’t concern you.” I mutter icily, “All you need to know is that I’m out there, and I’m watching you. If I were you, I’d get your act together – before it’s too late.”
I’m still hanging up the phone when Bastien Durand enters, smoke billowing from his ears. I plaster a smirk on my face, determined not to show the other Alpha any weakness. I was feeling much more confident about things before Selene told him that Lila is my child.
“Hello Bastien.” | greet him coolly.
“Drake.” He nods stiffly, “We need to get a few things straight.”
“Is that so?” I snort, doing my best to pique his temper.
“Don’t bother posturing.” He grumbles, “It won’t do you any good.” Without waiting for an invitation, he drops into one of the lounge chairs in front of my desk, slouching in a show of outright disrespect. If I could afford to challenge the other wolf I might object, but we both know he’s stronger than I am.
“What is it you wish to discuss, Bastien?” I sigh.
“Selene is mine.” He declares, not bothering to look at me. “And whether or not Lila share’s my blood, she belongs to my mate, and that makes her mine too.”
*Funny.I snipe, *Have you shared these sentiments with Selene? Somehow I don’t think she’ll agree with you.”
“My relationship with my mate is our business, not yours.” The other wolf directs reproachfully. “We‘ll sort our issues out when the time comes, but I expect you to be far out of the way by then.”
“If you expect me to agree to simply step aside so you can be free to mistreat her all over again, you’re sorely mistaken.” i inform him
“I have no interest in mistreating her, nor have I ever.” Bastien bites back, “Selene is the most important thing in the world to me, I would never harm her.”
*Then why did you?” I challenge. “In case you’ve forgotten, I was there when she left you, I know things about your marriage which are probably still mysteries to you!” I circle my desk, leaning against the hard wood with renewed confidence, “She was afraid of you, Durand. Afraid enough to fake her death and come to me when your girlfriend tried to knock her off.”
Cold silver eyes catch me in their crosshairs, “She said she wasn’t responsible for faking her death.”
“You egotistical a*s,” I scoff, “Do you really think she would tell you if she did? She was so terrified of you she fled through rogue territories to get away from you. Why in the Goddess’s name do you think she would be up front with someone who frightened her so much?
“You’re lying.” He snarls.
“Am I?” I ask, “Because I’m the one who’s been here for Selene all this time.” I let every ounce of provocation I can muster bleed into my voice. “I’m the one who has been living with your mate, taking care of her, protecting her, holding her hand through childbirth and raising her pup, – for the last three and a half years!” I all but shout. “Do you really think you know her better, based on two days of being reunited, during most of which she was actively running from you?”
Bastien’s wolf claws at the surface of his skin, his eyes glowing, fangs and claws extended. His barrel-like chest heaves with shallow, furious breaths. Just as I think he’s about to explode, the fires in his eyes bank, and cold resolve settles over his powerful haunches. “I’m not as easy to manipulate as that, Cavanaugh.” He thunders, prowling around me in circles. “You think I don’t know that you‘ve been in love with her since the moment you laid eyes on her?”
I try to brush off his words, but we both know there’s truth in them
“The longer it takes her to find herself, to see her true worth, the better it is for you.” He growls, “Selene has found a lot of strength over the last few years, but she still has not freed herself enough to live up to her full potential. The moment she does, she’ll see you are not even worthy of breathing the same air she is.”
“Your days with my mate are numbered.” Bastien rolls his neck, insa calculating, reptilian motion. “Support her for a while longer, hold her hand, offer her what meager protection you can, give her what she wants and never challenge her – but know it will never be enough.”
His words slam into me one after the other, stabbing straight to the core of my being. “At the end of the day, Selene and Lila belong with me, and no amount of pretending or wishful thinking can change that. I will take them back to Elysium where they belong, and there’s not a thing you can do to stop me.”
Drake comes to my rooms late that night, long after I’ve put Lila to bed and changed into my sleep clothes. “What’s wrong?” I ask the moment I see the strained expression on his face.
“Bastien is going to try to force you back to Elysium.” He cautions, “Don’t trust him, whatever he says.” He closes the door behind him with a firm click, “He just told me his entire plan. He doesn’t care whether Lila is his or not, he doesn’t care what you want. He’s the same Bastien he’s always been.”
“That’s no surprise,” I frown. Even as the words leave my lips, Luna stirs in my chest, We should go with him. Forget this other wolf
You like Drake. I remind her with annoyance.
That was before I met Bastien. He’s stronger, smarter, better. She argues, He knows what’s best.
I know what’s best for my daughter. I snap. He doesn’t even know he has a daughter.
And whose fault is that? Luna snarks. Do you have any idea how different things would be now if you’d been honest with him.
I‘ve been honest with him before, Luna. It’s only ended in tears. I counter.
“Don’t worry, Drake, Bastien is the last person I plan on trusting.” I assure my friend.
“No Selene.” He warns, “I’m serious. You need to be careful. Whatever he says to you, don’t believe him. He shows you a different man than he shows the rest of the world.” His earnest expression is so full of concern there’s no doubt he believes what he says, “It s a trick – a trap. You mustn’t fall for it.”
I offer Drake a soft smile. “I know I don’t look like much, Drake.” I broach, “But I was married to Bastien for three years before I met you, and I’ve run from him another three years since. Trust me when I say I know what I’m dealing with.”
“I just want you to be safe.” Drake grimaces.
“I will be.” I promise. “And I’m going to guarantee my safety by staying far away from Bastien. You can take that to the bank.”