I’ve never spent much time in Asphodel,
When I was a boy my father dragged me all over the continent, visiting different territories and packs, learning the lay of the land and meeting other Alphas, but I never liked anyplace as well as Elysium. Now, watching Selene and Lila commune with the strange animals who live in the watery mangroves of the Eros Pack’s capital, I can almost appreciate the strange, floating city.
A soft, furry snout emerges from the water, kissing Lila’s tiny toddler hand and making the pup squeal with delight. Selene keeps one slender arm locked around her daughter’s middle so the child doesn’t leap from the dock, but her own beaming grin is so wide 1 feel tempted to step forward and impose the same protection on my mate.
As if she can feel my gaze on her, Selene glances over her shoulder, her bright, intelligent eyes narrowing on me as her full mouth forms a luscious pout. I offer her a wolfish grin, Axel purring in my chest when a visible quiver vibrates up Selene’s spine despite her grumpy expression.
I’m only vaguely aware of my Beta approaching on my left, desperately trying to ignore his grim energy in favor of the vision before me on the pier. Arabella fled Elysium.
Well that certainly dampened the mood. She what?
Someone tipped her off, clearly. Donovan responds evenly, She was gone before the warrant was even issued.
Then it’s true. Aiden joins our silent conversation, appearing on my other side.
You doubted it? Donavon questions skeptically. Where Arabella’s romantic interest in me had exposed the less savory aspects of her nature long ago, and Donavon’s experience standing in as one of her guardians had offered him the same clarity, Aiden’s idealistic view of our surrogate little sister has never quite been challenged – until now that is.
No. He rebuts, I just hoped… I suppose it was just denial. Aiden finally confesses. We grew up with her after all. Can you blame me for not wanting to believe it?
No. I answer easily. I don’t want to believe it either – but I refuse to allow my own wishes to blind me to the truth. Guilt floods me as we stand there watching the identical she-wolves playing in the water, both so small in their own ways. The fact is I let myself ignore Arabella’s faults for way too long. If I hadn’t, none of this might have ever happened.
I can feel my Betas’ eyes on me, and I know what Donovan is going to ask before the thought leaves his head. Do you want us to go after Arabella, or let her go?
A few years ago my allegiance to Flynn would have rendered the question unnecessary, even this time last yeah, I’m not sure how I would have answered. Now I don’t give it a second thought: Hunt her down. No matter how long it takes.
Lila fell asleep around mid-afternoon, begging to be carried and then slumping in her mother’s arms long before we neared the center-city neighborhood my mate and her pup called home. Though Selene had agreed to accompany our party on a diplomatic tour around the city only after significant cajoling, her daughter’s exhaustion seemed to provide the excuse for which she’d been waiting to duck out early.
She was, therefore, less than amused when I offered to carry Lila the rest of the way, bearing the brunt of the physical toll. Halting her imminent excuses to slip away, Selene reluctantly passed the pup to me while grumbling mutinously under her breath.
Taking the featherlight load into my arms and resisting the urge to steal a kiss from my mate in the process, I snuggled the pint sized wolf throughout the rest of the tour, determinedly parsing her delicate scent for any traces of Drake Cavanaugh and finding none,
When Selene stepped out to use the restroom, I took the opportunity for which I’d been waiting, feeling only a small sliver of guilt a: I plucked a few hairs from the sleeping pups’ head and passed them to Aiden. “Here, get these back to Elysium straight away. I want you to oversee the tests personally, and don’t leave until they have the results.”
I’ve already provided my Beta with samples of my own DNA to compare against Lila’s. Though I have no doubt the hospitals in Asphodel are world-class, I don’t trust Eros wolves with such delicate matters. I want the Drs in Elysium to run these tests, and I do I want a single middleman involved to muddy the waters of the results.
“Are you kidding?” I scoff “She’d have my head for even suggesting it” i joke. In truth, Selane’s defensiveness only raises my suspicions that Lila is mine. After all, what cause would she have to be so defensive if Lila truly belonged to Drake?
“For what it’s worth, Bastien. I don’t think you have anything to worry about.” Donovan confides, “That girl has your smile – not Cavanaughs.
His words both comfort and concern me. “All due respect Donovan, I think I have even more to worry about if she is mine.” “At least if she isn’t I know Selene is being honest.”
“Well if I were you, I’d start worrying.” Aiden frowns, carefully wrapping up Lila’s sample. “Because Donovan’s right. If this pup isn’t yours, I’ll eat my hat.”
I firmly turn over the deadbolt locking my apartment, looking over my shoulder at the Alpha cradling my daughter as I push the door open. Stepping just inside, I reach out for Lila, sighing in frustration when Bastien pushes past me into the foyer rather than handing over my pup.
y sofa. Sirpanien.” I instruct,
He strides past me as if he owns the space, pulling off his jacket and then Lila’s before settling on my sofa. Stripping off my own outerwear, I promptly swipe my baby away from the big predator and cuddle her to my chest, “You can go now, Bastien.” I instruct, nodding towards the door where Donovan still hovers.
Rather than doing as I suggested, Bastien scoots closer, throwing one burly arm over my shoulder and circling the other around Lila. “I put out an order for Arabella’s arrest.” He announces nonchalantly.
My chin jerks toward him in surprise, and I sit up, holding my body away from his intoxicating touch as best I can. “Did you get her?”
“She ran.” He sighs, dragging one large paw over his face.
It takes a moment for his words to sink in, their full implications washing over me like a drowning tide. “Then she knows I’m here.”
He’s growling before the words can leave his mouth. “Not necessarily.”
“Of course she does!” | argue. “You tried to arrest her for attempting to kill me. The only way you could have found that out is if you found me, which means she knows I’m alive.” And that also means she knows Lila is alive.
Luna whines in my chest, you have to tell him. If Arabella knows about Lila, she’s in danger.
I force down my wolf’s protests, even as Bastien remarks, “You’re right, you’ll just have to come back to Elysium with me then.“
“What?” I hiss coldly.
“You’re safest with me.” Bastien announces smugly, “We know Arabella isn’t in Elysium, So that’s where you should go.”
“In case you’ve forgotten, being near you got me almost murdered multiple times and you didn’t do a d**n thing to protect me.” I bite back, squeezing Lila just a bit too tightly. The sweet pup murmurs and tosses in her sleep, and Bastien plucks her from my arms.
“There, there, little one.” He croons. “Was Mommy getting too worked up?”
My mouth gapes open in outrage, “how dare you!”
Bastien gently rubs Lila’s back in small, concentric circles. “Easy little wolf.” Though he’s petting my pup, I know he’s speaking to me and me alone. “I didn’t know before. I do now. I won’t let any harm come to you.”
Fuming and certain smoke is billowing from my nostrils, I extend my arms, “Hand her over, and get out of my house.”
Bastien arches a thick brow, not moving an inch, “No.”
“What do you mean, no?” I demand, “This is my house, I told you to leave. Now leave.”
I’m not sure how he manages it, after all, Lila isn’t known for being the deepest sleeper in the world. Nonetheless, one moment I’m hovering over Bastien flinging threats and and glares, and the next he’s got my pup sleeping contentedly in one hand, and my nape in the other, “This might be your house, but you belong to me, Selene.” Bastien growls “That means I make the rules here.”
My breast heaves as I scrabble for the words to respond, but he stops me again. “You need some rest, as does this angel, so you’r
going to get it.” He orders coldly. “Be a good girl and go to sleep. We’ll finish this in the morning.”