I don’t transform very often anymore.
It hasn’t felt the same since Gabriel died, and though my wolf gets restless like any other, this freedom has a cost. I always miss my mate more when I shift. The pain of his absence is most acute in my soul’s truest form, and I feel eternally guilty for going on without him.
Even so, there’s no avoiding it tonight.
Bastien disappeared into the darkness in such a fit of rage I’m afraid of what he might do if he’s left alone. Aiden and Donovan went after him, but I do not trust them to pull him back from the edge, and I know they will not tell him what he needs to hear.
I follow Bastien’s path at a steady lope, trotting along in his footprints hoping he’s not so far ahead that my efforts are in vain. If he gets it into his head to kill Cavanaugh or seek retribution, war might follow, and that’s the last thing we need.
Bastien may be the one at risk of inciting chaos, but Selene isn’t doing much better. I swear I’ve never met a more stubborn pair of shifters: both determined to get their way, neither willing to give an inch.
It’s no surprise coming from my son, the Alpha: He’s used to getting exactly what he wants and set tling for nothing less. Selene, on the other hand, has always been so soft and pliant. It is unlike her to dig in her heels this way, but having a pup changes everything.
Right now, my daughter-in-law is not the sweet, skittish she-wolf I used to know: she is a mother pro tecting her young, not to mention a woman who feels betrayed by her mate. I don’t know everything that happened in their marriage or the events which have transpired since, but it’s clear to me that Selene is un der the impression that Basiten never loved her. Until my son understands and accepts that, they will never move forward.
Leaving the salt marshes and mangrove forests of Asphodel is a breath of fresh air. It takes miles for the landscape to transform into rolling hills and lowland valleys. I can see mountains in the distance, but Bastien has not gotten that far.
I follow his scent to the base of a particularly steep slope, where Aiden and Donovan stand sentry,
- blocking all trespassers from approaching their Alpha.
I stop before them and wait, giving them my most imperious glare. Donavon caves first. He may have age on his side, but he also spent three decades at my husband’s side. He knows a losing battle when he sees one.
Aiden glances at his partner skeptically, engaging in some silent debate lost to my ears before be grudgingly moving out of the way. I trot past them with a little huff, soon setting eyes on Bastien up ahead.
I move across the ridge towards the huge black wolf, meeting his glowing silver eyes as I approach. For a moment I think he might turn his back on me and run, but l emit a soft growl with the order, don’t even think about it.
His muscles relax – even if his eyes do roll back into his head – and he sits down on the hard rocks, I came out here to be alone.
I’m aware. I inform him derisively, but sometimes being alone isn’t what you need.
I don’t need a pep talk either, Mother. He counters grumpily, you can’t make this better.
I don’t think you need a pep talk. I agree warmly. I think you need a good smack on that hard head of
*Chapter 63 Family isn’t About Blood
His furry head swings around, outrage that I haven’t automatically taken his side clear on his face. She left me. She chose another wolf. He rumbles, She gave him… He trails off, emotion thick in his voice, Lila should be mine.
Blood doesn’t make a father, Bastien. I state firmly, settling beside him. Being a parent is about show ing up and putting in the work. It’s about providing love and support over a lifetime, giving a pup structure and discipline – and everything else necessary to raise strong, independent adults.
duck my head, trying to catch his eyes and refusing to continue until his molten gaze returns to mine. Drake isn’t Lila’s father. She might have his DNA, she might enjoy spending time with him every now and then, but he isn’t her parent. I insist. And whatever Selene might say, he isn’t her mate.
I can see Bastien gearing up to argue, but I cut him off. I don’t know how Lila was conceived, but it’s clear to me that – however they started out – Selene doesn’t want anything more from Drake than friend ship and protection.
She doesn’t want me either. Bastien growls.
It takes all my willpower to smother the laugh trying to bubble up in my chest. Sometimes I don’t know what the Goddess was thinking, putting men in charge. I admit, you can be the most obtuse lot.
Excuse me? Bastien replies, appearing thoroughly affronted.
You are a fool if you think Selene doesn’t want you. I proclaim.
Bastien straightens, pulling up to his full height as if I’m a pack member he can intimidate rather than the being who gave him life. The wolf and the woman are not the same. He argues. I know her wolf recog nizes me. That isn’t the problem.
The problem, I sigh. Is that you are so absorbed in your own feelings that you have blinded yourself to Selene’s perspective. A memory floats to the forefront of my thoughts, my recollections rolling off my tongue as the images take shape in my mind. The day your father died – the day you were supposed to have your rejection ceremony – Selene was heartbroken. She told me it was what you wanted, not her.
The big wolf grimaces. What are you talking about?
l’d forgotten until now… with everything that happened after. I confess, but she thought you didn’t love
How could she possibly? Bastien demands, I love her more than anything, I always have.
I close my eyes, aching for the beautiful young woman who landed on our doorstep all those years ago. Bastien, you see the scars of Garrick’s abuse in her nightmares and pan loss of her wolf, her mistrust of strangers and fear of men. I explain patiently, but the worst scars are the ones you cannot see. Selene spent the most formative years of her life being told she was worthless and unlovable. Garrick spent eight years telling a child that no one could ever want her, and she believed him.
You have to stop thinking about your relationship in terms of reality and fact. I advise, And start con sidering how things might have looked to someone who believed she was not worthy of attention or deserv ing of love.
Bastien’s eyes fall shut, a pained expression overtaking his features, The night Selene shifted, she kept saying I only married her out of obligation, and that the only reason I wanted her now was because of her wolf. He continues, I told her it wasn’t true but I don’t think she remembers. Then I learned that Arabella told Selene I was rejecting her so we could be married.
I nod, wishing I could rip Arabella limb from limb for putting those thoughts in my daughter-in-law’s head. And then she tried to kill her. I remind him. Selene’s life was in danger and she was convinced you didn’t want her and never had. She’s spent the last three and a half years letting those ideas fester. I can not blame her for distrusting you now, especially not when she fears for her pup as well as herself.
But she has her wolf now. I can see the gears turning in my son’s head, trying to accept my words
#Chapter 63 Family Isn’t About Blood
while still rationalizing them against the events of the past few days. She knows Arabella was lying, she can feel our bond.
That may be so. I concede. But Selene has been lost for as long as I’ve known her – and she’s still lost now. I claim with more certainty than I can express. She may be stronger, she may be more confident and better at hiding her feelings, but mark my words, Bastien: she doesn’t know what she wants and she’s terri fied of being hurt again.
Forget everything else that’s happened. I beg him. Forget the past, forget your pride and hurt feelings. When it comes down to it, the only thing you need to know is that Lila is a pup without a father and Selene is a she-wolf trying to survive without her mate. I implore him to understand, Your mate is trying to protect her child from a world that nearly destroyed her, and keep them both safe from wolves who want them dead.
Already I can see Bastien swelling with anger, but I’m not taking any chances. Leveling my son with the sternest glare I can muster, 1 hammer my point home. If you let a few silly test results change your feelings about them, you aren’t the wolf I thought you were.