With my bedroom door cracked open, I can hardly hear my mother answer the door.
"Hello, can I help you?" She asks whoever is there.
"Yes, I'm looking for Ms. East. I'm assuming she's your daughter. Alpha Grant is expecting her presence."
"Yes, she's upstairs. Might I ask what for?"
"I was told nothing but to retrieve her."
Well, I know his last name. That's something. It's not enough, but still something. I know of him, this Alpha, his pack is a little farther than the ones that usually come to the gathering. It's a strong pack, one of the strongest. That's all I know.
I know my mother is going to call for me, but I do not want to go downstairs and off with this stranger. He was told to retrieve me, so the Alpha told him to do so. Part of me wishes that the Alpha would have continued to ignore my existence, just as he did when we had our encounter on the path. Maybe he is going to reject me. Maybe that's why he needs me—it's only for a moment then.
It will hurt, I know that. I can't help it.
"Rae, there's a man here for you," my mother calls, on queue.
Glancing at my bag, I sigh and head through the door, ready to get this over with. It'll just take a minute; then I can go back to the way things were, my lovely, mateless life. Maybe I'll move to the city, live amongst the humans and pretend to be one of them. Humans die alone sometimes, so I will fit in there. We'll all be alone together.
I'll be shunned from my pack, hell, the entire werewolf kind will reject me if they find out, but I don't need them in my life. I can live as a human. It sounds pleasant, the human life.
What a dream.
"Rae," my mother calls again, and I steadily make my way down the stairs.
It will only take a second, I repeat to myself, chanting in my head. It will hurt, the rejection, but I'll be okay. I've lost people in my life. I know how this works. If only the mate bond was nonexistent—it would be a breeze without it. "I'm here," I say at the bottom, and the two look to me. "Where are we going?"
The man in the door is tall and well built, likely one of his guards. "To the Alpha, at your pack house. He is with your Luna and Alpha, but he will give instructions on what to do."
Instructions? "For what?"
"It's best if you leave the questions for him."
I look to my mother, and she seems somewhat excited by this. She must not know that he's going to reject me, or maybe she does. Maybe she's just trying to hide it so I won't be too upset about it.
"Alright," I murmur, "let's make this quick."
I know where the pack house is, but I have never been inside like most of my pack. It is where the Alpha and Luna live, where important people stay, where they love each other and make love until the sun dries up the sky. That is at least what the girls daydream about. They dream about the Alpha, what it would be like to be mated to him, the feelings, sensations only he could give. Some girls say that's why the Luna is so happy and so pregnant half the time. She's had her third child, and anymore seem crazy to me. Who am I to judge, though?
I follow the man, walking a few steps behind him. He will glance back at me, maybe making sure that I haven't run away off into the trees. He knows too, doesn't he? He knows that I'm going to be rejected. I wonder if he feels bad for me.
Can an Alpha reject their mate? Sure, but it is not a good option unless they have a woman with Alpha blood to replace her. And even the woman of Alpha blood—a highly desired woman—isn't as good as a Mate. Nothing can replace ones true mate, but I suppose this Alpha Grant has his backup for when he dumps me. He must have a woman with Alpha Blood, someone beautiful and worthy. I'm sure she could do better than me anyway, his true mate or not.
While lost in my thoughts, the guard grabs my attention when he comes to a halt. I peer up and realize that we are here. He is just inside, a few steps away, so close but so far.
I swallow, preparing myself for the inevitable heartbreak.
It will just take a minute.
It is a rare thing, to enter the pack house unless you are someone worthy, which I am clearly not. I am a woman about to be rejected by an Alpha, surely not worthy. Heck, I should be grateful to stand on the porch.
The guard does not knock, but confidently opens the door, and I hesitate before following him inside. There are voices further in, and just before I expect to unmask their owners, the guard turns down a hallway. Quite confused and lost, I follow him like a child without their mother to guide them. Too young to be making such decisions.
Oh Goddess, I smell him. That scent that I can't describe in less than a hundred words. It is everything wonderful all in one cologne, and somehow, it works. The further down the hall we walk, the more potent it grows, wrapping around me like a warm blanket. I could fall asleep in its arms.
There are two large, white doors and one of them is cracked open. The scent bleeds from there. He's behind those doors, and I brace myself for impact. The guard pushes past, and I have the need to ditch the situation, but it's too late, I too, am inside. He sits in a chair in front of a desk, I'm assuming my Alphas desk, and he looks up, and I crumble. The door closes after the guard, and we are alone. I am alone with a stranger.
I can't move. The sight of him hurts. It's like staring at a glass of water when ones been deprived for ages. I am quickly becoming dehydrated, and my lips turn dry.
I don't want to be here with him; I don't want to be anywhere at all. There is no place for me, and under his gaze, I shrink to a pulp. This man, this Alpha, my alleged mate, makes me feel like nothing to him. He is the King, and I am a peasant.
He stands up, looking down at me, ready to stomp on the bug, ready to squish it.
He says firmly, "Be ready tomorrow morning."
What? Doesn't he have the time to reject me now? "For?" I murmur, too nervous to talk normally.
"We leave tomorrow morning. The man who brought you here will take you home and get you around eight," his voice—words confusing me—sounds like a dream. I want him to whisper in my ear how much he—wait. "You're free to go."
Only registering the word 'go,' I nod slightly and push back past the closed door. Like a drunk woman, I stumble a bit and I find the man who fetched me, the dog walker.
He begins to walk away, and I know I am supposed to follow him. I do so until we are freed from the pack house, back out in the open air. "That's alright, I-I can make it from here," I tell him.
"It's not my choice," he says, bored.
We continue to walk, and I grow further from him with each step. At some point he pauses until I have caught up a bit, then he carries on.
My head pounds, repeating his words with every pulse. We leave tomorrow morning. We leave. Morning. Leave. Tomorrow. Be ready. It's causing my stomach to rise. Around eight. Eight. You're free to go. Free to go. Free. I feel as if I'm going to throw up.
I wobble up to the door and wave back at the guard, but he's already turned away from me, on his way back to wherever he came from. With a moan of tiredness and confusion, I fall inside and close with the door behind me, needing the wood to stable myself.
Without a minute to breathe, my mother appears. "So? What happened?"
I want to yell at her. Nothing happened! It doesn't matter! But I restrain myself. "I can't talk right now. We'll talk in the morning."
I move past her, and she seems taken-back. "What? In the morning? What happened, Rae?"
"Please," I say, heading for the stairs, "not now."
In my bedroom I find peace, and I fall back onto my bed, taking in the silence.
He said we're leaving tomorrow morning at eight. Who is 'we?' 'We' better not mean us. And 'us' better not mean him and I. That wouldn't make sense. Why on earth would he need me to come with him? It is clear that he had no interest in me whatsoever, so why waste anyone's time? Must he take me to his pack to reject me? Or maybe he is going to kill me there, where everyone thinks I am safest.
I don't understand. Where are we going? I am assuming back to his pack as I said, as the gathering is over, but why? Why take me back? I will be an embarrassment to his pack.
I needed more information than that, but I didn't have the guts to ask, and I wouldn't have them now either. He sat there like a God. Who am I to question him? Only one word. For? That's all I could muster. What a weakling.
It's not like I am trying to impress him anyway. There's no point in that.
Finding it hard to breathe, I slide open a window and bring my face to the net. The air is cold in my lungs, sobering me up.
I am a blind man walking on a tightrope.