I gasped for air. It felt like I’ve been underwater for too long. My body jerked up into a sitting position. Slowly, I regained control of my composure before my parched throat indicated how thirsty I was. Though my body was waking up, my blurred vision was saying another thing.
“Wa… water…” I choked as I tried to make out of my surroundings.
“Roe! Hey, hey. Relax… Here’s a glass,” the familiar voice stated before handing me a cool glass. “Small sips now.” He ordered.
“Cole? What… What are you doing here? How were you… wait, am I… am I dead? Is this…my idea of heaven?” I stuttered in confusion.
It was then I felt his familiar, tingling touch. Then knew I was alive. “As much as your words make me feel happy, I don’t want you to die. I’ve just woken up a couple of days ago myself…” There was a definite pause before he continued. “Roe, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I wasn’t there when I should have. I should have protected you… and I’m angry at myself for getting knocked out and left you…” His voice trailed off into silence. It was then my sight cleared and the first thing I saw was his reddened eyes and tear-stained cheeks.
Even after the past I had, there was nothing more painful than watching Cole’s heartache. So I reached out and cupped his cheeks. Like second nature, he leans into my touch. His eyes closed while relishing on the warmth. Another reminder that I was here with him in our own little heaven.
“And don’t say you’re angry with… yourself for doing nothing. You saved me. Thank you for saving me, Cole.” I whispered in comfort.
Without words, he was overcome with tears as he placed his hand on top of mine and held it tightly like he was never letting go. In my state, if he asked me now, I would have promised him. I would have stayed and never let go.
Before the moment swept us into something more intimate, we were both snapped out of our bubble. We heard someone clearing their throat, and followed by a timid knock on the already open door.
“May we interrupt your lovefest? Because if you’re planning to do more…”
“Cut it, Tony,” I warned and glared at him distastefully. But I quickly shifted the mood. “Glad to see you weren’t… in the same shape as I am.”
“Did you know those two might have blown an artery after seeing you in that position? It was difficult enough calming down prince charming numero dos. Then reigning prince here had thrown a fit as well when he woke up, we thought he’d actually blown one of his arteries,” he jested, being his old sly and witty self. “Though all joke aside, I’m glad you’re finally awake. You have a lot of visitors waiting for the news.”
I nodded and studied his slightly bruised face. “I’m really glad you’re okay, Tony.”
“But I don’t really share the same sensitivity.” His expression shifted yet again, looking annoyed. “What the hell were you thinking taking seven Roués and that guy’s Jerk-face Uncle by yourself? Don’t you have any regard for self-preservation? But of course, you don’t since you’re like this,” he paused and gestured at me. “Good luck getting her to listen to you, Blackwell.”
Before Tony yammered on, another familiar face came in to view, looking slightly breathless. It was a sight to see since he was always composed and ready for anything.
“Axel,” I greeted and perked up, but my smile quickly faded as his cold gaze was directed at me. “So you’re angry as well, I see,” I muttered in defeat.
“What you’ve done was reckless, my lady, and I am mad,” he affirmed, still lingering by the door with Tony.
I held out my hand, telling them both to come in. “I know what I did. And I take whatever sort of punishment I will receive… speaking of it, where’s Kaleb? I’m sure he’d be the first person to scold me.”
Axel stood across Cole, who still held my right hand, and Tony sat down by the foot of my bed. He was the one who answered my question. “He’s been called back by his father. News had arrived at him about the situation. I’m surprised he just found out about it now.”
“He’s gone home? When?”
“Did Lord Hunter asked us also to go back?” Suddenly I felt sheepish, though I knew the man himself wasn’t close to where I am.
“Knowing your condition, he didn’t have much of a choice. But he has ordered a few people to watch over us. It’s been hectic around here, actually.” He admitted. Like on cue, the door to my room suddenly grew noisy and crowded. Standing there by the threshold where a handful of acquaintances I knew back in England. People I thought I won’t be seeing until I’ve returned for my ascension as a member of the Custodian Order.
“Roe! You’re finally awake!” Talia cried as she runs up towards my bed, her rosy cheeks slowly stained with tears. “I thought you were… when I heard the news from father… I never knew you were… why didn’t you ask me to come with you?” she couldn’t finish a sentence as she kept on sobbing.
Other than my constant companion in the Hunter mansion, Kaleb, Axel and Tony, Talia Cozza was one of my closest friends when I was still training at the Custodian Academy. After graduation, she had been called back to Italy by her father, the head of the Cozza family – one of the Custodian royal family. He was also head of the Curatrix Intel sector.
“I’m so sorry, Talia. It was under such short notice,” I replied with all honesty. “And how was it? Did Uncle Tristano gave you a warm welcome?”
“Father was a bit over the top. You should have gone with me.” Talia dejectedly sighed before wiping her drying tears with the back of her hand. “Anyways, I’ll tell you all about it later. I want to know how the hell did you end up like this...” She trailed off and looked up towards Tony and Axel. “And you two, how could you not protect her?”
From her words, I saw the slight shift of Tony and Axel’s expression. “Talia, please don’t scold them. I insisted actually. I was being reckless. It was nobody’s fault how I ended up in this state. I could only blame myself.”
“Which is why you are no longer allowed to do any more of those reckless things, my lady.” It was then the group who were idly standing by the door made their presence known.
The first person who spoke was another familiar face, someone I thought I wouldn’t see after I graduated from the Custodian training school. Looking at him, it brought back a lot of unnecessary memories and embarrassment for being called out in class because I used to be clumsy in hand to hand combat. The man ingrained me that skill set until it was second nature.
“Sir Yorke, what a surprise to see you here. Aren’t you supposed to be handling a class in this time of day, sir?” I asked, keeping my voice level.
His broad frame looked intimidating as he walked towards us, adding more people standing around my bed. He nearly took up three spaces.
“I’m here under the Minister’s order to look after you as your personal security, with a few men under my command. I’d like to introduce you to them once you’ve settled,” he informed.
Glancing towards the door, I could already make out three of them standing like a statue outside. Their posture closely related to his. “Thank you, Sir Yorke. But I don’t think I need that much men to look after me.”
“They aren’t under your supervision, my lady. They are under my command. And I am under the Minister’s Order, as I had said.” Sir Yorke phased again.
“You’re under house arrest, Roe, if you’re confused about his roundabout way of saying it,” Tony interjected, peering sheepishly at him.
“You could have plainly said that sir,” I stated at Sir Yorke.
“The minister told me not to state it like that since you’ll likely refuse to cooperate with us.” He finally admitted.
“True. I would have. But in my state now, I don’t think I’ll refuse much.”
“Good to know,” Sir Yorke muttered. “Well, I’m only here to give you this message, my lady. We’ll be returning to our post. If you need us, just tell Axel.”
“Of course.” I nodded and watched as he, without much of a smile, walked out with his subordinates.
“Well, that was dreadful.” Tony huffed in exasperation as Talia whispered in agreement.
“And when did those people arrive here?” I asked after our group was alone again.
“The day after the incident,” Tony replied. From the tone of his voice, it caused another tension in the room.
Talia suddenly clasped her hand, bringing everyone’s attention to her. “So, since those freaks are gone, mind formally introducing me to that man there, Roe?” She coyly asked, looking between Cole and me, who still held hands throughout the ins and outs of my visitors.
“Uhm… Talia, this is…ah… Cole, he’s a… uhm…” I kept on stuttering, finding the right words to phase it.
“Hello, sorry for keeping quiet,” Cole stood up and held out his hand towards Talia who stood beside Tony. “I’m Cole Blackwell. Son of the Alpha Blackwell in Montana. I’m Roe’s Mate.”
“Mate?” Talia looked at him in confusion.
“I’m her other half. Her lover and soul mate.” The way he said those words made my heart warm and my stomach knot in worry.
“I hadn’t made any indication that we were lovers, Cole,” I interjected in embarrassment.
“Would you rather I walked away now?” He bluntly asked, the hand he still held with mine slowly loosened.
I tightened my grip, giving him my answer.
“Okay. I have so many questions… but I never thought Roe would become this cute when she’s embarrassed.” Talia grinned mischievously.
“Shut up, Talia,” I muttered in dejection and tugged Cole back to his seat.
He smiled and lightly placed a brief kiss on my forehead.
“So many questions now,” Talia stated with interest as she watched us in amazement.
I didn’t know how long Talia kept on grilling us about why we were together. Though she was a Curatrix, which gave her a right to study the Curatrix Grimoire and also the daughter of the Curatrix Intel sector, she was no help in Cole and mine’s quest in finding out why we were soul bound.
“Even if I’m a Curatrix, I’m not very good at remembering historical text. All I could help you with is a Hex or an enchantment for protection. Mother Nature knows I have my limits as a Curatrix,” she rambled on with slight frustration. “But don’t mind my lack of knowledge now, tell me more how did connection come about? What triggered it?” She turned the tables and directed the attention back to Cole and me.
I’m glad Tony and Axel excused themselves a minute after her questions started rolling. It was already embarrassing enough they saw Cole showing affections towards me. With Talia knowing, and probably Sir Yorke and his men as well, I had grown weary on the subject.
“I know what you’re thinking, Roe. But who you love doesn’t matter as long as you love him. Believe in that and you can fight everything.” Talia stated as she gazed between Cole and me.
“Aren’t you disgusted about a Custodian and a Lycan being together? You know this hasn’t happened before between our species, or so we’re told.” I inquired.
“You know my family isn’t into tradition. Haven’t you even grasped that yet? My father’s the head of the Curatrix Intel sector. And for a male, it goes against Curatrix birthright. It’s usually a female who’s head of any Curatrix sector.”
“I know. But this is beyond that, Talia. This is breaking our beliefs about who were are and what our relationship is with Lycans.”
“Cole doesn’t seem to mind. Why do you?”
“I don’t know what to think anymore… But I’ve lived a life with teachings what was right from wrong.”
“Now you have a choice, would you still follow that path?” Talia asked, looking between Cole and me again.
“It’ll be another battle, Talia. But he’s with me now, so I think I won’t be able to go back to who I was.”
“I’ll protect you, Roe. You don’t have to worry.” Cole avowed, knowing my predicament.
I smiled and squeezed his hand.
“I’m on your side, Roe. I’ll help you as much as I can.” Talia stated, reaching out for my other hand and giving it a squeeze.
Cole remained on my side, even sleeping in the same room as mine – though I had someone brought a bed for him throughout the day. It wasn’t until the next day that my attending doctor had given me a go sign to head home – wherever home was at the moment. Cole and I, with our respected security team, exited Henry’s place towards the waiting car by the entrance of the building. Our flight was in the afternoon headed back to Montana.
One by one we got inside our respected cars. But Cole and I were halted as Henry called us.
“I’d just like to say thank you and I’m sorry for what you two had been through under my supervision,” He stated.
“You haven’t done anything wrong, Henry,” I reassured, clasping his arm.
At the same time, Cole tapped his shoulder. “You saved us, cousin. That’s what you’ve done for us. And I thank you for that and your hospitality.”
“It’s what I should have done for family, Cole. It’s not supposed to be an obligation.” Henry retorted.
Cole stepped closer to him and gave him a brief hug. “I’m grateful more than you know.” After he let go and stepped away, he kept one hand on his shoulder. “If you need any help, just give me a call. The Blackwell Clan will always back you up.”
Finally, Henry cracked a smile and nodded. “Have a safe trip home.”
Cole smiled and nodded back in reply.
We then entered the car. Within minutes, we were on the road heading to the airport. The drive was short and quiet. Once we arrived, I thought the group would stay intact. But to my surprise and dismay, we were splitting up. After Sir Yorke gave me my ticket, I nearly threw a fit at him. However, Axel and Talia held me back.
“When were you going to tell me? I thought we had a deal. We were going back to Montana.” I said with clenched teeth. Talia wrapped her arms around my waist as Axel stood between Sir Yorke and me.
“If we told you otherwise you’d have done something then,” he admitted.
“And you think I wouldn’t do anything now?” I challenged.
“The flights in a few minutes. If we keep you tied up and under our watch, you won’t be doing much.”
“Was this also the Minister’s orders? For you to trick me into going back to England!” I spat.
“It was. But the young Lord Hunter came up with the idea. He knew you’d react coldly to the decision,” he calmly admitted.
“But my three months aren’t up yet! I’ve been here nearly a month.”
“Yes. However, the time frame was only given in terms of your mission, which is now invalid after you’ve broken one of its condition.”
“What?” I gaped at him. “What are you talking about?”
It was then Tony interrupted. “The condition for this mission was for you to never be involved in active field mission, especially come in close contact with an enemy. Your condition is proof of that broken clause, Roe. Did you not read the briefing paper?”
“Why the hell was that written in there?” I groaned in defeat, but I remembered reading that line.
“I don’t know. Probably Kaleb’s idea,” Tony humored.
Upon mentioning his name, I remembered the last time we’ve talked. But rather feeling confused and shocked by his feeling for me, I felt bleak and a bit downhearted.
“Roe, Kaleb thought the world of you. If something were to happen to you, I wouldn’t think he would have much to go on.” Tony stated when I suddenly remained silent.
“But what about our cover? What about school?” I asked evasively, trying to find a loophole.
“It’s all been taken care of, my Lady,” Sir Yorke firmly answered.
I turned and looked up at Cole, who remained close and silent. For once, his gaze wasn’t directed at me. I clenched my fist and tapped Talia’s arm, which still held me.
I took a deep breath and sighed. “Fine. I’m going back. But with one condition.”
“You aren’t in any position to negotiate with us…” Sir Yorke started but stopped when I glared at him.
“I’m going back and they are going with us,” I stated and pointed at Cole, Ash, and Dan huddling closely.
Sir Yorke studied them wearily. For the first time, I finally cracked his poker face. His eyebrow furrowed in disagreement. “I don’t think it would be possible to do that. You need an invitation from the Minister in order for them to be a guest in the Mansion.”
“No need,” Talia cut in and slowly let me go, understanding my predicament. “I’ll invite these gentlemen to my family’s estate. They will be guests of the Cozza family.” She informed.
“Talia, are you sure about this? Our people are going to talk about it.” I turned to her in worry.
“And you aren’t even worried yourself that you’re involved with a Lycan, an Alpha’s son at that. Tell me I’m stupid, but it takes one to befriend one.” She smirked coyly.
I smiled and gave her a hug. “Thank you, Talia.”
“I’m always here to help, Roe.”
Finally, Sir Yorke huffed in defeat. “We aren’t purchasing them tickets under such short notice. We are leaving now whether you like it or not, my lady.” He threatened.
“Well, no worries about the small details. I got my dad’s black credit card with me. We’re in luck!” Talia cheekily said and grinned at Sir Yorke.
“Good god, how did you manage to have him give that to you?” I gasped in shock.
“I’ve been away from home for nearly two years. I did some sweet talking with him when I got back. How do you think I got here? Dad’s a bit weak with me right now.” Her devilish grin made me guilty for her father.
“Don’t break his heart too much, or his bank account,” I stated out of worry.
“I won’t.” She snorted playfully and turned to Tony. “You! Come with me and help me purchase tickets for Cole and his buddies. And get those three to come along as well.” She ordered.
“I’m not your secretary, Talia,” Tony grumbled under his breath but otherwise followed. Tony shadowed behind her towards the counter to buy their flight tickets.
Before Cole, Ash and Dan were about to follow Talia for the sudden change of plans, I got their attention first. I wasn’t sure what to say, but Ash took the words from me.
“We’ll go wherever he goes, Roe. And I know Cole would go wherever you are, so it’s a given.” He pointed bluntly.
“I apologize for making such a rash decision without your consent. But if you’re against it, if you don’t want to go, I won’t hold it against you.” I half-admitted.
“Don’t say something you don’t completely believe, Roe. If you want me to go, I’m there. Don’t worry about the small stuff, as your friend carefully put it.” Cole finally spoke up and looked at me.
I didn’t know when my body started to react on its own, but I abruptly reached out and grabbed his hand. “As much as I’m grateful you put me first, I don’t want to disregard your feelings anymore. That is the truth.”
“I know. But I’m yours, Roe. And you know I can no longer leave you. I’ll go to the ends of the world as long as you’re there beside me.” He declared, giving my hand a squeeze and reached out to cup my cheeks with his other free hand. “I have said this a million times in my mind. But I think I never told you out loud,” he paused, taking a breath.
“I love you, Rhoane.”
Saying ’I love you too’ was too cliché. So instead I let go of his hand and reached out to cup his cheeks. I lightly tugged him down to my level until our lips were in line. For the first time, I initiated a kiss. I kissed him to show I felt the same.
This is the end of the line. One more to go, which is the epilogue, and we're at the end of the first book of the series. Thank you so much for your continued support. I will be announcing about the next book on my social media page. So please follow me there for news and updates.
Again, thank you. And Happy reading!