Upon hearing those words out of Cole’s mouth, all rational side of me came back. With what little strength I had, I pushed him away from me, putting distance between us. But the pull had only gotten stronger after the kiss. My body yearned for his touch. Nonetheless, my self-control was still intact. It was only clouded by the mystical and artificial emotions growing inside me.
“That’s impossible. You’re making a mistake. It’s not real.” I voiced out in defiance.
“I’m as much appalled about this revelation as you are, but you couldn’t deny this,” he paused and placed his hand on my cheeks again.
The pain being away from his touch had mellowed. But then, I still held a bit of sensible thought. So I smacked his hand away, taking a few more steps back. “Don’t touch me,” I warned.
My heart tightened when I saw pain crossing his face at my rejection. But I shoved it away, bringing the last strand of strength into the front of my mind. “You’re wrong. This is wrong. I’m not your Mate.”
“You don’t believe that.”
I ran past him back towards the cafeteria. I willed myself not to look back, yet the further I walked away from him, the harder it seemed for me to leave. Nonetheless, I did. I left him.
As I reached the threshold leading to the cafeteria, I made a beeline towards my next class instead. I wasn’t prepared to face them, especially Kaleb, after what I had done. A few minutes before my afternoon class started, Axel arrived. He looked indifferent as he walked up and sat beside me. He hadn’t said anything at that point on. Once class ended in the afternoon, we all gathered in the parking lot. Not one of them brought up what happened during lunch. Even on the drive back, the car remained eerily silent. But as we walked inside our apartment, Kaleb finally broke the ice.
“What the hell was with you today? Axel told me everything. Explain!”
I winced as his voice echoed in the living room. But I refused to look at him in the eye. With my back to him, I replied, “The only thing you should know is we aren’t compromised. If you’ve made a scene or even the slightest comment to provoke him, you’d blow our cover.”
“Is that your excuse? Is that why you ran out of the cafeteria with that monster?” He pressed.
Keeping my bubbling anger at bay, my hand balled into a fist. “If I hadn’t done what I did, I knew you’d started a tantrum. You could at least thank me for taking one for the team!” I yelled in rage. I trudged towards my room, slamming the door shut behind me. My actions were somewhat childish for my taste, but it was the only way I could show how pissed I was with his words.
After throwing my things at the foot of my bed, I jumped on top of my comforter and groaned in frustration. I felt guilty for leaving things unresolved. However, I couldn’t tell them what truly happened. For one, I wasn’t sure of it myself. I was caught in a pinch. Finding out you have some mystical connection with a race you’re raised and taught to kill was mentally draining. How was I supposed to tell them about it? If they knew, they’d shun me. If my people knew, my family’s name would be lost forever. That’s a chance I couldn’t jeopardize.
Gasping for air, I felt beads of sweat forming on my forehead. Even now, the dream hadn’t left me. I wiped it off the sweat with the back of my hand while catching my breath. My eyes adjusted to the dim room. The light from my bedside table drew my attention as I checked at the time. With a huff in dejection, I pulled myself up in a sitting position and collected myself.
Somehow contemplating on my thoughts, I dozed back to sleep. With how the day had gone, I grew more restless. Rather than a childhood memory, I thought about what happened last night. But rather how it had gone, I visualized a different scenario. What built up my terror was the pair of unwavering eyes. One was red while the other was blue, owned by a huge black Lycan. And I knew to whom it belonged. But knowing how sure I was only unsettled me more.
Not liking where my thoughts led, I got up from my bed and peered outside. It was in the middle of the night. I knew everyone was asleep. I made sure I hadn’t made any sound as I walked across the living room towards the main door. Walking out, I felt the slight cold breeze of the night.
“Couldn’t sleep?” I jumped at the voice beside me. Sitting by the door on my left was none other than John Lockwood.
“What are you doing there? You look like a suspicious person.” I asked after calming down.
“I’m on guard duty. What about you? You look suspicious getting out of the apartment in the middle of the night.” He countered, peering towards me in the corner of his eyes.
“I’m just getting some fresh air, and probably some food,” I admitted, feeling my stomach grumble from skipping dinner.
“Oh, right, you weren’t there for dinner with the boys. From the tension a few hours ago, did you four have a fight?” He inquired with interest. Now giving me his whole attention.
“Didn’t they tell you anything?” I evasively asked.
He arched his eyebrow before answering. “They did.”
“And what do you think? Was I the villain of the story?”
“I haven’t heard your side yet. So I’m not making any assumptions.”
“I didn’t peg you as someone who won’t jump to conclusions,” I admitted with an apologetic smile.
“Well, a lot of people’s opinions about me are usually wrong, so I live up to that expectation,” he scoffed. “Before you tell me anything, do you want to grab something to eat? There’s a twenty-four-hour food chain a few blocks from here.”
“Wouldn’t it be suspicious to be out with a young girl like me? You aren’t dressed like you’re up to some good.”
“Who said I’m up to any good?” He jested and gestured back towards the apartment. “I think the boys left you something in the fridge. How about we talk inside?” He suggested.
With a smile and nod, I walked back inside with John trailing behind me. We silently rummaged the fridge and found a pack of sandwiches covered with plastic foil. I reheated it before we both settled in the living room. While I ate, John willingly recounted to me what they’ve talked about a few hours ago. Mostly they reported to him about my mishap, which made the situation between us a bit awkward. Once I devoured my meal and drank some water, he patiently allowed me to tell him my side of the story.
Halfway through, I wanted to tell him what really happened. Yet in the pit of my stomach, I wasn’t comfortable telling him. Instead, I asked a question that’s been grilling my head for the most part of the afternoon.
“Sir Lockwood, do you know about the Lycan’s Mate principle?”
“Why the sudden interest in the topic?” He asked rather than answered.
“There are two dozen Lycans in our school and I could see a few of them are inseparable. It’s like they’re drawn and stuck to each other.” I replied, though my words sounded distant. I had felt those emotions first hand.
John studied my expression for a second before responding. “Well, based on what our people know, it’s nearly the same essence of magic as Curatrix. But the Mate principle goes deeper. Lycans find their significant other after they’ve reached a certain maturity. The connection is like two souls destined to be one. In the Curatrix Grimoire, it explained the Mated Lycans are two halves of a whole.”
I interject as he named one of the famous Custodian ancient text. “I didn’t know you studied the Curatrix Grimoire. Our teacher hardly gives us information on the book, telling us its Curatrix business to know it word for word.”
“As a Custodian, I’d at least want to be well versed about my people, even though I don’t use it.”
“Wise,” I chuckled and gestured for him to continue where he left off.
“Where was I… Oh, yes. Mate principle.” He paused to collect his thoughts. “Before a Lycan is born, the soul is split in order for them to receive both human and wolf essence. The other human half was given to its Mate, and the wolf half to earth, which binds them to what they are, allowing them to shift. It was also implied to be a gift from mother nature herself, who in mythology refers to the goddess Gaia.”
“Why would mother nature give them such gifts? Aren’t they just beasts who murder and kill out of instinct?”
“Did you know that Lycans, once before, were a race who defended the Custodians? They were soldiers who protected our people from even more deadly creatures. We can’t just be the only darkness the lived in this world. Even now, humans have damage this world. They don’t even need magic for it.” He chuckled at his last comment.
“That’s hardly believable after the death plague they unleashed upon humanity.” I scoffed.
“In the Grimoire, it is said the Lycans we know now aren’t the same Lycans that plague the earth in the dark ages.” He replied. “Somehow Mother Earth cleansed those beasts but loved them enough to spare those who are worthy to live. She purified their darkness and give them a man’s soul.”
“I’ve read stories about Salazar Lycos, the Lycan origin,” I offered hesitantly. “But you couldn’t believe that he was a Custodian.”
“Would you deny the close similarities of our abilities?”
“This doesn’t completely answer my question about the Mate principle.” I reverted the topic back, not liking the tone of the conversation.
“If you want to know more, I’m not the right person to ask, my lady. I may have knowledge of some Grimoire text, but I’m not a Curatrix.”
I pursed my lips, giving up on pestering him. Hearing those words from John, my resolve grew weary. How was I supposed to fight magic? How could you reject a connection with someone who possibly could be your soul mate? How could you escape such destiny?
Rather than voicing out these concerns, I thanked John for our chat and retreated back to my room. John decidedly crashed on our couch than returning back to his place – which I doubt was real.
By morning, the tension from yesterday still lingered between the four of us. On our way to school, the silence was deafening. But what was I going to say? I’m not sorry for what I did and I couldn’t tell them the truth either. The further we moved on from our mundane task, the harder it was to break away from our dispute.
When Axel and I reached our first class, we had a few minutes to spare before the professor arrived. He took this chance to speak to me.
“Roe, about yesterday,” he paused and continued once I glanced at him. “You said I should tell you what I think. You told me to speak my mind with you. I want you to do the same with me. And please know I’m always on your side, no matter what it is.” He avowed.
I regarded his words before answering. “Axel, I don’t know if you’d still want to stay with me if you knew…” I started but trailed off as Lucy and Trevor joined us, cutting our conversation.
After saying a brief good morning to the two, Axel subtly leaned close to my ear and whispered, “You don’t know that my lady.”
We couldn’t finish our conversation as the professor entered the room. After that, there was hardly any time for us to talk privately. As I considered it, I decided to take a chance with him. For nine years he’d stayed with me, I’m not going to lose the trust we built with each other. Not for something uncertain as this. Thus, as we entered our next class, I pulled Axel away from the group and waited until the hallway cleared out with students.
While we were standing around, I noticed Cole and his group entering the room from the other door. I caught Cole peering over us for a moment before disappearing inside. My heart ached upon seeing him again. The need to be beside him had grown since yesterday. Even though I hadn’t seen him over the last twenty-four hours, the emotions only grew demanding.
“Axel, I need you to listen closely because I won’t be repeating this,” I started and waited for him to nod in response. “Yesterday, after Cole and I walked out of the cafeteria, something happened between us… No, it was before that, while we were in class. But I don’t know how or when it started…” I trailed off again as my words started to lose its point.
“What happened, Roe?” He pressed, pulling me back to the topic.
“Cole and I are bound in a way.” I paused, hearing my words sounding more distant. “He’s called me his Mate.”
“You’re… He’s what?” He gasped in disbelief.
“Axel, please don’t tell Kaleb and Tony just yet. I’ll tell them myself. They need to hear this from me.” I continued, seeing his confused and clouded expression.
“Wait… back up for a second…” he stuttered and held up his hand.
We couldn’t finish our talk when we were interrupted. Mr. Rupert called on us and told us to enter the room as he walked ahead. This time, I was glad for the interruption. Looking at Axel, he needed time to think. He looked like he was in shock. Throughout the lecture, I kept glancing at Axel, worried he might crack. But not once had he shown his true emotions over his poker face. I knew how unsettled he was at the revelation.
Fifteen minutes before the class ended, Mr. Rupert asked us to talk amongst our term paper partners. Still absorbed and worried about Axel, I hadn’t gotten up from my seat. I expected him to stay in his, but then Cole suddenly stood beside me. Axel and I turned in unison as he cleared his throat, enlightening us of his presence.
“Could I sit here?” Cole asked, gesturing at the empty chair where Lucy used to sit. I peered around the room and found her sitting across us with her partner. Catching my eyes, Lucy gave me an encouraging wink.
I pursed my lips at her obvious ploy. Then I looked back at Cole, nodding in reply. He pulled out the chair and sat down. On my other side, I heard the lack of sound from Axel – which wasn’t a good sign. I took my eyes away from Cole and glanced at him worriedly. He met my gaze and gave me an affirming nod, though he seemed hesitant. I watched him studying Cole for a moment before turning to his partner, who had pulled a chair on his other side.
“Hey,” Cole greeted meekly. “How are you?”
“Good. And you?” I inquired out of courtesy.
“Fine as well.” He briefly smiled and turned serious. “About yesterday…?” I held up my hand to stop him.
“Can we talk again, please?” There was an almost desperate tone in his voice.
I felt a knot in my stomach. The need for his touch was back. For some reason, I had the desire to reach out to him. But I held back and replied instead. “Okay.”
“When would be the right time for you? I’ll make it work.” He offered.
“Are you sure?” He asked, peering at Axel. “Would they mind? I don’t want to impose again.”
As I was about to reply, Axel placed a hand on my shoulder and pulled me back toward his chest. He leaned in closer and rested his head by my right shoulder. Unable to see his expression, I listened to what he said.
“If you’re going to talk to her, I need to be with you. They won’t like it if it’s just you two alone. Roe doesn’t want them to suspect what you two have.”
I watched Cole’s eye widen. But rather than addressing him, he looked at me. “You told him.”
“You have your Beta. I have Axel,” I abruptly replied. From what I said, Axel gripped my shoulder – a sign of thanks for my words.
Cole glared back at Axel for a few moments and then nodded. “Okay. But don’t get too close to her. Even if you’re her second in command, I’m an Alpha. Never forgot how territorial we are.” There was an underlying threat to his words. Although he sounded calm, it was clearly evident he wasn’t.
Axel nodded but took him a moment to move away from me. He might be showing a bit of defiance since he didn’t like talking to a Lycan, let alone answering his command. But knowing I might say the same, he backed away without much of a fight.
After Mr. Rupert dismissed the class, Cole was about to reach out when Axel pulled me away from him. His slightly outstretched hand hanged in the air as he watched us walk out of class.
“When I agreed to his request, it didn’t mean I was fine with him touching you,” Axel informed as we walked towards our next class.
Amused at his little uncharacteristic tantrum, I held back a chuckle and didn’t bring up the conversation about Cole again. When noon came around, Axel and I walked side by side towards the cafeteria. However, we hadn’t made it halfway when Cole and his two aids crossed our paths.
“Roe,” Cole called out and closed in our distance. Behind him, I watched a familiar face following closely. It was Ash Mikael. His expression looked nonthreatening wearing proper clothes in broad daylight. Yet his face was stoic as he regarded Axel and I. Beside him was Dan. His bulky presence looked as threatening as Ash’s expression.
“I thought we’re meeting in the cafeteria,” I said rather than greeted, turning away from his friends.
“I think it’s best we have our lunch outside,” he suggested and twisted sideways towards Dan. Without a clear signal, Dan walked closer until he reached Cole’s left side. Once they were close enough, Cole gave out an instruction. “Please buy everyone lunch. We’ll meet you at the bench near the soccer field.”
“Got it.” Dan hastily turned away and entered the cafeteria, leaving us.
“Shall we all head out?” Cole asked and kept his eyes on me. He then offered his hand like it was instinct to reach out.
I hesitated for a moment, unsure if I wanted the physical contact. But then, the attraction was back again. I tried to push it aside and fight back. But it was like fighting back hunger or the need to breathe. There was no way of winning. Suddenly Axel stepped closer to me, snapping me out of my brief stupor.
“I’ve texted Kaleb that we’re doing some school work at the library.” Axel offered.
Peering briefly at him, I caught his worried expression before hiding it behind a poker face.
“Thank you, Axel.”
“It’s my job, Roe.”
I gave him a necessary, assuring smile before I accepted Cole’s outstretched hand. Once the warmth of his skin came in contact with mine, the soothing feeling swept through my body in content – like I had been holding my breath underwater and just came back up for air. The unsettling sensation in the pit of my stomach was gone. For some reason, I suddenly felt at peace and whole.
Ultimately, I dragged my gaze towards Cole, and the look in his eyes warmed my heart into a mush. His eyes softened and there was an invisible glow around him. In that instant, I knew it would be a losing battle to let go. I knew I couldn’t, even if I willed it. And if I wanted to, the only way to end this was death. Except even in death, my want and need would never fade away. He was my beginning and possibly my end.
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