“Can I walk you out?” she asked him putting on the bravest smile she could muster.
“I would like that,” he answered with his own pain lacing his words.
They walked hand in hand in silence to the edge of the forest where his two warriors had departed only a few days ago, but to Alina it felt like months. For three days she had lived in a bubble surrounded by Vasile. She had foolishly thought that it would not come to an end, yet here she stood about to tell him goodbye. For how long she had no clue. She was afraid to turn and look at him, terrified for him to see the desperation she felt, embarrassed by her neediness.
“I need you even more,” he told her softly as he turned her to face him despite her desire to keep him from seeing her. “You have no need to feel embarrassed, Mina. You can look inside of me and see just how frantic I am to keep you with me. I am fearful that if you see just how strongly my wolf and I feel for you, you will run.”
As she looked up at him she was surprised to see the sheen of wetness in his eyes. The tears never fell, but the anguish of what he felt was clearly there. She needed to be strong for them both because he was not exaggerating. She let go of her own pain long enough to look into her mate and sucked in a breath as she realized just how closely he was to taking her with him, consequences be damned.
“We can do this,” she said with a small smile as she lifted her hand to his cheek allowing their skin to touch. He turned his face into her palm taking a deep breath and then pressing a soft kiss to it. “I am not going anywhere. I will be right here waiting for you in two years. You do what you need to in order to help our pack heal, and when it is time, we will finish this.”
The wicked smile that stretched across his delicious mouth had her heartbeat racing. “We will indeed finish this, beloved, and it will be sooner rather than later.”
She was sure that he would kiss her, hoped beyond reason that he would pull her close to him and press his warm lips to hers, but he did not. Instead he pressed them to her forehead and then held her tight against him for several minutes. He did not say anything, not out loud, but he flooded her with his love through their bond causing her gut to clench against the assault. When he finally pulled away, he looked into her eyes one last time and then turned taking off at a dead sprint phasing as he went. She had felt the determination it had taken for him to turn from her and how deeply it cut him to let her go, and she wondered if either of them would heal from the pain that being separated for so long would surely cause. She could feel him clamping down on the bond, attempting to keep her from enduring his distress. For now she would let him but not for long. He was hers, and she would not let him endure anymore pain alone. “Never again my love,” she told the tiny speck that her mate had become against the vast forest stretched out before her. “Never again will you suffer alone.”
Vasile slowed to a trot once he was within a mile of his home. He needed to get control of his emotions before anyone saw him. Alphas did not have the luxury of being out of control. It was seen as weak, and weakness was something he could not afford. His gut told him something was coming, and he did not think it was a good something. When the pack castle came into view, for the first time in his life, it was not a welcome sight not because he did not love it but because his mate was not there waiting for him. Instead she was a hundred miles in the opposite direction feeling the same ache that was growing in him with every mile as he moved further and further away. He stopped abruptly and threw his head back as a deep mournful howl rushed out of him. To say that his wolf was not happy was like saying the ocean was just a pond. He was barely holding him back and truly did not know how long he would be able to keep the beast from going after their mate. In all truthfulness it was a tossup between who would lose control first―the man or the wolf.
As his howl died he heard the answering howls of his pack. He tried to keep his emotions from leaking into the pack but the higher up wolves would have felt something, even if it was only a small amount of his grief. More than likely they would think it was still over the death of his parents. They had no idea that he had just left his mate, unbonded and unmarked, behind him. And something was telling him he needed to keep the fact that he had found her a secret. If nothing else, his father had taught him to listen to his intuition. Oftentimes, the wolf picked up on things before the man did and so he would listen. He would also make sure Nicu and Ion had not said a word to anyone. He was pretty sure they would not speak of it until he permitted them to, but it was better to be clear about it than make assumptions.
As he entered the castle back in his human form and dressed in clothes that were left by the back entrance for wolves who needed them, he went straight to his father’s study. My study he reminded himself. His first three were there waiting for him. He motioned for Ion to shut the door and then turned to face them. All three of them dropped their eyes immediately. Apparently, he was not as under control as he thought.
“Alin, what do you know?” he asked his second.
Alin looked up but made sure to keep his eyes from meeting Vasile’s. “Ion and Nicu filled me in on how things went in the villages. I dispatched the help you requested and have been waiting to see what more you would like done.”
Vasile looked at Ion and Nicu pointedly.
It was Ion who spoke first. “We figured anything else you wanted others to know you would tell yourself.”
Vasile nodded. “Thank you for your discretion.” He began to pace as he considered his top three wolves. As far as he knew his father had trusted them explicitly. But once again he felt his wolf urging him to tread carefully.
“I had a small issue that had to be dealt with in the furthest village. One of the younger wolves was pushing himself on females because he was determined to find his true mate. His family is loyal and I do not want their name tarnished, nor do I want the pup's name spread throughout the pack soiling his reputation. It has been dealt with and he understands the consequences if he makes the mistake again.” Vasile looked at Alin as he spoke. What he was saying was true to an extent, and it was feasible that such an incident would need to be kept quiet. He just hoped Alin accepted it as the information Ion implied they had withheld.
Alin nodded. “It is hard to wait for our true mates.” His words implied empathy for the young wolf that was desperate, but his eyes were void of emotion.
Vasile dismissed them and as soon as the door closed he reached for her.