I watched Zoe blow out her candles. Today was her 21st birthday, and I was blessed to call her one of my best friends. She is more like a sister to me. Zoe and Macey filled the places where my family should have been, but now I was happy with how far we all had come; we didn’t need anyone; we only needed each other.
“Happy 21st,“ I whisper to her, giving her a hug after setting the cake down.
“Oh, we need napkins,“ I tell Zoe before rushing off back to the kitchen. I go into the storeroom, grabbing a box of refills down and pulling a handful out before placing the box on the shelf. Just as I walk back out, Zoe rushes into the kitchen, her face pale and a look of h0rr0r on her face. She smacks straight into me before grabbing my arms.
“What is it? What happened?“ I ask her, looking around for what scared her. When she didn’t answer, I went to walk past her to investigate myself. It must be bad for her not to be able to tell me. Zoe feared nothing these days she had come out of her shell, but something happened for her to be such a nervous wreck.
“You can’t go out there, “ She exclaims, gripping my arms and pulling me away from the door just as I was about to step out into the Restaurant. I hear
Macey talking behind me in the Restaurant.
“Sir, you can’t go back there, “ I hear her call to someone.
“What happened?“ I ask her.
“Zoe?“ Gripping her arms when her eyes go wide as she stares over my shoulder. I got the feeling that who she feared was right behind me; only a second later, I stood up straight, his scent wafting to me, and Zoe’s eyes darted to mine.
My face must mirror the same h0rr0r hers do because she grabs my hands, squeezing them. I close my eyes, willing myself not to break. He will not break me. He does that nearly every night; I live with it. I won’t give him the satisfaction of seeing it.
“Your name is Everly, right?“ I fight the ur*ge to shiver hearing his voice. F*cking mate bond, it’s bad enough it tortures me; why does it have to affect me this way, every piece of me wanting to throw myself in his arms despite the fact he nearly ruined me. The bond wanted that, not me. I was in control, I fought it this long, and I didn’t work this hard for everything to unravel right now.
“Yes, how may I help you, Alpha Valen?“ I ask, turning around. My lungs compressed at the sight of him, he was gorgeous, and he f*cking knew he was, which just enraged me. Tall, dark, and handsome. What is it with men? They grow older, manlier, and more handsome while women just f*cking age?
Damn, my inner monologue was out of whack today, f*ck, was taking up a good chunk of my vocabulary.
“You know my name and who I am?“ he asks.
“I also know what you are too, so how may I help you?“ I asked him. I was impressed with how calm I sounded, despite screaming internally and wanting to run.
He blows out a breath and runs a hand through his hair before scratching his neck. He looks back out to the Restaurant.
“How old are you?“ he asks.
“Old enough to know you are my mate if that’s what you are wondering,“ I tell him. Didn’t I know it? Five years of agony because I knew.
He seemed taken aback by my tone, yet I hated him despite the feeling v!brating through the bond that wasn’t even forged yet. I hated what he put me through, hated how he hung up when I tried to tell him I was pregnant and laughed at me, saying he would never f*ck a seventeen-year-old. Well, f*cker, you did! And she raised your son herself, not that I would tell him that. Valerian is my world, and we don’t need him in our lives.
I step past him and back into the Restaurant, managing to avoid his hand as he tries to touch me.
“Can we talk? “ he asks. He looks nervous. I got the inkling that he didn’t struggle this much with women; he clearly wasn’t expecting it from his mate.
“We just did. Nice chat. Macey will escort you out, “ I tell him, pointing to Macey while I checked the dessert displays and grabbed a knife.
“Look, I know this came as a bit of shock, but I.“
“But you what? Thought I would run off into the sunset with you, be d***g for you to mark me, ah no thanks. The door is just behind you, if you just turn around, you shouldn’t miss it, but in case you do, there is a green sign above it saying exit,“ I tell him.
“Wow, you are a real piece of f*cking work, “ He snaps.
“Well, unless you are here for a specific reason that isn’t about being my mate, then get out, “
“Actually, I came here for a reason,“ He mutters while looking around. We had managed to draw half the Restaurant’s attenti on, though we talked rather quietly. I knew it was his au*ra. As soon as I dismissed him, he got his hackles up and spilled it out.
“I need to speak to the manager about holding the annual Alpha meeting here,“ He says before pulling a brochure from his pocket.
“Don’t you have your own Hotels to do that at?“ I ask him.
“I have been asked to hold it on neutral territory, “ “Well, we are fully booked, “ I tell him.’
“I didn’t even give you the date,“ He snaps.
“I know, but whatever date it is, the place is fully booked, and if it isn’t, I will make sure it is, “ I tell him, placing the cutting knife and napkins on the table next to Zoe’s birthday cake.
“I want to speak to the manager,“ He says, following me around.
“You’re speaking to her, “ I tell him, clearing the table and walking back out to the kitchen. I scraped the plates before placing them in the sink and turning around, only to almost run into him as he was standing so close. I step back.
“Then I want to speak to the owner,“ “You’re looking at her,“ I tell him. “You own this place?“ He scoffs.
“Yeah, is that an issue? Do you feel threatened by my five-star rating compared to yours! Didn’t think a rogue woman could outdo you, I bet that is the real reason you’re here; you finally realized where all your guests went“
“Well,“ He doesn’t finish, instead, shutting up. “It is, isn’t it?“
“Yes, and No, I wanted to book your functions room for the Alpha meeting and also check out the competition; I wasn’t expecting to find my mate though,“ he says.
“Well, like I said, we are booked out, so if you will excuse me,“ I tell him, and he growls, stepping into my path.
“Why are you being like this?“ He asks. “Being like what, Alpha Valen?“
“This! I am your mate!“ “I am well aware,“
“Then stop, just let me take you out or something, go somewhere with less of an audience,“ he says, glancing around at the chefs.
“No, thank you,“
“Have you got a boyfriend, is that it?“
“No! I don’t feel the need to f*ck everything in sight,“
“Excuse me?“ he asks; I roll my eyes, trying to step around him when he blocks me again by placing his arm on the bench.
“I have work to do; please move,“ I tell him.
“Being an Alpha, I can forcefully mark you to make you submit. Our laws state Alpha’s can mark their mates if the mate is unwilling.“
“Being rogue, I don’t give a f*ck about status, and if you try that, that just shows your true character and every reason as to why I don’t want to be your mate, “
“So that’s it?“ He asks. I shrug, needing him to move. His boxing me in like this filled my head with his scent, making me want to do things I shouldn’t do to him.
“So, you hate me over what the media spills about me, you will judge me off that? You don’t even know me; we just met, “ He says.
He still hadn’t realized who I was. We have met three times now, both other times a disaster because he was drunk, and well, I was underage, so this is on him either way. He should have been able to recognize me the first time.
“I would give you the world, and you wouldn’t even give me a chance?“
“No, you would give me Syph!lis or some s*xually transmitted disease, so I am not interested, “ I tell him, realizing I was going to have to touch him to escape. I try to step around him when he traps me between him and the steel counter, his hands going to either side of my h!ps.
“Don’t pretend the mate bond doesn’t affect you the same as it does me, Everly, “ He says, leaning in. I was rooted to the spot, completely frozen as he pressed his face into my neck. He growls the sound more like a purr the longer he sniffs me before he gr0ans.
“Valen, Baby? Valen, where are you?“ Comes a sugary sweet voice. Valen freezes and growls at the blonde woman as she rushes in, shock on her face when she spots us.
“Oh, there you are, “ She says, rushing over, and he glares at her.
“I am not your baby, not your honey or any other stupid name you think you can call me; get out, Ashley“ He snaps so cruelly I actually felt bad for her; she looked between us and her eyes well with tears.
“Get out! “ He screams at her.
“But nothing, I have work to do, and you should take your girlfriend home, “ I tell him, using her as an escape. I quickly grip his wrist, moving it off the bench; I try not to think of the tingles that rushed across my palm though Valen gasped at my touch.
“She isn’t my girlfriend, “ he says, glaring at her. “Valen?“ Ashley asks.
”You can do better, ” I tell her as I walk past her and place my hand on her shoulder. She looks at me and smiles sadly. It was odd feeling sorry for the girl he had been scr3w**g.
”That’s all you have to say; you aren’t angry at her?”
”Why would I be angry at her? Did you expect me to get jealous? Is that the reaction you were hoping for? I haven’t got the time or the energy to feel anything for you, ” I tell him before turning on my heel and walking out.
Macey and Zoe were waiting by the door as I walked out, Macey went to touch me, but I held up my hand to signal her away. She knew instantly not to touch me; she knew I would break.
”Go, I will handle this,” they tell me. I rush out the door, heading for one of the apartments out the back that Zoe and I shared. I run through the gardens and up the steps before unlocking the door. The moment I close it, I fall apart.