Riannon couldn’t believe her own happiness when she opened her eyes and saw him lying in front of her and watching her.
A mate. She had a mate. A real one. Not a chosen one. A smile curled onto his lips and she reciprocated it. There were no regrets. Whatsoever.
This was very different from what she had with Brayden back in the day. Now that she thought about it, if this was what Brayden felt when he met his own mate, she could understand why he couldn’t reject Roxanne.
She would never reject Gideon if she knew.
This did not cancel all the horrible things that Roxy did to her and to others in their power struggle. But she could understand now.
This would not change her plan, although it gave her some understanding.
“Onyx,” she called her wolf, “Are you there?”
At first, all she heard was silence. Then the familiar voice sounded in her head.
“l will be. Soon.”
She tried calling her again, asking what was going on. But, Onyx spoke no more.
However, this was better than the nothing she was receiving earlier. This was a promise. Knowing that her wolf didn’t abandon her made Riannon’s smile widen.
The motion did not go unnoticed. Gideon pulled her closer so that her head was now tucked into his chest, and he was able to dig his face into her hair and breathe in her scent that he loved so much. Ecstatic that he was able to enjoy this for the first time.
“I can’t believe this is real,” he muttered, “From the moment l saw you, l dreamt of this. Of holding you like this, of having you as mine.”
She looked up at his handsome face and slid her hand to brush his cheek on which a short stubble grew that pricked at her fingers.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” She asked.
“Would you have believed me if l had simply told you?” He arched his brow at her.
“l guess not,” she admitted honestly. She had too much on her plate to simply believe some lycan who approached her out of the blue, insisting she was his mate. Even if he was a king. Not to mention that Onyx, the little hyena, never told her that they were mates on the rare moments she spoke to her. She couldn’t believe her wolf would waste her strength to tell her to trust him or for him not to leave her. Yet failed to mention one word that could change everything.
On the other hand, Onyx was smarter than regular wolves. Ria always knew that. She proved it to her many times. To be honest, Ria had to admit maybe it was for the best that she did not throw them into a situation where Riannon knew he was her mate from the very beginning yet had not felt the connection. In that way, Gideon had to work for it and earn her trust.
Yes, that wolf of hers wasn’t simple at all. She took a chance, and Ria was amazed at where it had gotten them.
“Yesterday.” he began, tracing his fingers over her bare hand, “You said the word. You called me Mate. How did you know?”
“Onyx called you that,” Ria confessed. Now that they were together, she did not want secrets from him. It was hard to begin trusting the new man in her life but what they had was so much different from what she had experienced before.
This was bigger. And better. And so special.
Everything one could wish for.
“ls Onyx back?” Gideon asked with hope in his voice. They were already together, but he would still feel much better if he knew that the wolf was there.
“Partially,” Ria admitted, offering him a vague smile, “I feel her presence somewhere there inside of my soul, but she is not at full strength yet. I think she is trying to recover after-“
She stopped talking, and he suddenly got serious.
This was not a joke to him at all. He knew about a few people who had lost their wolves. He started reading about them when he found out about Onyx’s absence.
While this was rare, it had happened several times in their shifter’s history.
When the beast was lost, the host would become an empty shell as half of their soul was gone. That had not happened to Ria yet. But a mostly missing wolf was a bad sign. This wasn’t a destiny that he wanted for his mate.
There was one other thing that bothered him. Those people he read about were all warriors who fought in battles. Sometimes against forces much stronger than them. In the very few cases known in history, it was always the same. When on the brink of death, wolves, foxes, bears or other creatures sacrificed themselves to protect their hosts. The hosts survived but, at the same time, were fatally wounded and hardly ever lived long afterwards.
When the beast died, the owner would slowly become a mere human. A fate worse than death.
It was one thing to be born a human. It was another to be born a shifter and then lose a half of yourself. To stop seeing through your beast’s eyes, to stop sensing what he or she could sense …
It was the same for humans as losing hearing, sight, and the ability to move properly all at once. Probably even worse because something inside was missing as well. Everything was lessened. Everything was different.
Less vibrant. It was the same as sucking the joy out of life. The most vital part of a person is gone forever.
Not everyone could cope with that.
He could tell that Riannon was one of those who would be able to cope. She was strong. In some sense, maybe even stronger than him.
Despite her strength and his confidence that she could survive the trauma and near-death experience like that, he did not wish for her to have that kind of fate. For her, he was ready to do anything and everything.
Then again, that I was another thing. He didn’t know of any recent battles she would have taken part in. As far as his research on her showed, his spies being among the best, her life was a typical Luna life. She had her hardships, but nothing major occurred.
What happened to her in that pack behind the closed curtains that made her almost lose her wolf?
“Ria,” he said, “l am going to ask you this again, regardless of me asking you this before, and this time, I want you to be absolutely honest. You can trust me. All that I have done since the day I met you has been for your protection. You are my Luna in spite of being another man’s wife. You are mine.”
Riannon smiled at the words even though she knew that she wasn’t going to like the question that was to follow.
“Did he hurt you? That husband of yours?” Gideon tried not to show it, but she felt his inner rage by the way his grasp on her tightened.
“Yes and no,” she sighed. How could she tell him everything that happened to her and expect him to be okay about it?
“Did he hurt you physically?” the Lycan King asked through clenched teeth.
“No,” she said at once to calm him down. Luckily, it was the truth.
“But something happened to you.” He took her chin into his large palm and made her look at him.”
Something that made you want not only a divorce but also to fight for your pack. Something that broke you so much that your wolf almost died.”
Her eyes widened at his words. She was afraid to even think about it, but Onyx did sound weak every time she’spoke. She tried to convince herself that it was just a temporary weakness due to their rebirth and their chosen mate bond breaking. But what if it was everything? And more.
“l don’t even know how to say it,” she confessed as she sat up, wrapping the Egyptian cotton sheets around her body. Gideon followed her motion, not wanting to miss any traces of emotion on her beautiful face. “You will probably think l am crazy,” she muttered, covering her face with both hands.
He took them away so that she could see him. He hoped she would understand that no matter what was happening, he was committed to being by her side.
Whatever it was, she was going to tell him..
“l am hard to scare off, Riannon,” he affirmed, giving her a soft smile.
“Let’s hope so.” She gave him a nervous one.
Then, taking a very deep breath, she decided to disclose everything in one go since she was determined to let it all out, “I have already lived this part of my life.
With Brayden and his mate Roxy in my pack. He never rejected her as he promised, and she took everything away from me. She killed the people I cared about, made Brayden reject and humiliate me, and took my title. Even then, after I had already lost everything, she killed me with the help of one of the wolves from my own pack. It was horrible. I somehow came back to the very moment it all started. Gideon, I literally opened my eyes when the door opened, and the two of them walked into our packhouse. This was when I lost Onyx. From that day, I have had to relive it all again, enduring the most horrible days of my life. The difference is I don’t want everything to repeat this time around as it did in the past. I want to change what happened. I started tweaking things one by one. Big and little. I changed them, and they are changing the reality. However, the main events are still the same. For example, when I tried to fight Roxy joining the pack, I still lost. When I called you earlier this life than I did before, it resulted in this … And then the Alpha Ball”
She stopped when she noticed the frozen expression on his face. Did she overdo it? Was it too much for him? Should she have stopped after the rebirth part?
Gideon tried to process it. He thought that she was joking at first, but she was too serious and nervous.
Now that he-recalled, it all made sense to him. All right, perhaps not all of it. But some of what she said did make sense.
Their very first conversation. She was already sure that bad things would happen.
Then her appearance at the ball. Her husband brought out his mate and mistress for everyone to see.
Anyone would be crushed by that. But not Riannon. She held her head up high as if this wasn’t her first rodeo. She knew what everyone expected of her and gave them exactly the opposite.
Not to mention the way she spoke to him. No one was that bold. Unless they were on the brink of death and had nothing to lose.
“Gideon?” she called his name, biting her lip. He could see how worried she was about everything she disclosed and of what was to come, and wanted to tell her to forget about all that.
But in the next moment, he grabbed her and pulled her into the tightest of hugs.
He didn’t say anything, but she knew that he believed her, and it did not change anything for him.
“l am so sorry you had to go through this,” he empathised, k!ssing her hair as he couldn’t reach anything else from this position but wasn’t ready to release her.
Slowly, she wrapped her arms around him, embracing his warmth and his wonderful scent.
Embracing the feeling of safety that he gave her. For the first time since her trauma transpired and her life took a downward spiral, she cried.
She rarely did. Almost never. Right now, at this moment, she could finally afford to let it all out. The pain, the loneliness, the fight. All her raw emotions were finally out, purged.
She felt so much better.
Gideon held her in his arms for as long as she needed, hurting with her. Even Mars was howling, feeling their mate’s pain.
While he expected it was within her rights to take time to grieve, she recovered a lot sooner than he expected. Then again, his beautiful Luna never ceased to amaze him. She was perfect. His perfect Luna. Riannon looked at him with puffy eyes, embarrassed by her little outburst.
“Now,” he comforted as he wiped the last tear away with his thumb, “Tell me everything from the very beginning.”
They spent the whole day in his room. Ordering food in and talking about everything. Despite talking so much, neither of them felt like they were done. It seemed that there was always more. It started with the rebirth and then went on to their previous lives. Next, they discussed their possible theories of what everything that had happened to her could possibly mean. Later they started to simply plan what they would do next.
Ria knew well how to work in a team. She had been doing it with Brayden for years, but it was so different with Gideon. Not at al what she expected. They weren’t finishing each other’s sentences, nor was he agreeing with everything she told him the way Brayden would.
The Lycan king had his own ideas. Often much bolder than hers. Often much more violent.
Mostly, he wanted for her to sit back while he slew her husband and his mistress and all the brown wolves in her pack. Something that she couldn’t agree with. So, their plan changed and evolved until the next night, when they were both exhausted. Ria discovered she felt extremely satisfied doing this with an equal.
Because this was what they were. Equals. Partners.
They were finishing up their dinner, still wearing nothing but sheets, when someone knocked on the door.
“It’s Reid,” Gideon announced, tossing her an eye roll, “Give me a sec. I’ll get rid of him, and then maybe..
We could take a bath?”
“We’ve already taken a shower together, remember?
” She teased him.
“I do,.” A smirk stretched on his face as he winked at her.
He opened the door but stood there, obstructing the Beta’s view.
“So, this is how it is now?” Reid spat in đ fake spiteful tone, “You have secrets from me? After everything we’ve been through?”
“Ha-ha,” Gideon said emotionlessly, “You are welcome to come in, of course. But if you see something that you are not supposed to see, I may just have to kill you. Your choice”
“Here is fine!” The Beta chuckled, then added in a serious tone, “The report is ready. And you are not going to like it.”
“That bad, huh?” the King asked, taking the papers from his Beta. He spent a few minutes reading, and then Riannon heard a grunt.
“Shall I?” Reid asked bluntly.
“No, I think this is something I have to do personally.” Gideon cut him off, “You will look after Riannon. She is.”
“No need to explain it,” the Beta replied, “l get it. I will protect her with my life.”
She cleared her throat and got closer to them.
“Excuse me,” she interrupted politely, “But while we are at it. I’lI want you both to remember that I still have my own obligations to my old pack. I can take care of myself.”
“Ria,” her mate interjected, looking at her with a mixture of begging and warning.
“I wili act on my own if I have to,” she inšisted, folding her arms across her chest.
“You will use Lycan protection at all times and let Reid know your every move,” he commanded.
“Fine!” she agreed, knowing lycan protection was far from a bad thing.
“Okey-dokey,” the Beta said awkwardly, “So.. I think I am going to go for now …
Gideon shut the door in his face and pulled his mate into his arms, pinning her against the door.
“You have to go,” she reminded.
“I have to,” he admitted.
“For how long?” she asked as he removed the sheet that was covering her and lifted her up around his h!p, entering her in one swift move. It felt so natural to the two of them. Yet, the crazy attraction wasn’t fading away.
“A day or two,” he grunted into her neck, simultaneously powering through her and showering her with k!sses.
“Do we really have time for this?” she panted, digging her nails into his back and shoulder.
“No,” he chuckled, speeding up his thrusts, ” I don’t care. If I am not going to see you for a while, I am going to make it a goodbye to remember.”
She returned to her room after he was gone.
Watching him leave through the window, she felt like some pathetic wife-wannabe. Except she wasn’t.
She chose this room because the Alpha suit smelled too much of him. She needed a clear head to, think and reevaluate to include the current changes.
Only after her quick shower did she remember to check her phone. Discovering that the battery was off, she put it on the charger. As soon as it was powered up, her phone showcased all the missed calls from her husband. There were so many of them. She knew very well why.
Ria didn’t want to deal with any of them. There were messages too. She did not open them so that he wouldn’t get the notifications of her having done so.
However, she saw one from Ash. This one she couldn’t ignore.
Hastily opening his text message to her, she read, Maya is in big trouble.