Ash exhaled a heavy sigh and moved all the way to the centre of the room. Sitting in the exact chair where the mystery guest was sitting just a few seconds ago, he sniffed the air around him and snapped his head in Riannon’s direction. She simply nodded, confirming his suspicions, and sat back in the opposite armchair.
“So?” She looked at him hopefully. It had to be something important if he decided to stall the pursuit of the intruder in favour of remaining to talk to her instead.
“Do you remember how my mate died?” he asked. She clenched her lips, giving him another nod.
“How can I forget?” Ria lifted her knees all the way to her chest and hugged them, “Chloe was one of my best friends at school.”
“I remember” he smiled, “She used to call you and Maya her sisters.”
“That’s what she was to me,” Riannon admitted, “Family.”
“After she died,” he gulped and looked at he, but upon meeting her gaze, chose to look away, preferring to look out of the open balcony door, “l was shattered. Broken.”
“I remember that too,” his Luna offered quietly.
“She was my light.” He rested his head back on the chair. “My everything. After her death, nothing mattered anymore. I was in darkness.
Darkness that nobody could understand. Nobody but you.”
He looked at her again, and she nodded silently. Ash lost his mate a few years after she lost her siblings. She did know exactly what he was going through. They say losing a mate is worse than anything But still, the experience of loss was similar.
She remembered after giving him some space to grieve, she saw he was slipping away. Ria remembered how she fought to make him stay and live the life he was supposed to live. As the new Beta of their pack.
Brayden had been angry at times because he couldn’t personally understand any of this and had to commence his Alpha training alone, without his Beta. At one point, he wanted to choose a different Beta, but Riannon talked him out of it. Luckily, back then, her opinion mattered to him. He gave them time to “fix” his friend while he covered for him.
Slowly, day by day, Ash was getting stronger.
He never returned to the cheerful guy they used to know back at school, but he remained reliable and loyal, which was way more important.
When tragedy struck, and her and Brayden’s parents were killed, Ash suddenly stepped in for the sake of them both. They could trust him in their hard times, and he performed his job impeccably.
Ria always thought he found a new purpose in life when Brayden finally became the Alpha and named him his Beta. This was Ash’s turning point, according to her.
“You brought me back to life, Riannon,” Ash told her. This time he pierced her with his hazel eyes, “If not for you-“
“Chloe would have wanted that,” she offered, shrugging her shoulders, “I know we were never close friends before that, but-“
“I never wanted to be your friend in the first place,” he interjected, stopping her before she could finish that sentence, “This was not how I saw you, see you, Riannon. You are not my friend.”
That hurt her to some extent, but she chose not to show it.
However, when he kneeled down before her and took her hands, locking his eyes with hers, she opened her mouth in shock.
“You mean more than that to me. Even before Chloe, I saw you more than a friend,” he confessed,
“When Brayden introduced you to me, I was only sorry that I didn’t meet you first. No offence, but Bray never saw you for who you were. He cared for your looks, your strength and your skills. But not for the person that you are.”
“And when you met Chloe?” she asked, trying to walk away from this uncomfortable situation.
“She was my mate,” he sighed, “She filled my heart and soul, made me believe that what I felt for you was just a childhood crush. Then she was gone, Riannon. And I knew she would never come back.I fell into despair after her death, thinking everything was over and there would be nothing good in my life ever again. This was when you reentered my life. Do you remember how I tried to push you away at first?”
She nodded, not bothering to speak another word. This was a new side of Ash she had no idea existed.
“This was because I felt liking you, wanting you, was betraying my Chloe.” he smiled with sadness in his eyes, “She was gone, and although I remembered our bond, you were the one helping me heal. Even my wolf wanted to be close to you for some reason. As if he accepted you.”
She furrowed her brows.
“Impossible,” he chuckled dryly, “I know. But this is exactly what happened to me. The more time I spent with you, the more my old feelings would reignite. Chloe was letting go of me, and-to be honest, sometimes I think she blessed us. As if she knew you were good for me.”
“Oh, Ash.” She didn’t know how to get out of this. His confession was a bit too much.
“Ria.” He squeezed her palms in his. “Just think about it, okay? | know that you didn’t see this coming. I tried to keep my distance when I could, you were happy with Bràyden. But-“
She stared at him, her lips parted in disbelief when the realisation struck her. She and Brayden weren’t happy anymore. Everything had changed, and Ash saw a possibility for them to be together.
What if that was why he always took Brayden’s side in the past? Each time he did this, it only broke her marriage further apart.
“He is exploring new options now,” Ash went on, “Why can’t you? I would never push you into something you don’t like. You became my peace once, now let me be yours. I am ready to do whatever it takes. If you want to keep this façade of marriage and remain the Luna, I will be your lover in the shadows. If you want to leave Brayden and start a new life, I will gladly become your husband.
A wife of a Beta is not that bad, right?”
She licked her lips as they had become too dry, and his eyes lingered on them. Yet, he wasn’t done.
“If you decide to have a new political marriage and marry some Alpha, I would follow you too. AS your guard or whatever. Just let me be with you.”
She stared at him, and he did not blink or budge.
His hands were still holding hers, and she knew she had to be honest with him.
Not fully, of course. Just in regard to him and his feelings.
“Ash,” Riannon began, carefully slipping her hands out of his grasp, causing him to sigh from disappointment, “l can’t. I just-“
“Brayden doesn’t even respect you anymore!” he snapped momentarily and then rubbed his eyes, trying to focus, “He is sha.gging his mate all over the place! It’s over between the two of you.”
“I know,” she confirmed and saw hope in his eyes which she knew she had to destroy, “It doesn’t change anything. Ash, you-remind me of my dead brother. You don’t see me as a friend, but this is what I see you as. For me, you are Chloe’s mate. I couldn’t do this even after her death. It’s never going to work.”
“We could try,” he stood up and turned away, Slowly and-“
“No,” she stated firmly and stood up, “I respect you enough to be honest with you. This would never happen. I need you in my life but as a friend, Ash.”
He did not turn to face her, but she saw him clenching his fists and lowering his head.
“Are you sure this is all that I am to you?” he asked, his voice dull and lifeless.
“Yes,” Riannon did not hesitate, “So, this is the decision that you would have to make. Will you take my side as my friend and support me until the end? Or will you stay with Brayden? Whatever you choose, I will accept. But this is it.”
“l am his Beta,” he reminded her.
“I know,” was all she said.
Without another word, he left the room abruptly.
Riannon felt exhausted as the door closed behind him. This wasn’t the rest she needed. She wanted at least to hear her mate’s voice.
So, she went back to her bedside table where she had left her phone prior, only to find it was missing.
She started hectically searching all over it.
The phone was nowhere to be found. A very bad feeling stirred in her gut as she wondered where her phone could be.
Unfortunately, she did not memorise Gideon’s number, so she couldn’t call him from a line number. She needed her cell back!
She did, however, remember her own number.
When she dialled it and heard the phone ringing behind her wall, she knew who was to blame.
There was no point in wasting time as now even Brayden knew she was aware that he was in possession of her phone. She knocked on his door just a few seconds later, and he opened it wearing nothing but a pair of boxers.
“Riannon?” he gave her his most sedvctive smile, “What a pleasant surprise!”
“Cut the cr.ap, Brayden!” she hissed at him and pushed him, walking inside, “Why do you have my phone?”
“One of the maids brought it to me after cleaning the mess in your room,” he clearly lied,
“But, I’m glad you are here. Why don’t we talk? 1 feel like”
“The mess you made!” she decided to remind him, “Why would a maid bring MY phone to you?”
“That’s a question for her and not me,” he countered, shrugging his shoulders, “You can ask her tomorrow. Why are you so worked up about it?
It’s just a phone, and it’s nighttime anyway.”
“Just give it back!” she commanded. Rolling her eyes, she folded her hands across her chest.
“Or what?” He was next to her in less than a second, pinning her to the wall, “Who are you going to call? Your lover?”
“Should I call your lover?” she rebvtted.
Snorting at that audacity of his, she hit him with her knee, where it hurt him the most, making him groan from the pain. He released her hands, and she quickly scanned the room.
He recuperated rather speedily and moved to his desk. Opening one of the drawers, he showed her the phone.
“I don’t want you to speak to him!” he growled,
With venom lacing his words, he crushed the device in his palm.