Why did it come to this?
The emotions that appeared across her alpha’s –and now mate’s—face terrified her. First, she saw awareness of his own actions, followed by deep regret. It was written all over Lucas’s face, plain as day for all to see. He regretted making her his Mate. Then, she saw disgust. It stung her pride and dignity. Slowly, his eyes returned to their normal dark color. Finally, she saw exactly what she was afraid to see: rejection. She was a mistake. He didn’t want her.
Her heart seized painfully until she thought it would burst.
Hurt, she tried to crawl out from under him and he let her. She was ever aware of the mark on the side of her neck, tingling non-stop. Amber rose to her two feet and he rose with her. She only came up to his collarbone; he was a full head taller than she was, and Amber was no shorty at five feet nine.
This couldn’t be happening to her.
She was afraid to look into his eyes and see it again; his rejection of her. Instead, she glared at his sternum as tears blurred her vision, struggling to hold it together.
Why wasn’t he saying anything? He was the one who’d come after her and attacked her! He was the one to blame; she didn’t ask to be mated to him!
Lucas took a step back, away from her. He was putting distance between them.
“I… This shouldn’t have happened,” he started to say, sounding distraught. He raked a hand through his tousled hair, messing it further. “I can’t be your Mate!”
“But you already are,” she told him bitterly. And just to get the point across, she pushed the hair that had fallen on her shoulders away to reveal the mark on her neck.
He visibly flinched and looked away.
Amber bit her lower lip until she tasted blood.
“There’s no going back,” she said softly.
“But I can’t be your Mate!”
Amber swallowed, fearing the worst, then asked in a voice that was barely audible, “Because I’m an Omega?”
“Because I’ve already struck a deal with the Blue River pack and their daughter is standing on that stage right now, waiting for me! To go back on my word would mean war!”
“Then why did you mate with me if you know all that?!” Amber’s voice rose as she spoke. Fear and desperation gripped her tight and refused to let go.
“I don’t know!” Lucas roared, his eyes flashing amber.
“You do know!” she roared right back at him, angry at his rejection and excuses. “How can you not? Why else would you have chased me like that? It’s because I’m your M—”
His hand covered her mouth, cutting her off.
“Don’t,” he growled low in his throat as he towered over me, “Don’t ever say it out loud. Do you hear me? Don’t.”
She couldn’t say a thing even if she wanted to; she’d gone completely speechless. His cold, dark eyes bore into hers, and she saw the warning in them clear as day.
His hand fell away and, much quieter, he said, “You can’t ever let anyone know that you’re my…” he trailed off and looked away.
Slowly, he let his hand drop from her mouth, but he remained close to her. Could he hear her heart hammering in her chest? He probably could. He was so close that she could feel the heat from his body. It agitated her; right now, she wanted to be as far away from him as possible. Yet at the same time, she wanted to be as close to him as possible.
It was her right, wasn’t it?
Her hands fisted by her sides as she struggled to assume a calm appearance. Inside, Amber was anything but. A tremulous storm waged within her soul, threatening to shatter it.
“I—” she started to speak when Lucas’s words cut her off.
“You can’t stay here.”
The worst had come to pass.
She blinked, startled, “Where will I go? This is my home!”
He couldn’t mean to banish her! He just couldn’t!
Tears fell freely from her eyes, staining her cheeks. Humiliation the likes of which she’d never experienced before coursed through her veins. Fear tightened its hold on her until she could scarcely breathe.
Looking miserable, he said, “I have to.”
“Go.” The single word echoed in the clearing like the crack of a whip. As if she’d been struck by it, it knocked the breath right out of her lungs. Icy dread washed over her.
“I don’t have anywhere to go to,” she whispered once she could breathe again, hoping to appeal to his wolf. She figured it was the ‘rational’ human in him that was banishing her.
The world started spinning around her. She felt as if the carpet had been pulled from under her feet and she was free-falling.
Her wolf let out a skull-shattering howl which she was sure Lucas heard, but ignored. She could see it in his eyes; he’d already decided and there was no going back on his decision, not when the safety of his precious pack hung in the balance. He was picking the lesser of two evils.
But wasn’t she a part of his pack, too? No, she was more than that.
Both their heads snapped in the direction of the pack house when they heard the rustling of leaves and movement. The pack had followed.
“Go!” he commanded harshly, putting all his authority into the word. “And don’t ever come back.” He stood before her, a forbidding, unyielding figure that would not budge. Her judge, jury and executioner.
She had no choice but to obey.
Slowly, she backed away from him, his figure blurred by the tears welling in her eyes. Her heart squeezed painfully in her chest until she thought it would burst. How could he be so heartless? It was his mistake. Why should she be the one to pay?
Amber couldn’t bear to be near him any longer. She whirled around and fled in the opposite direction. And he let her.
She ran for hours. She wasn’t sure how far away she was from the Shadow Hunters’ territory by now. The soles of her feet were bleeding, making every step she took absolute torture. Although it would have certainly made crossing these vast distances a lot less painful, Amber was afraid to shift to her wolf form lest her wolf turn back around and head right back to her ‘Mate’.
She zipped through werewolf territories undetected until she found an area that was unclaimed. She collapsed under the shadow of a giant oak tree and lay on the ground, suddenly too exhausted to move an inch.
Her body was covered in scratches and cuts from low-hanging branches, but they wouldn’t take too long to heal. Even her bleeding feet would start to heal soon.
Her heart wouldn’t.
How could it when she’d been rejected by the one person in this world who was supposed to look out for her best interests over theirs and –above all else—love her.
Amber let out a soul-wrenching wail of agony that pierced the night. She cried for hours with no one but the moon as witness to her misery.
An unexpected voice suddenly reached her, piercing the dark cloud that surrounded her, “Why are you crying?”
She shot up into a sitting position and looked to see a male werewolf with pewter grey eyes.