Pouring myself another shot of tequila, I quickly threw it back, allowing the burn in the back of my throat to ease my mind as I laid back on the bed and tried to forget her. I could still smell her scent all over my room. That soft and feminine aroma like clean cotton sheets blowing in a gentle spring breeze just wouldn't leave me. I inhaled it deeper, remembering how good her small frame felt in my arms, how tender her plump lips moved against mine, and how aroused she made me just off of the sounds she made when my tongue caressed hers.
I really needed to stop thinking like that.
She came onto my beach and disrupted my life. I should've been pissed off. At least angry enough to break something, yet all I could do was ask myself the same question over and over again―why did I let her leave?
Everything that is wolf inside of me wanted to chase her down, tackle her and reel in that heavenly scent until my last breath. Yet the man in me was just as confused as she was over the fact that I attempted to claim her as my own.
Why did I even do that? Was my wolf so lonely that he claimed the first female that came along? She wasn't just any female. That much I could tell from the way she reacted to me and to my touch. There was a feeling of warmth to her, a pull that wasn't like anything I've ever experienced. Yet it was a definite pull that I still felt as I laid in bed wishing I'd had the pleasure of having my bare chest against hers.
Pushing up harshly, I abandoned all hopes of forgetting the girl with alluring amber eyes, forcing my hand, and awakened my wolf who'd been in mourning for the past five years.
After filling my glass to the rim once more, I found myself in front of the very last picture I'd taken of Alice. We'd spent that whole day together and finished it off with a picnic under her favorite tree. There, she'd fallen asleep with her head in my lap. Just as I was about to snap that picture, she woke up and threw her hand over her face. Somehow I still managed to catch every bit of her smile.
Running my finger along the outline of her lips, my heart breaks all over again. My wolf howls his pain. If only I had mated with her like she asked or at least claimed her before the fight, I would have sensed her and could have protected her. If I'd been a better mate, she'd still be alive and be with me.
As the sun was beginning to peek over the horizon, I eased out of bed, careful not to wake my sleeping mate. She'd spent most of the night begging me not to fight in this war and eventually fell asleep on my chest with tears pooled in the corners of her eyes. Once the bed shifted back into place, I glanced down at her to make sure the creaking springs hadn't awakened her.
Then, I slipped into the shower and dressed in the darkness of our room.
Slowly making my way over to the bed, I gazed down at once again in adoration. Her long blonde hair was pulled up into a bun. Her lips were pouty in a way that made me smile and long for the feel of them against mine. I knelt down with one hand on the bed and quickly pecked them and pulled back, inducing a catlike purr from her before her eyes opened one by one.
She smiled at me so sweetly that I felt like I was falling in love with her all over again and at the request of my wolf, I leaned in for another kiss.
"You know how I know that you truly love me, Dominic?"
"How?" I ran my nose along the curve of her neck, enjoying her scent of lavender.
"Because you're the only man I know that would kiss me while I have morning breath."
"I better be the only man kissing you," I growled against her skin, and playful grazed her neck with my teeth making her moan.
"The only way to ensure that is to mate with me."
Pulling back, I looked deep into those soft blue eyes of hers. Seeing the seriousness, I stood and walked over to the window working at the buttons of my open shirt. We've been over this time and time again, and I'm honestly tired of arguing about it. The bed springs bending under the weight of her small frame sliced through the silence that quickly fell between us. Gently her hands slid around my waist and rested against my bare stomach.
"I need this, Dominic. You're going to fight in a war to defend our land from a ruthless pack. I just want to be able to feel you, to know that you're alright."
"That also means feeling my pain. Every injury and every emotion will plague you and only worry you more, Alice."
"I'm a big girl! I can handle it!"
"Why can't you just understand that I love you too much to put you through that?" I whipped around to face her, holding her away from me by her shoulders.
"And why can't you see that this is just to give me peace of mind? You're going to war! You could lose your life out there, and I wouldn't know it until someone comes back with your body in one of those awful black bags." Tears brimmed her lower lashes, slowly making their way down her cheeks pooling underneath her chin. "Why you? You're only Twenty-one! Why do you have to go?"
Out of instinct, I pulled her to me, trailing my hand up and down her shoulder.
"I'm a pure wolf, Alice, and the way Lance trained me easily makes me one of the best fighters this pack has. I have to go to defend our land. To make sure when we start having pups they'll be able to grow up here like we did and not in some foreign place because we let that pack of bullies run us away."
"But what if you don't come back to me? What would I do without you, Dominic?" She looked up at me with new tears threatening to race down her cheeks, but before they could escape her lashes, I leaned forward and kissed them both away.
"If I don't come back I want you to love again. From heaven, I'll make sure a wolf worthy of your heart is sent your way, and I want you to let him love you with all he has. If all goes well and I do come back, I promise I'll mark you, and we'll mate the same night. I'll put a ring on your finger and make you Mrs. Dominic Cruz before summer ends."
"You promise?" Her arms tightened around my waist.
Kissing the tip of her nose to gain that smile I loved so much, she relented, and I smiled back, leveling my eyes with hers, "I promise."
Two days into the war, the ruthless wolves agreed to leave the territory and never return. Aside from a few casualties and a lot of injuries, we emerged victoriously and were preparing to go home.
Against the wishes of the medics on site, I followed Lance and a few of the other elders out of the makeshift hospital, limping and holding on to the tight bandage around my stomach. There was a horrible pain in my chest, but as I looked around me at the blood and carnage, I pushed what I felt to the side.
One by one, we each picked up the bodies of our slain pack mates, carried them back into the hospital to be identified and sent home to their families. Crossing the battlefield to collect the last body, I realized he wasn't as old as the others.
"This one is a kid. I thought no one under twenty-one was allowed, Lance. Lance?"
I turned to see my mentor standing stock still with his head bowed. Hoisting the young boy up over my shoulder, I slowly made my way toward him still limping and wincing from the pain. As I drew closer, my heart started to race, and my wolf seemed riled up. It wasn't until I climbed over the short hill he was standing on that I saw her lying at his feet naked and covered in blood.
"No… NO! Alice! Alice! What is she doing here?! Why is she here?!" Sliding the body of the young boy off my shoulders, I ran to her as fast as I could ignoring Lance's attempts to hold me back. Dropping to my knees, I cradled her lifeless body, shaking her gently.
"Wake up, Baby! Alice please… please wake up!" Lance's hand gripped my shoulder, and I yanked away, leaning forward, pressing my lips again her cold cheek. Pulling her further into my chest, I cried into her blood-stained hair and prayed to the Moon Goddess to give her back, to take me instead, but the longer I held onto her, the colder her body became.
"I'm sorry, Dominic." Was the last thing I heard before my mind slipped away from me. I was numb, pained, utterly unaware of what was going on around me except for when someone tried to pull my mate's body from my arms. I rode the whole way back to the pack house with her body in my lap, staring absently at her face.
I found out when we returned that Alice had followed us out to the battlefield, slipped out in the middle of the night, set on fighting by my side. Since I hadn't marked or mated with her, I had no clue she was there or even sensed her when she was being attacked.
With permission from her mother, I buried Alice underneath her favorite tree with a copy of the picture I'd taken of her the last time we were together. My pack looked to me as a hero for saving the Commander's life during the fight, and as a result, I was gifted a spot on the Council alongside my father. I declined it. I would have been the youngest wolf to ever take a seat, but instead, I took off without a word. I found myself a beach house away from everything that reminded me of Alice and became nothing more than a hollow shell of a wolf.
Then the soft scent of female lured me out to the beach.
Staring down at the tear-stained glass of the picture frame in my hand, I realized that my meeting the girl with the amber eyes might not have been by chance. I made Alice promise me she'd love again, told her I'd send a wolf worthy of her heart into her life to live as happily as she would have with me.
Maybe she'd done the same for me.
Dropping the glass down on the wooden sideboard, I rushed back into my room and began digging through my closet for my duffle bag. I stuffed it messily with clothes from the drawers and closet then topped it off with the photo of Alice.
I don't know if she sent the girl to me as a second chance at happiness, but I'm not going to sit around here and miss out.
I have to find her, and I'm not going to rest until I do.