We Belong Together
“I’ve done the right thing,” Gwen told herself as she floated through the air, solid once more, seeking out the distinct voices of her family. “I’ve saved him from a life of constant danger. Just because my family are generally safe from the worst effects of my curse doesn’t mean he would be. And like Beth says, there’s no man that would want to stay with someone who constantly puts their life in danger. No matter what he said this morning, eventually he’d get sick of me and throw me away.” The thought of rejection stung but she shook her head and let the feelings simply float away. There were few benefits to being the daughter of air but her ability to shrug off painful emotions with ease was definitely one of them.
As she continued to drift through the vibrant blue skies she lost her focus. High above the earth it was almost too easy to forget who she was and the life she was cursed to lead. Almost. The air became colder until it was frigid and each breath Gwen released emerged as fog. All too soon, clouds began to form. Their dark, thunderous appearance warning her that she’d stayed airborne too long. The skies offered her sanctuary but wouldn’t welcome her for too long else she’d never return to the ground and live out the life fate had planned.
The impending storm forced her wandering mind to focus and she resumed her search. Now that she was racing against time, her search ended quickly. She could hear her family’s familiar voices on the wind towards the outskirts of the lycan territory. A half-hearted smile formed on her lips as she moved further away from where she’d woken and the lycan determined to have her.
“Out of sight, out of mind.”
There was no doubt in her mind that Nicholas would one day forget her, it had, after all, happened many times in the past. Air elementals by nature were amorous creatures and spent a great deal of their adolescence in the pursuit of pleasure and affection before settling into more stable relationships as they grew into adults. Many of her peers had pursued Gwen before her curse had driven them away. They had all moved on, putting her firmly in the past.
Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on one’s point of view, Gwen wasn’t the only one in her family unlucky in love. Beth didn’t seem to have moved past the fleeting affections of adolescence and was no more mature in romantic terms than she was ten years ago. Leah on the other hand had developed an obsession with the forever that characterised the relationships of vampires and lycans but was distinctly absent in their culture. With such lofty standards, all air elementals had fallen short and she’d opted to remain alone.
“The three spinster sisters,” she chuckled, floating closer to her new home. “If that’s the way it has to be then that’s the way it has to be.”
Her heart considerably lighter than when she’d left Nicholas, Gwen began her descent to earth following the sounds of her family to a small cabin. Letting her senses expand beyond her body, she quickly found an open window. Her body dematerialised again and she drifted invisibly past her neighbours’ and into her room.
The distinct lack of furnishings and spartan nature of the space proclaimed silently that the room belonged to her without anyone needing to tell her. There was no frame for her bed, simply a mattress laid flat against the floor. The few candles she’d been given all rested within glass cages, preventing the fires that had plagued her in her old home from occurring. Furniture was a comfort she could ill afford and the lesson hadn’t been an easy one to learn. Wardrobes had collapsed on her, trapping her beneath their heavy weight before she’d managed to escape. Chests of drawers had quite often exploded with no warning when she approached, deep splinters embedding themselves in her skin until someone was brave enough to approach her and offer their aid. Chairs became riddled with woodlice and when she’d fallen through a rotten chair for the fifth time in as many days Gwen threw in the towel. It was clear that furniture was not meant for her to use.
An image of Nicholas’ plush room floated through her mind. He wasn’t prepared for the problems living with me brings.
She scowled when she realised she was thinking of him again and forced her mind to turn away from the handsome lycan and onto the task at hand. Uncaring of her nakedness, Gwen let her body become solid, safe in the sanctuary of her home. The sound of approaching voices caught her attention and she moved to open the door, sticking her head out into the corridor.
“Do you think Gwen’s okay?” Leah moaned softly to Beth as they walked along the hall.
“You’re worrying for no reason. Gwen always lands on her feet,” she retorted, an undertone of resentment flaring briefly in her voice.
“I guess…and she’s with her mate. He’ll definitely take care of her. She’s so lucky to have found a mate, it’s so romantic.”
“Problematic is a much better word,” Gwen inserted smoothly; trying to stop her wandering mind from revisiting the delicious sensations she’d felt in Nicholas’ arms.
“Gwen!” Leah cried happily. “You’re back.”
“And you’re naked.”
Gwen glanced down at herself remembering that Beth was right. Nicholas had taken her clothes and she’d been too preoccupied with escape to retrieve them. “Oh.” Unhurriedly she walked back into her room, rummaging through the baskets that contained her clothes and pulling a thin white shift over her head. “Better?” she asked, turning to face her sisters.
Scowling, Gwen resumed her search scratching her fingers several times as the weave of the basket began to buckle. Triumphant, she found a pale green dress and shimmied into the soft material.
“Much better,” Beth grinned.
Though she’d stayed quiet through her sisters’ exchange Leah’s words could no longer be contained. “Gwen, where’s your mate?” Her eyes were alight with excitement and in any other situation her excitement would be infectious.
“I don’t have one.”
Leah’s face contorted into a mask of confusion. “But I thought…”
“Leah, you know it’s dangerous for someone to try and be that close to me.” She looked pointedly at the unconscious gap her sisters had left between them. Years of experience had taught them that the closer they were to their sister the higher the level of danger. “Even if I liked Nicholas, we have no future together.”
“But you’re his mate,” Leah protested. “That has to mean something.”
“It does mean something,” Beth began softly. “It means Gwen’ll be hurt for longer than five minutes when her curse kills him.”
“It’s true. Gwen knows it’s true as well. Why else did she run away from him?”
No matter how true the words were they still stung, the hurt lingering for an unnaturally long time.
“You ran from your mate?” Leah gasped horrified.
Beth rolled her eyes in exasperation. “Why else would she be here? Aren’t you the one that’s always talking about how mates stay together? You saw how he was yesterday, he didn’t let her go. She ran.”
“Gwen, you didn’t…”
“I didn’t have a choice. He wasn’t going to let me go. Beth is right, one day I’d kill him.”
“I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” She shook her head to let the wind take all traces of Nicholas from her mind. “I’ll make a strong wind current and we can explore the skies. Let’s do that instead of talking about this.”
“Is that a good idea?” Leah mumbled uncertainly.
Her control over the air wasn’t strong enough for her to be airborne on her own and the last time Gwen had taken her flying she’d forgotten she was carrying her. Leah had almost hit the ground but luckily the sound of her terrified screams had called her older sister back in time for Gwen to catch her.
“I’m positive,” Gwen beamed. “I’ll make sure you’re in front of me the whole time that way I’ll remember you’re with me.” Excited but nervous, Leah nodded. “Fantastic! Beth, do you want to come?”
“No, I’m going to see Shannon,” Beth said before turning on her heel and walking out of the room.
“I think she might be upset about something.”
“Leah, she’s fine. Let’s go.” I need to get that man out of my head.
Furious didn’t even begin to describe how Nicholas felt as he stormed through the halls towards the alpha’s cabin. He’d known distantly that having a mate sometimes brought out the worst of a lycan’s instincts but nothing had prepared him for this. Gwen’s disappearing act had his gut churning, his vision clouding red and his animal instincts overriding his ability to reason. He would get her back no matter what ruthless measures he had to employ. With that thought in mind he flung the doors to Conner’s cabin wide open, the doors hitting the walls with a resounding slam that made all eyes turn to him. His ice blue eyes darted around the room wildly while his bare chest rose and fell quickly in agitation.
“You, you and you,” he commanded, pointing to the men that stood guard around Conner. “Come with me.”
“Wait,” Conner contradicted, walking the distance that separated him and Nicholas.
Growling, Nicholas regarded his alpha and only friend, the familiar brown hair and equally brown eyes angering him. How dare he try to come between him and his mate?
“Calm down Nick,” Conner soothed, placing a beefy hand on his shoulder. They’d known each other for centuries and that was the only reason he hadn’t reacted violently to the challenge in Nicholas’ growl. He trusted his beta implicitly. “What’s wrong?”
Huffing, Nicholas shrugged out of Conner’s grip and began to pace.
When no words seemed forthcoming Conner prodded him slightly. “I heard your howl earlier, tell me what happened.”
“My mate,” Nicholas began through gritted teeth. “I found my mate.”
The worry disappeared from Conner’s face and was replaced with a wide smile. “Congratulations!”
“She ran away.” He spat each word, simply remembering Gwen’s escape making his blood boil.
Puzzled, Conner said slowly, “No lycan woman would run from her mate.”
“She’s not lycan. She’s a tiny little air elemental and she literally slipped through my fingers.”
“What do you mean?”
“One second I had her in my arms and the next she’d vanished into thin air.”
“Air elementals can’t just disappear Nick, it’s a myth.”
“Myth or not it’s what happened but don’t worry…” He smiled revealing rows of sharp white teeth. “I’m going to get her back.”
“Are you sure you want to go now? You’re angry. What if you hurt her? Women have long memories when it comes to things like that.”
“I’m not going to hurt her,” Nicholas snapped. “You men come with me now!”
“Alpha?” they murmured, unsure whose orders they should be following. Conner was their leader and ruled them with a fair hand but Nicholas wouldn’t hesitate to incapacitate them indefinitely if he was angry enough. No one wanted to anger their beta enough to become worthy of his attention. When Nicholas’ ice blue eyes took an interest in someone it never ended well for the subject of his scrutiny.
“Your beta gave you an order. Follow it.”
“Be careful with her Nick. Mates are precious. You’ll never forgive yourself if you hurt her, trust me.”
The sadness in Conner’s voice tugged at Nicholas’ cold heart. “How’s Adele?” he asked softly.
Conner sighed, running a hand through his hair. In that moment his friend looked old. “She’s doing fine I guess. Putting up a brave front but I know she’s scared. Who wouldn’t be? The idea of losing some or all of the babies so early…It scares me too.”
Nicholas had never really thought about the problems lycans had with their young because he’d never had a mate to make children a viable prospect but Gwen’s appearance changed everything. Lycans had no problems in conceiving but miscarriages were an unfortunate fact of lycan life. Even if a woman managed to carry to term, some of her pups might be still born. A sharp pain lanced Nicholas’ heart at the thought of his tiny mate being forced to endure such suffering and it was almost inevitable that she’d suffer. It was much more difficult to carry children of mixed blood to term.
Concentrate on getting her back and then worry about the future, he told himself.
“Adele’s a strong woman, your pups will be fine.”
“I know they will be. I’ve got something planned that’ll help them. I’ll talk to you about it later but for now don’t you have a mate to go and find?”
Nicholas’ smile widened, the thrill of the chase exciting him. “That I do. Follow me,” he barked to the four men he’d chosen to come with him. He didn’t want to have to use them but he wanted his mate, consequences be damned.
Bare foot and bare chested, Nicholas ran out of the cabin, his determination to reach Gwen granting his feet wings. He was blind and deaf to all those around him, the only thing on his mind the maddeningly intoxicating scent of his mate. An angry snarl filled the air sending a shiver of fear along the spines of his men. She was airborne again and moving in the frustratingly random patterns that she’d flown in when he’d first caught her scent. Tracking her would be difficult but not impossible for him although when he did eventually find her he’d be angry. The last person who had pushed him from frustrated to angry had limped for weeks after he’d dealt with him.
It’s too dangerous to chase after, Nicholas quickly decided. I don’t want to risk hurting her. It’s better to wait her out. She’ll come home eventually.
It was easy enough to find the cabin Gwen hoped to call home. He’d imprinted her scent into his mind and though she was absent, her beautiful smell lingered in the air. Despite the fact Nicholas wanted nothing more than to break her door down and pounce on her the moment she came back, he forced himself to keep his distance. Air elementals were notoriously good at sensing disturbances and his mate had already proved herself to be trickier than normal.
When an hour passed with no sign of his errant mate, he began to seriously reconsider the merit of his plan but then he heard it. Laughter. Gwen’s laughter. It sounded like chimes blowing in the wind. His heart stopped for a moment, his shaft automatically hardening at the simple thought of her proximity. He spotted her floating happily in the breeze, clearly unconcerned that she’d left her mate aching for her.
He motioned slightly to the men at his back, confident that they knew what he wanted of them before running towards Gwen. It was impossible to outrun him, a male in need of his mate. He heard her gasp of surprise and saw her prepare to flee but it was too late. He tensed the muscles in his legs and jumped. His outstretched arms grabbed her, pulling her into his chest before they began falling towards the earth. A petrified scream rent the air and she started to struggle. Her arms escaped him, weaving in an intricate pattern. The scream stopped abruptly and his muscles tensed again to take the impact of their fall when they hit the ground.
“I’ve got you Gwen. You didn’t really think you could get away from me did you?”
The heat in Nicholas’ voice made Gwen shiver when he whispered against her ear. She almost relaxed against him before her addled mind remembered his actions had risked Leah’s life.
“Let go of me,” she hissed.
“No.” He swung her over his shoulder and started to walk back towards his cabin now that he had captured his prize.
“Put me down!” she screamed, the winds around them picking up.
“I said no,” he growled. “You’re my mate but you tried to run from me. Did you think, even for a second, that I wouldn’t come after you?”
“I told you this would happen,” Leah said cheerfully as she strolled up beside them. “I’m her sister Leah, we met yesterday.”
“What on earth are you doing Leah? He almost killed you!”
“You should be nicer to your mate.”
“Clearly you’re the more sensible of the two.” Nicholas grinned, his pace never faltering.
“Grr,” Gwen growled
The earth beneath Nicholas’ feet buckled, tripping him and giving Gwen an opportunity to escape as his grip loosened slightly. Turning around on his shoulders she took to the air again making sure she was far out of his reach.
“Gwen!” he shouted, his blue eyes crazed.
“Nicholas, trust me when I say this is for your own good. We can’t be together.”
“Don’t,” he growled ominously. “Don’t think for a minute that we aren’t going to be together. You’re playing with fire Gwen and you don’t seem to understand the consequences. You’re my mate and I will have you.”
“You can’t force me to be with you. Staying away from me is what’s best for you.”
“Gwen, you’re forcing my hand.”
“No, you’re being unreasonable. Just let me go.”
“Never!” His blue eyes were crazed and Gwen felt a shiver of apprehension run down her spine. Something told her that she wasn’t going to like where this was headed. “Men!” he shouted.
“Go into that house and arrest their mother.”
“Yes beta.” The four men moved swiftly to follow his orders.
“What?” Gwen and Leah yelled.
Landing in front of Nicholas, Gwen slapped him hard across his chest. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Your mother broke the terms of our treaty. ‘No air elemental shall use their power in a way that may result in lycan casualties while on lycan territory unless the use of force was in self defence.’ Your mother’s outburst was in direct violation of the law. As beta I’m responsible for maintaining law and order.”
“You can’t do this,” she murmured stunned.
He cupped her cheek, wiping away the burgeoning tears. “I don’t want to do this Gwen. I hate seeing you suffer but I won’t be without you. I’m not the easiest man to be with but I’ll try my best to make you happy. Tell me you’ll come with me. Tell me you’ll be my mate and I’ll let your mother go. I’ll protect her, your sisters and your father because your family is my family.”
Gwen felt a storm brewing, the clouds overhead darkening and thunder rolling in. Lightning filled the air as she watched her mother be pulled from the house, her soft features scrunched in confusion. She watched as lightning hit the earth setting several trees on fire. Through it all Nicholas remained unmoving, his blue eyes fixed on her.
Warm, Anila murmured.
I’ve never felt so cold in my entire life.
He’s warm. Hold him.
There’s no point. Holding onto him will bring nothing but grief. He’ll suffer because he wanted to be with me…and he deserves it.
Closing her eyes, Gwen let the clouds dissipate and her anger float away. The fires she’d caused were easily extinguished when she cut off their air supply. When everything was once again as it was meant to be she opened her eyes and fell against Nicholas’ chest. Anila was right, he was very warm. His arms looped around her pressing her closer to him.
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Of course,” Nicholas growled. “You’re mine.”
“Fine, I’ll go with you and in exchange you leave my family alone.” A simple motion of his head had his men release Madeline. “But I’m warning you now that living with me isn’t easy.”
He smiled at her words. “We’ll work something out. As long as you understand that mates are meant to be together then I’m sure our life together will work out. Nothing is more important than us being together Gwen. Nothing.”
The determination in those words almost made her believe him but Gwen knew better, it was only a matter of time before he would come to regret those words. With her curse it was inevitable.