– Ella Broods
After leaving our rooms I sneak down to the kitchens, hoping the palace chef will take pity on me. My
stomach is grumbling with a hunger so fierce I feel dizzy, but the last thing I want right now is to be
social. I love my family and King Gabriel is growing on me by the day, but faking smiles and pretending
I haven’t just had the biggest fight in the history of my relationship with Sinclair sounds absolutely
I’m not sure why this fight feels so much worse than the ones before. After all, we got through Lydia’s
attempted assault and fake pregnancy, as well as countless other small battles about Sinlcair’s
overprotectiveness, my defiance, and shared communication failings. Still, this is the first time since we
met that Sinclair has suggested we separate for any length of time, and maybe that’s the real reason
I’m so hurt.
I probe my own feelings for fears of abandonment or doubts about his devotion, and I’d be lying if I said
I came up entirely empty. Part of me, a very small and irrational part, does fear that Sinclair might not
return for me if he goes away. An even larger and more ridiculous part of me wonders if he’s leaving
me behind because the magic has faded now that we’re officially mated.
You’re right. That is ridiculous. Sinclair growls in my head, and I realize I accidentally projected my
fears through our bond again. My mate sounds furious at the very notion, and apparently he was so
affronted by this idea that he couldn’t stay silent. You know how crazy I am for you, trouble. You know
I’ll always come back. You put those doubts out of your gorgeous head this instant.
Get out of my thoughts! I order bitterly, trying to imagine a great granite wall shutting over our mental
link. I’m not sure if it works entirely, but Sinclair doesn’t speak again. I return my focus to my tangled
emotions, and though I am a bit hurt that my mate can stand the idea of being away from me, I quickly
confirm that my greatest upset is due to his lack of support. I believe I can handle the challenges of this
journey and that it’s important for my wolf to get experience in the real world – so why doesn’t he?
Does he really believe I’m so weak that I’ll fall apart at the first sign of trouble?
Baby, I told you it isn’t like that. Sinclair chimes in again, and I feel the full weight of his hatred for the
idea of separating us, as well as his love and belief in my abilities. I just need you to be safe. If we can
get through this we’ll have a lifetime of opportunities for you to-
I said get out! I repeat angrily, imagining a giant lock on the granite wall, and mentally slamming the
bolt into the ground before wrapping it up in thick chains. I’m still not sure if it fixed the problem, so I
decide to test my sneaky mate. Dominic, I want you to know you’re a great big dummy. You smell
terrible and your wolf has fleas.
Silence. Beautiful, utter tranquility. Finally. I think in exasperation. I know blocking the bond with Sinclair
will get easier the more I practice, but now it takes almost all of my strength in order to keep him out.
As I pass the dining room on my way to the kitchens, I hear Roger and Cora talking in tense voices. I
slow down, feeling both guilty for eavesdropping but also impossibly curious about their conversation. I
haven’t had a chance to ask my sister about the tension between them yet, but it’s so palpable that
you’d have to be blind to miss it.
Roger’s husky voice floats through the door, and I can hear one racing heartbeat and another, much
steadier one. “So what will it be, Cora? Do you want to surrender now? Or do you want to keep
pretending like you don’t feel this thing between us?”
I press my hand over my mouth to smother my gasp. I can’t believe Cora hasn’t told me that Roger has
been pursuing her this way. I thought it had just begun, but from the sounds of it this has been building
for a while.” Just because you feel something, doesn’t mean I do,” Cora replies, her voice shaking.
“And for the record, if you’re going to be chasing after humans you should know we don’t believe the
word ‘surrender’ belongs in discussions of romance. It’s generally reserved for battlefields and arrest
warrants.” She adds primly.
A few months ago I would have agreed with her, the word surrender used to evoke images of violence
and animosity for me. Now it only evokes the blissful release of being at my mate’s mercy, of letting him
take control of my body and trusting him to take care of me.
Roger chuckles darkly, his voice going soft and gravelly. “Haven’t you ever heard that love is a
battlefield? I’m pretty sure your kind have written entire songs about it.”
“Who said anything about love?” Cora gasps, sounding even more shocked and alarmed than before.
“Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.” Roger murmurs, and I can practically picture him brushing Cora’s
hair back from her face. “Or maybe not.” He adds in a low purr, seeming amused by some reaction or
expression of hers – perhaps a shiver?
I hear a chair push back from the table, and then Cora’s fleeting voice. “I have to go.”
“No.” Roger objects, sounding gentler now. “You stay, I’ll go.” His footsteps recede into the distance,
then pause. In my mind’s eye, I see him turning back for one last look at my sister. “I’m sorry if this
caught you off guard, but it’s not in my nature to pretend I don’t have feelings for someone when I do.
I’m letting you off easy today because I know this wasn’t easy for you, but don’t expect the same
lenience in the future, Cora. Pretend all you want, but I know you feel the same, and I’m not going to let
you go without a fight.”
I hear one of the interior doors open and click shut, and once I’m sure Roger is gone I decide that I
don’t need to avoid the dining room after all. They clearly weren’t having that conversation in front of a
crowd, and I want to check on my sister.
When I enter I find Cora sitting with her face in her hands, and I can see her red cheeks through her
parted fingers. Her breathing is ragged and shallow, and she jumps out of her seat when I rest my hand
on her shoulder. “Hey, it’s okay, it’s only me.”
“Oh,” She exhales shakily, her dilated pupils slowly zeroing in on me. There’s a faint scent of arousal in
the air, and I know it isn’t my own.
Interesting. I think, trying to mask my features so as not to mortify my sister with this information. As
soon as Cora’s surprise passes, she swats my arm. ’Where have you been?!”
“I’m sorry, Dominic and I had a fight.” I explain, “I was planning on skipping dinner entirely until I
realized everyone else had the same idea. Are you okay?”
“No!” Cora moans, frowning deeply. “Roger is… he’s… well basically he just made a pass at me.”
“I heard.” I say with a wince, not wanting to lie to her. “I thought something might be up with you two but
I didn’t want to assume.”
“You heard the whole thing?!” Cora exclaims, eyes wide. ’Why didn’t you do something?”
“Not the whole thing, just the very end.” I assure her, wondering how long they’d been talking and what
exactly ‘the whole thing’ comprised. “But what would you have had me do?” I inquire curiously, recalling
the way she accused me of never letting her fight her own battles and finding it incredibly contrary that
she should now hold it against me.
“Interrupt him, bite him, sic Dominic on him… I don’t know.” She sighs, winding down a bit as she works
through the options and seems to realize how ironic the request was. “I’m sorry, I know that’s not your
job and I should be able to handle one nosey wolf on my own… I just, I think I’m in way over my head.”
Her skin is still flushed, and I have to wonder if she would be anywhere near this agitated if she wasn’t
interested in Roger. “In over your head because you don’t like him?” I begin hesitantly, wondering how
to word this. “Or because you do?”
“Wha- I…” Cora trails off looking stunned. “Of course I don’t.” She exclaims, much too quickly and
sharply to be believable.
“Cora.” I say pointedly. “I know you. I’ve never seen anyone get you worked up this way.” In fact, I’ve
never known Cora to date anyone. She’s been with men, but only ever in one night stands with no
“Well I’ve never been hit on by a wolf.” She counters indignantly. “I mean you should have seen him, all
cocky and smug… like he knows everything and can read me so well.”
“Can he?” I ask simply, for the first time wondering whether her detached romantic life hasn’t merely
been a healthy woman in her twenties sowing wild oats, but a way of avoiding a deeper connection.
“Absolutely not.” She answers firmly, shaking her head.
“Okay. Do you want me to talk to him for you?” I offer, even though I don’t really want to give her such
an out. I love my sister and I don’t want Roger to pressure her if she’s truly uninterested, but my
instincts are telling me it might be a good thing someone is finally pushing her out of her comfort zone.
“No.” Cora replies after a moment, seeming to dislike the idea of me fixing her problems again rather
than handling this herself. With an expression of resignation, she meets my gaze with renewed
determination.”Leave Roger to me.” 1
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