Accidental Surrogate

Chapter 171

– Separation


When Sinclair left, all my wolf wanted to do was climb up to the highest tower of the Prince’s palace
and howl into the sky, to cry out for our mate until our combined voices went hoarse. Instead I allowed
myself a single hour of wallowing – I climbed into a bubble bath, turned on the saddest song I could
find and cried until my tears ran dry. Afterwards I pulled myself together and got dressed, even though I
could feel Sinclair slipping further and further away with every minute that passed.

We’ve never been this far apart since my wolf woke, and I’m amazed by how keenly I can feel his
absence. As he drove away, Sinclair’s beloved voice continued to sound in my mind, I love you, Ella. I
love you, Rafe. But it faded in perfect synchrony with the widening gulf between our hearts, and
eventually it went completely silent. Now the only way we’ll be able to communicate through our bond
is in dreams, otherwise we’re stuck with the technologies I knew as a human: cell phones and emails.

I know the best thing for my agitated wolf is to keep busy, so I start my day by meeting Cora and
Gabriel in the King’s study, to begin planning the political summit Sinclair suggested. My sister is still
half-asleep and sulking about the fact that Sinclair left Roger behind as added protection for us, but she
offers me a sympathetic squeeze all the same. “How are you doing?” She murmurs, her arms locked
around my back.

“Well I mate it out of bed and I’m not crying anymore… so better than expected.” I confess, burying my
face in her neck.

“Tsk, poor thing.” Cora replies, rubbing my back. A note of humor enters her voice then, “My intrepid
wolf sister, brought to her knees by a boy. I never thought I’d see the day.” She teases, even though
this isn’t truly a fair assessment.

Sometimes I think my big sister is blinded by the relationship we had as children, because though she’s
remarkably perceptive about my personality in many ways, there are other facets that go over her head
completely. She sees the protector, the martyr who suffered without complaint and then shut out all the
pain for so many years. She doesn’t see the love-starved girl so desperate for affection that she settled
for scraps from a scoundrel. No, in fact if there’s one of us who avoids attachments at all costs- it’s her.
Even as I think it, two new scents enter the room, as if they heard my inner musings and appeared to
prove me right.

“If I were you, I wouldn’t let Dominic hear you call him a ‘boy’.” Roger’s husky voice has Cora pulling
abruptly away from me, a scowl on her pretty face. He and Henry are framed in the doorway, though
my sister doesn’t seem to notice my father-in-law at all. Her full focus is on Roger.

“What are you doing here?” Cora inquires rudely.

I give her a little pinch on her arm, and she yelps and pinches me back,” Hey!”

“Play nice.” I instruct in a low mutter, even though I know the men can hear us perfectly well.

“TelI him.” Cora snipes, crossing her arms over her chest and refusing to look at the wolf now grinning
at her like the cat who caught the canary.

I shoot Roger a withering look, and he has the decency to wipe the smirk from his face. “Alright.”
Gabriel chuckles, taking the opportunity to steer us back to the matter at hand. “Let’s talk about the
summit, we’ve got a lot of work to do and not much time to make it happen.”

“What exactly are we expecting?” I inquire, trying to recall the details Sinclair had shared with me in
between sessions of our marathon lovemaking.

“Well, if all the Alpha’s turn up we’ll be looking at about twenty pack leaders with their mates, betas and
guards.” The King explains. “We have gatherings of this sort a couple of times a year, so luckily my

staff is well versed in housing, feeding and entertaining the lot – that isn’t anything we have to worry

This is some relief, but my mind is lingering on all the refugees sleeping on rough cots in the camp near
the air field. “What exactly is the palace’s full capacity? In terms of the number of shifters it can house?”

“We can support a few hundred people – not all at the same level of luxury of course. The guards and
lower ranked members of each delegation will join my own in more modest quarters. Alphas will have
suites similar to yours and Dominic’s, and betas somewhere in between.” Gabriel answers thoughtfully.

“Well I know it’s not what we’re here to discuss right now, but I’ve been thinking about finding better
lodging for the refugees from the continent. I hate leaving them in such stark conditions.” I frown. “I was
wondering if we might be able to put them up here, though I know that’s a huge imposition.”

Gabriel offers me a gentle smile. “It wouldn’t be, but I’m not sure that’s the best option. We could feed
them and put a roof over their heads, they could be near their leaders,” he acknowledges, nodding to
me. “But in my experience coming into the lap of luxury when you’ve just lost everything you own can
be a cruel reminder, and the palace isn’t exactly the warmest environment. I would suggest finding local
families willing to offer their guest rooms so that the refugees can have a sort of home stay. Between
us, we could find a way to supplement incomes to support the extra mouths being fed, and the shifters
from the continent would be welcomed into the arms of a real family and a real home.”

“I like that idea.” I agree, “and it would also help them integrate into the community here, to feel
accepted. If there’s resistance to their presence among your own pack, this would also be an important
way to build support. It would be especially good for the orphans.” I add, my mind returning to the
children. “Maybe we could even place some of the parents who lost pups with the unaccompanied

Henry smiles, “Brilliant. Though you’ll have a time convincing Isabel to give them up.”

He has a point. The she-wolf I place in charge of the orphans has taken the job to heart, becoming a
fierce protector and loving guardian for each of the parentless pups. The orphan tent has become
something of a sanctuary under her leadership, and I doubt she’ll want to relinquish her new babies to
other families. “I’ll talk to her.” I vow, “besides it’s good to have someone like Isabel in charge of placing
the children anyway, she’ll ensure the foster families are top notch.”

“Ella’s right.” Cora pipes up, sending me a meaningful glance full of understanding, appreciation and
bitter memory. ‘You can’t be too careful with children in these circumstances. And we could move her
and the unplaced pups here in the meantime.”

“Agreed.” Gabriel nods, “And your point about public sentiment here is well taken. That is going to be
one of our challenges with the pack leaders at the summer. If Damon continues to expel people at
these rates, we’re

going to need to expand homestay placements outside of the capital. No shifter would begrudge the
wolves fleeing his violence, but some of the leaders will be worried about the strain on their resources. I
can think of a few particularly stingy Alphas who will require significant funding before agreeing to such
a thing.”

“Sinclair has plenty of money to spare, even with the war effort.” Henry assures Gabriel, and I belatedly
realize I don’t know the first thing about my mate’s finances. I know he’s a billionaire, but I don’t truly
understand the extent of his wealth or liquidity – especially after fleeing the continent. My father-in-law
turns to me now, ‘You two might have to make some hard decisions between winning the war and
saving enough to rebuild afterwards, but I think that’s a ways down the road. For now I can work with
you to appropriate funds to support the refugee efforts.”

“Thank you.” I profess, squeezing his hand before turning back to the King.” And the rest of the
summit? What do we need to worry about most?”

‘Well, by the time they arrive, most of the Alpha’s will have already made up their minds about whether
or not they’ll offer an alliance. One or two might withhold judgement to see which way the others vote –
to follow the popular tide as it were.” Gabriel explains. “Still, I think I can fairly predict who will be for
and against you. It will be our job to focus on the latter.

There are four or five Alphas whose minds you’ll have to change, and we need to structure the events
around the summit so you can do that, Ella.”

At first, I assumed he was speaking to all of us as a team, but when Gabriel calls me out by name, I
blink in surprise. “Me?” I utter dumbly.

“Who else?” The King laughs.

“But I’m not… they don’t even… why? How?” I stammer, sounding painfully uncertain of myself.

“Because Dominic will have demonstrated his strength and leadership and made all the logical
arguments.” Gabriel answers easily, “Where logic cannot sway, there is only emotion, and if anyone
can soften their hearts to the cause, it’s you. And as for the how? All you have to do is be yourself.”

I can’t quite believe my ears. I thought that my usefulness to Sinclair was strongest in terms of
supporting him, not in the actual politics. “If that’s true, then why didn’t Dominic take me with him?” I
question. “I mean I know he was worried but, if I can actually help…” I trail off, doubting my mate’s
explanations for the first time.

“Because we don’t want to give them too much time to think about it.” Gabriel shares slyly. The logic
will be weighing on them for weeks, and the emotional impact will move them in the moment, but it will

likely wear off after a few days. That’s why Dominic decided to do it this way. You can stay safe here
with us while he travels and plants seeds in the minds of the leaders, then we bring them here – and
you make them bloom.”

My wolf swells with pride, but at the same time I have to wonder. “I don’t get it. If this was the plan all
along, why didn’t he tell me?”

“Because,” Henry smiles gently. ‘You wouldn’t talk to him.”

I flush scarlet. “Right.” I owe my mate a big apology.

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