# — The Heart of the Pack
It takes me a while to drag myself away from the orphans once they're settled in the palace.I know I
have about a thousand things to do, but seeing so many little ones in need of love and care is simply
too much for me to resist.I stay for a few hours to help Isabel and James set up, glancing furtively in
their direction every now and then to see how things are going.
Isabel is as standoffish with James as she is with me, but he’s gentle and steady, not seeming to mind
her cold demeanor.
Every now and then I find the she-wolf returning my glances, but there’s a distinct tinge of jealousy in
her observation.I can't blame her — in her shoes I’d probably hate me for being so happy too.
After a while she marches over to me, interrupting me as I make up cots for the pups.
"You should let us finish this.You must have more important things to do." I shrug.
"Actually this is about the time I’d usually be taking a nap."
I share, wondering if it was a mistake to reference my pregnancy or point out the easy comfort of my
life, then hating the fact that it feels necessary to overanalyze my words this way.I’ve been through
enough traumas to know that people walking on eggshells around you only makes things worse.
"Then go nap."
Isabel instructs brusquely, gesturing towards my middle.
"You need your rest and you won’t have the luxury in a few months."
There's a strange undercurrent in her words, and I have the sense that she would give anything to go
back to the sleepless nights and overwhelming days of being a new parent.
"Wf it’s alright with you, I'd like to stay." I reply simply, fluffing a pillow before tucking it under the soft
blankets of my current cot.
"I was thinking the pups might like to make this space their own.We could build a fort or —"
"They aren't your practice dolls." Isabel cuts in, her hands on her hips.
"They’re real pups who are hurting badly, they need comfort and safety right now.Getting attached to
another adult who’s just going to disappear as soon as she has her own pup to cuddle, isn’t going to
Taking a deep breath, I carefully consider my next words before speaking.
"I don’t need practice, Isabel.I've been raising babies since I was one myself — children who, like these
pups, have lost everything and need all the support they can get.Now I can’t promise that I’1l always
have time to give — whether it's because of the war or physical distance or whatever else might
happen.But I can tell you that my son’s arrival isn’t going to make me forget about these children, I’m
here because I care and I want to help."I pause, studying the other woman closely.
"And I might not be a mother yet, but that doesn’t mean I have no wisdom to share."Isabel's mouth
twitches, dangerously close to a quiver.
"Well you are wrong about one thing."
She answers stiffly, turning her nose up.
"You’re already a mother...more of one than I am, at least."
I want to hug her so badly that it takes all my strength to hold back, but I know she won’t welcome it.
Isabel has so many walls up at the moment she’d probably bite me just for trying.She starts to turn
away, but I raise my voice, imbuing it with some of my newfound alpha female authority.
"Once a mother, always a mother.Your love for your child doesn’t end with their life, Isabel."
She freezes, stopping dead in her tracks.She doesn't turn back or say a word, but I see her shoulders
cave and her head hang.
Isabel retreats into the bedroom we arranged for her, and a minute later I hear her muffled sobs floating
through the door.
James appears at my side, with the helpless expression of an alpha faced with a crying she-wolf.
There's a note of accusation in his voice, and I realize just how quickly he’s bonded with the grieving
"She'll tell you her story when she's ready."
I answer, the palpable anguish of her cries making me want to weep myself.
"She’s a stubborn one, and she’s hurting.You’ll need to give her time."
James looks at me sharply, and I can sense his wolf’s agitation.
"This isn’t something I can fix, is it?"
I almost want to smile, but I’m still aching for the other woman.
I murmur gently, "nothing can ever fix this.
But if you can get past her teeth and claws, you might be able to give her a shoulder to cry on."He
looks at me uncertainly.
"You don’t think it’s too soon?" I shake my head.
"It’s never too soon for a hug when someone is suffering."
James sets his shoulder with the expression of a warrior going into battle, then marches determinedly
towards Isabel's room.
The door closes behind him, but I can still hear Isabel’s outraged snarls and a small scuffle before
James rumbles a dominant growl.
Then there’s stillness, and a piteous moan.
Isabel’s keening grows louder then, no longer dampened by her efforts to hold in the pain or muffled by
prideful attempts to stay quiet.
Her sobs are soon joined by purrs, and suddenly I’m so glad that I stayed here with our people that it’s
It was a very small thing, I know, but I can’t help but feel as if this is right.
These orphans, the refugees, need someone to look out for them, and I can help but think I’m the
person for the job.
Suddenly I remember what Sinclair told me about Lunas being the heart of a pack, and then Henry’s
explanation about my role inspiring the Alphas at the summit.
A torrent of guilt rains down on my senses as I realize just how badly I messed up with Sinclair.
Not only was he right about me staying behind in the capital, but we never even got to discuss all the
reasons why it's important, because I shut him out.
I’m so ashamed of myself A little while later I find Roger in the palace kitchens.
"What are you doing here?"
I ask, good naturedly, taking a seat beside him at one of the work tables.
He reports slyly.
"Cora ran off the other day before she was able to eat the ice cream she ordered, so the pastry chef is
going to help me by making some fresh."
He looks so pleased with himself that I have to laugh despite my gloomy mood.
"Oh she's going to be furious."
Roger asks, apparently having second thoughts now.
"No, good idea.That’s why she’s going to be pissed." I explain.
"She loves ice cream and if she finds the strength to resist she'll be grumpy because she won’t get to
enjoy it, and if she gives in she’ll resent you for making her happy."
Roger chuckles darkly.
He smirks, looking at me curiously.
"You don't mind? My interest in her, I mean?"
"No," I share honestly.
"Actually I think you two might be good together, but you’ve got your work cut out for you."
"Don’t I know it."
Roger agrees, not sounding the least bit bothered by this prospect.
"Of course, if you hurt her I'll rip your arms off and beat you with them until you’re dead from blood loss
or blunt force trauma." novelebook I add smoothly, in a perfectly serious tone.
"I would expect nothing less."
He nods, solemnly adding.
‘But I have no intention of hurting her, Ella."
"Good." I reply shortly, my eyes exploring the room for food options.
"And you?" Roger inquires, watching my curious exploration.
" Afternoon snack? Pregnancy craving?"
"Actually I got busy and skipped lunch." I confess, my stomach growling right on cue.
"Ooh, I’m gonna tell on you."
Roger teases, sounding like a child on a playground.
"Dominic would not approve."
My jaw drops, "hey, I just gave you my blessing to date my sister and this is how you repay my
I object, narrowing my eyes when he continues to grin.
"You're gonna be in so much trouble!" He jibes, not letting up.
"You are such a tattletale!" I accuse, swatting his arm.
‘"‘Haven’t you ever heard that snitches get stitches?"
"Yeah but somehow I don’t think you’re the type to stab a man for ratting you out."
He assesses, pinching my cheek.
"You're too sweet."
I shove his hand away, my shame and guilt rising to the surface as his words sink in.
I sigh forlornly.
"I can be a real brat."
"Why do you say that?"
Roger inquires, ceasing his teasing in light of my dour mood.
"Oh, I’ve just been a really shitty mate to Dominic lately." I confess.
"I made his job a lot harder because I didn’t get my way, and I've done some really hypocritical things
too.I’m currently working up the courage to call him and apologize."
"Well the good news is that you don’t need much courage.You know he’ll always forgive you."
Roger tells me confidently.
"I mean, yes, the logical adult part of my brain knows that."
I agree, "but the scared little orphan in me still associates admitting difficult truths or bad behavior with
danger.She expects one wrong word to flip a switch and make him stop loving me."
"Well you tell that orphan to shut up, because that’s not your life anymore, Ella." Roger instructs me
"She doesn’t know what she's talking about.My brother loves you more than anything."
"Thank you." I answer, shaking my head.
"This has been a really odd time for me.I really thought I understood all the ways my baggage messes
with my head, but it’s like facing the bad things in my past created all these new ways for them to
"I get that." Roger expresses.
"When I finally acknowledged that Dominic wasn’t the monster I’d made him out to be, I thought I would
turn over a whole new leaf and everything would be easier.I thought it was the end, instead it was the
beginning.Facing the truth of what happened isn’t the hard part, it’s all the fallout afterwards."
"I’m learning exactly that." thuy I confirm, "and now I have to go deal with it."
Roger squeezes my hand.
Read Accidental Surrogate - Chapter 173
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