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Knot Your Damn Omega: Chapter 43



Blazing, piercing agony was the thing to wake me. My ankle felt hot and swollen, and one move to look at it confirmed it. It looked like someone had shoved an orange under my skin, red and angry though the rest of my skin was turning blue.

I wasn’t moving anymore, and the pain was too much. Everything was too much.

A sob worked its way out of me, and I couldn’t hold it back. Deep, ragged sobs that hurt.

I felt so stupid and so broken and so alone. There was no one to come help me, and there wouldn’t be. Not after today. I would go back to my house and my half-hearted heats. Trying to get through life on the small joys of my art, and it would have to be enough.

It would have to be alone.

Moving felt like jagged glass beneath my skin, but I couldn’t stay here. Somehow I needed to get to the road. Somewhere someone would see me.

My whole body was shivering, and it felt like I’d never get warm again. It was my own fault for doing this. I left my phone on purpose. I hadn’t made the bank fall on purpose, but it was still my fault.

I dragged myself away from the river, allowing myself to make as much sound as I needed to. It was pure torture. As long as I lived, I would never call anything sexual torture again.

The thought crashed down on me. No matter what, I wouldn’t be able to. Because they’d never been mine.

I whined, my Omega finally understanding it was real. This was real.

“Please wake up,” I whispered to myself. “It’s a bad dream. Please wake up.”

But no pain like this—physical or emotional—could be a dream.

One tiny movement at a time, I forced myself toward the bank and the impossibly steep incline. If my ankle were fine it would be easy. As it was?

A sound made my head snap toward the park. Was that someone’s voice? I couldn’t hear anything with the river and the rain.

I was probably imagining things, desperation and fear creating what I wanted most.

But it was there again. It was a voice, even though I didn’t know what it was saying. Maybe they would help me. Take me home.

ESME!” The call was faint, but it was my name.

I sagged on the ground, hoping with everything in me someone had figured out where I’d run and at the same time unwilling to accept it was real.

ESME!” The voice was closer now.

“I’m here,” I said. “I’m here!”

I couldn’t force my voice any louder. There was too much sound and there wasn’t enough air in my lungs with all the pain.

“I’m here,” I said, only loud enough to the answer the voice in my head. “I’m here.”

“Esme?” The panicked voice called down from above. Clattering rocks followed. “Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. Baby, talk to me, baby.”

It was Kade. He was here, turning me over and looking at me.

Sobs burst out of me. The damp version of his scent was so beautiful, and my body and brain didn’t understand we were broken. He was here and it wasn’t fair for him to be here when it wasn’t fucking real. “No,” I managed through the tears. “No, no, no.”

“I’m here, baby, and I am so sorry. It’s not what you think. We’ll explain, but I need to get you out of here. Shit, you’re burning up.”

“I’m freezing.”

He swore again, pulling his phone out of his pocket. “I found her. By the river. Her ankle is fucked up and she’s got a fever that would burn down the world. I’m getting her up the bank.”

Beyond my sobs, I cried out at the pain when he lifted me. “You can leave me at home,” I told him. “Then you’re free. It’s okay.”

He grunted, pushing us both up the steep embankment before setting me on the ground again to get himself over the edge. I was in his arms again in seconds, and I hated myself for how safe I felt, and the comfort in his arms.

Then I closed my eyes and savored it, knowing it would be the last time. They felt guilty, so they found me. It would be enough.

“We’re not leaving you at home, Esme. We’re not leaving you at all.”

“You already did.”

Kade lifted me higher, and his voice cracked. “Baby, I am so sorry. None of what we said was about you. I promise. It wasn’t you.”

I curled into his chest, trying to lessen the pain in mine. Maybe he was right and I did have a fever. I felt like I was floating now. Everything still hurt, but it was easier to ignore now. I was too cold.

Kade kept talking, his voice painting a different background to the pounding rain. “I’ve got you, baby. We’re going to take care of you, I promise. You’re going to be okay.”


I knew that voice, and I somehow couldn’t place it.

“She’s out of it,” Kade said. “We need the hospital.”

No, we didn’t. That was silly. “No hospital,” I murmured.

“Let’s go. Be careful of her ankle.”

The slamming of car doors and warm air had me drifting again. I didn’t want to fall asleep. It smelled safe, but I knew I wasn’t. I wasn’t safe.

I wasn’t safe.

Fluorescent lights were bullshit.

That was my first thought as I opened my eyes. An off-white drop ceiling and fluorescent lights were above me, and there was a beeping somewhere to my left.

“Where am I?”

A startled sound, and I looked to my left and saw Eva curled in a chair. She stood, looked at me, and burst into tears. “Oh my god, I am going to kill you now that you’re awake.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Please just tell me one thing, May-may. Please tell me you weren’t trying to kill yourself.”

I shook my head and stopped because it ached. “No. I just wanted to run. It was an accident.”

“Good.” She shuddered and sat, pulling her chair closer to the bed. “Good. That’s good.”

Moving, my body screamed at me. It wasn’t as bad as it had felt before, mostly soreness, not unlike what I’d woken with after Kade’s chase. My ankle though…

It was elevated and wrapped, and at the moment I barely felt it. But if I moved my leg at all it was a shock of pain. “Is it broken?”

“No, thank god. Severe sprain. Won’t be able to walk on it for a couple of weeks, but the doctor said you’d make a full recovery.”

“Okay.” I sighed. “I guess I’ll have to stay with you if I’m not allowed to walk on it.”

She touched my hand. “Don’t be silly, you’re going to go home with your pack.”

“I don’t have a pack.” My voice broke.

“Yes you do. Yes, you do,” she insisted when I tried to interrupt her. “You’ve got so much up in your head, sis, and I understand it. What Mom did was shitty, and what you heard at the screen test was the worst case of wrong place wrong time I’ve ever heard, but you need to listen to them. For me, if not for yourself.”

I let my head fall all the way back onto my pillow, staring at the ceiling. “It broke me, Eva. I don’t know how to come back.”

“You’re not broken. When you hear what they have to say, you’ll see why.”

Closing my eyes, I filled my lungs with air and breathed it all back out. It would be better to do it now. Faster was better. Rip the bandaid off now. “Okay.”

“Just listen,” she said softly. “I promise it will be okay.”

Her footsteps retreated, and five sets entered the room. I kept looking at the ceiling, not looking at them. Their scents were now filling the room, and it was making my eyes fill with tears.

“Hey, sweetheart.”

I swallowed. “Eva asked me to listen, so I will.”

Avery cleared his throat. “There’s only one thing that will make it clear, so here it is.”

Suddenly, I heard them laughing. It was a recording, and my entire body went rigid. The producer’s voice.

“Okay, so now I have to ask the question. You’ve been publicly connected to Eva’s sister, Esme Williams. It’s said you’re courting her. How’s that going? Will we get a peek inside the relationship for the show?”

“No.” Luke’s voice. “We prefer to keep our private life private. Too much of it is already out there, and for everyone involved it’s better if it’s not talked about.”

“Fair enough.” The producer laughed. “What about your receptionist, Daisy? Seems like she was made to be a part of the studio.”

Ben’s voice. “Oh, that was totally by chance. We keep her around cause she gets the job done, but…” Laughter.

Shock rolled through me.

The interviewer cleared his throat. “So there was never any chance of making that situation permanent?”

Kade snorted with laughter. “No. Absolutely not.”

“No,” Avery said. “She’s a friend, nothing more. We’re definitely going to reward her though, she did a lot to make all of this happen. We at least owe her one for that.”

“Too bad,” the interviewer said. “Audiences go nuts over a love story.”

“The audience will have to go without,” Luke said. “This has been, and always will be, only about the tattoos.”

“Not to mention she has her own pack,” Rylan said.

The recording ended, and I couldn’t breathe. I hadn’t heard that last bit.

Shock and shame crashed down on me in a wave, and I was crying. They’d been talking about Daisy. Sweet Beta Daisy with her wild blue hair. She’d helped them set up the studio, and that was what they meant by making it all happen.

“Oh, baby girl.” Avery was by my side, pulling me into his arms as best he could without moving my injured leg.

“I’m sorry.” My voice was barely recognizable. “I’m so sorry.”

“Esme, you were blindsided by your mom and then heard your worst fear come to life. The universe has a bitchy sense of humor for that kind of timing, but the last thing you need to do is apologize.” That was Rylan.

I let Avery try to wipe my tears. “I feel so stupid. If I’d waited, or trusted you—”

“Stop, sweetheart.” Luke’s words were ragged. “It’s not your fault. I swear it’s not. It’s just…” He turned away for a second, shoulders heaving. “If something had happened to you and you thought that we didn’t love you, I would never have been able to live with myself. Because we do. I do. I meant it when I said it.”

I closed my eyes, unable to look at them and speak. “I love you,” I said, my entire chest releasing. “I was going to tell you I chose you when you came home. Eva knew about it, but no one else, and I’m sorry.”

Kade came up on the other side of the bed and wrapped one of my hands in both of his. He lifted it to his lips and kissed my skin. “You’ve apologized enough, baby. We’re just happy you’re safe.”

“You found me.”

“We did. Scared the hell out of us.”

Pressing my lips together, I blew out a shaky breath. “I’m going to feel embarrassed for a while. Figure it’s best to warn you.”

Ben stepped forward, and Avery laid me gently back, letting Ben close. “You’re not the only one.” He pressed his forehead against mine, and I breathed in the sweet scent of vanilla. “I was the one who answered first, and that’s what you heard, right?”


“I’m the one who’s sorry,” he whispered. “I can’t even think about it, knowing it was my voice that broke your heart.”

Reaching up, I got my arms around his neck, though the angle was awkward. “I should have known,” I breathed. “None of you gave me a reason not to trust you. It was my own fucked up brain, and it felt like everything was falling apart.”

They were all touching me now, somewhere on my body. I was still weepy because it was like whiplash. Shame was and would cling to me while it was raw, but they were here, and I knew they weren’t going anywhere.

“So you’re coming home with us, baby girl?” Avery finally asked.

“Yes, please. And—” I stopped myself from blurting out the thought.

“Oh no,” Luke said. “What was that thought?”

I looked at all of them one by one. “I don’t really want to wait for a bonding ceremony. I just want all of you.”

Kade grinned. “The press will be so disappointed.”

“Yeah, well, they can go fuck themselves,” I said.

“That’s my girl,” Ben said.

Eva poked her head in the doorway. “Everything going okay in here?”

I laughed at the suspicion on her face. “Yes, it is.”

“Thank all the fucking cupcakes in the land. I was going to have to smack all of you down if you said differently.”

Raising an eyebrow, I stared at her. “Oh really?”

“Don’t give me that look. I can take you down.”

“Only because I have a sprained ankle,” I muttered, and Ben coughed to cover his laughter.

Eva stepped inside. “But I came to tell you there’s someone here to see you.”

Just beyond the door, I saw my mother. She was looking at me, and I barely recognized her. There wasn’t any polish. She was soaked with rain, clothes messy, and it looked like she’d been crying.

I looked back at my sister. “You talked to her?”

“Yeah, I did.”


She swallowed and nodded. “I think you should talk to her.”

My heart stuttered. “Okay.”

Ben leaned down and kissed my hair. “We’ll be right outside if you need us.”

“Hopefully making it so I can go home?” I asked.

Luke nodded. “On it.”

They filed out past my mother, and she smiled hesitantly at them. But that’s what it was. Hesitance and not something fake.

She hovered in the door until Eva left too, shooting me an encouraging smile.

Mom shut the door and looked like she was steadying herself. Finally, she turned to me, eyes watery. “I owe you an apology, Esme.”

“Yes, you do.” I wasn’t going to sugarcoat it.

She took a step closer. “I’m sorry. Especially for this morning. I… I honestly don’t even know what I was thinking. It was so clear, and now I can’t find a single reason that makes sense.”

“I just don’t understand why, Mom.”

She smiled briefly. “I won’t make excuses for it, but I was trying to protect you in my own way. Your dad and I—” She broke off and cleared her throat. “We had a plan for how we were going to help you guys find packs. It still involved a matchmaker, but the way we’d talked, it was going to be led by the two of you.”

Slowly, she walked around the bed and sat in the chair Eva had been in. “When he passed, I still wanted to do everything we planned. And then Eva met her pack, and I was running out of time. I thought—I had myself convinced the best way for you to find someone was the way we’d designed. And when you brought them over, it was like…” She shook her head. “It was like I was being replaced? Like everything I’d tried to do wasn’t good enough. Like your father’s spirit was right there telling me I’d failed you by not finding you a pack.”

“Mom, Dad would never say that.”

“I know.” Her eyes were glassy with tears. “I know that.”

We sat in silence for a moment, and she found her voice. “When you left earlier, it was like someone had finally turned a light on in my head. How did I get to a place where both my daughters were disappointed in me? How did I manage to lose the only two people I have left? And I looked at myself. Really looked at myself. I haven’t been a very good mother to you, Esme.”

I blinked back my own tears. “I miss him too, you know. It hasn’t been easy doing it without him. The stuff about people wanting Eva had started before he died, and the stuff with Aaron, but it got so much worse. And it was like I was disappearing.

“I don’t hate you, Mom. I just want you to see me.”

She stood, dragging me into a hug. “I see you, Esme. I promise I see you. And this pack you’ve chosen, they’re a good one. I looked at the files. They came in handy even though my intentions weren’t good. It was hard to watch you and them because I recognize what it’s like. Both you and Eva, you have what I had, and I miss it.”


She held me for a long time, and I couldn’t actually remember the last time we’d done this—been this close for this long. My mom’s scent was delicate. Like lilies. It was where the floral elements of my and Eva’s scents came from.

“I hope you can forgive me,” Mom said. “I want to know your pack, and I want you to be so much happier than you’ve been.”

“I am happy,” I whispered. “Today notwithstanding. And yes, I forgive you. It doesn’t mean it won’t hurt for a while.”

“I know.”

When she pulled away, I looked at her, wrinkled and mussed. It was the first time I saw my real mother in a long time.

“When Eva told me you were gone, I didn’t know what to do with myself.”

“I lost my mind a little. But that wasn’t all on you. I’ve got it back now.”

She laughed softly. “Good.”

“Also, don’t kill me, please.”


“I don’t want a bonding ceremony.”

Mom waved a hand. “That, at the very least, I knew. Getting you to do a big event would have been like pulling teeth. I’ll only ask one thing.”

I waited.

“After it’s done, have some pictures done with all of you. You’ll want them later. I promise.”

Nodding, I held out a hand, and she took it. “We can do that.”

She looked at the door. “I don’t want to take you from your pack for too long. Eva told me what happened. I’m sorry you’ve had to go through all of this. And I’m sorry for all of it, but even in my desperation, if I’d known what happened with Aaron, I never would have brought his pack in.”

“Thanks, Mom.”

Patting my hand, she started for the door. “Lunch once you can walk again?”

“Yes. But please, for the love of god can we go somewhere other than Aurelia’s?”

She made a face. “I’ll think about it.”

Outside I heard soft words, my mother’s voice and others. They were too quiet to be heard, but I hoped she was apologizing to them, too. She would love them once she got to know them.

Rylan poked his head inside. “You okay?”

“That depends on how long I have to stay in the hospital.” I wasn’t a fan of hospitals, and I wasn’t dying, apparently. So I wanted to go home.

Avery came in. “They want to keep you overnight.”


“Because you were delirious and had a fever when we brought you in. They want to make sure you’re not developing an infection even though the fever broke.”

I sighed deeply. “Fine.”

“Don’t worry, baby girl.” Avery leaned down and kissed me lightly. “We’ll all be here with you.”

“You don’t have to be,” I said. “Hospitals aren’t comfortable, and all five of you don’t need to have sore backs because I’m an idiot.”

Avery’s eyes hardened as much as they could for a teddy bear Alpha. “If you keep calling yourself that, I’m going to spank you when we get home, and it will be one to remember.”


He laughed. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“How did you end up down there?” Kade asked. “It didn’t seem voluntary.”

“No. I was just standing watching the river. I was about to turn around and head back. There was too much water built up. I sank into the mud and the hole I made must have allowed all of it to dissolve the dirt. The bank crumbled underneath me. My ankle got caught on the roots of the tree on the way down.”

“You’re lucky it wasn’t worse.”

“I know. What did my mom say?”

They all sat, some of them bringing in chairs from the hallway in order to do it. “She apologized, and said she wants to redo dinner without her being an asshole,” Luke said with a grin. “Her words, not mine.”

“It’ll be a little while,” I said. “I forgave her, but I’m not ready for that.”

Avery had my hand, thumb drawing circles on the back of it. “If you’re still tired you can sleep. We’re not going anywhere.”

I was tired, but I didn’t want to close my eyes in case I lost them again. Still, like his words lifted the exhaustion to the surface, it fell over me like a heavy blanket. “Don’t let me go?”

He squeezed my hand. “Never, Esme.”


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