We sit by the fire and keep warm. I lay on my back and looked up at the stars. Nina lies on her back next to me.
‘I miss my mum and dad.’ Nina says.
‘I miss my family, too.’
‘Would you believe I’m even missing May?’
‘You, miss May? Never.’ I smile.
‘What if it’s months or years until we ever see them again?’
‘We have each other. You and me now against the world until I find my mate.’ I sigh.
‘Yeah.’ Nina frowns and stands up. ‘I’m going to go for a walk.’
‘No, please stay. Some time to myself is what I need. I won’t go far. I promise.’ She says with sadness.
I watch as she wanders further into the darkness of the woods. Why did she become so sad suddenly? She is going through a lot, having no wolf, a curse, and a witch hunt after her. I wish I could hold her, smell her mint and lavender hair, and tell her everything will be okay. If I could choose my fated mate, I would select Nina in a heartbeat.
Nina returns with red puffy eyes. She has been crying.
‘Are you okay?’
‘No, I’m not. I just want to go to sleep.’ She says and lies on the other side of the fire away from me.
Why is she distancing herself from me? Did I say something that upset her?
I don’t fall asleep until she is sound asleep.
When I wake up, it’s the morning. I look over to where Nina slept. She isn’t there.
‘Nina, Nina!’ I yelled. I can’t see her anywhere. ‘Nina!’ I frantically scream.
‘What? Why are you yelling like that?’ she says with hands full of berries. I race over to her, place my hands on her shoulder, and look her up and down.
‘Are you okay? Where’d you go? I thought something bad happened to you?’
‘You were still asleep, so I thought I’d pick us some berries for breakfast.’
I pull her in for a hug, squashing the berries she holds between us. She sighs. ‘Well, there goes our breakfast.’ She says.
‘We can skip breakfast. Let’s just get to the Midnight pack.’
‘Fine… Skedaddle Dash, Skedaddle Dash.’
I keep my eyes closed longer than usual until we are no longer blinking. Then, after a minute, I slowly opened my eyes and was relieved to have no nausea.
‘That’s more like it.’ I smile.
We arrive near the Midnight Packhouse. I can see it further up the road. It’s looking worse for wear and could do with fresh paint.
We walk towards the Packhouse. As I’m about to knock, I realise Nina, and I have been holding hands. When she realises too, she quickly lets go, and her smile fades. I want to ask her what is wrong. As I’m about to, the front door opens.
‘I thought I could smell unfamiliar wolf scents.’
‘Alpha Anslo, it’s been a few years since I’ve seen you.’ I say.
‘Magnus, is that you? So after I thought you couldn’t grow any bigger here, you are, well, bigger.’ He laughs.
‘Come inside and join us for breakfast.’
‘Breakfast is just what we need.’ I smile.
We sit in the guest’s seats at the table.
‘Grab a plate and help yourselves.’ Alpha Anslo says. ‘Other than breakfast, what brings you to the Midnight pack?’
‘I’ve been going to each pack hoping to find my mate.’
‘I see. You are welcome to wander around and see if any of my pack members are lucky enough to be mated with you.’
‘Thank You, Alpha Anslo.’
Nina and I walk around through the Midnight pack territory with full stomachs. Nina drifts behind me. Every time I look at her, I can tell she is forcing a fake smile, but why?
‘Stop staring at me already and find your mate, Magnus.’ She says.
‘Is something wrong, Nina?’
‘No, why would anything be wrong?’ she frowns.
‘I just can’t help but feel there is something you want to tell me?’
Nina hugs herself and looks down.
‘That depends… is there something you want to tell me?’ she says with hope in her voice.
I take a step closer to her, ‘I-I um…’
‘There he is.’ A she-wolf yells.
Half a dozen she-wolves come running up to me. Nina backs away, and her hopeful smile disappears again.
They take his hands and pull him towards the houses as more she-wolves come out. Even though I am being dragged away, I turn my head to watch Nina walk away towards the Packhouse.
She doesn’t want to come with me to meet the she-wolves. I don’t understand why. You would think she would be keen for me to find my mate so I can break her curse once and for all. But I don’t get her sometimes.
After meeting all the available she-wolves, I hadn’t felt my mate bond with them. They were very disappointed that I was their mate. I return to the packhouse.
‘So, tell me, was any of the ladies your mate?’ Alpha Anslo asks.
‘No.’ I sigh.
‘Well, that’s very unfortunate. I wish you luck in the next pack.’
‘Thanks, we should get going.’ I say and look over at Nina. She seems withdrawn. We leave the packhouse and enter the woods.
‘So, which pack are we going to next?’ she asks.
‘Let’s set up camp for the night. We can worry about the next pack in the morning.’
We silently collect sticks together and bundle them up.
‘Inferno Flamo.’ She says, lighting the fire.
She sits on the other side of the fire and avoids eye contact.
‘Nina, I can’t help but feel you have been distancing yourself from me? You have been avoiding me, and you didn’t even want to help me find my mate today. I’m starting to think you don’t want me to break the curse?’
She looks up at me wide-eyed, with her beautiful doe eyes. Her eyes well.
I scoot over to her.
‘What’s wrong? Please tell me?’
‘I don’t want to upset you or worsen the situation.’
‘Nina, seeing you upset is upsetting me. The only time I am ever truly happy is when you are smiling and when we are together?’
‘It hurts when I see all the she-wolves swoon over you. I know you need to find your mate, but I care about you. I always wished as a child you would be my fated mate.’ She sobs.
‘You wished I was your mate?’ I ask as my heart rate rapidly increases. A feeling of happiness washes over me at her words.
‘Yes, it’s stupid. I know.’
I cup her face in my hands, gaze down into her brown eyes, and suddenly realise that I don’t just love Nina as my best friend, but I’m in love with Nina.
‘Nina, I think we can go back home now.’ I smile.
She gives me a look of confusion.
‘But we haven’t found your mate yet?’
‘We don’t need to find her. I have everything I ever dreamed of right in front of me.’
‘Magnus, what are you saying?’ she trembles in shock.
‘Nina, it’s you I love. It’s you who I want to spend the rest of my life with, even if it means I never shift again and you never have your wolf. We don’t need to have the mate bond to know we love each other. I don’t need to feel electricity when we touch, but the warmth of your soft skin. Nina, I want to be with you. I love you.’ I cry.
‘Magnus.’ She sobs. ‘I love you too.’ She says as we stare at each other’s lips.
We kiss with the utmost passion. A crack of lightning strikes a tree nearby, and thunder roars through the sky. Nina wraps her arms around my neck, and I wrap mine around her waist as the kiss intensifies.
Suddenly Nina flinches back and screams in pain as a bone snaps.
She is shifting. The curse is broken.