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Forty-Three

Roman

       My thoughts were a jumbled mess in my head, tangled around each other in a ball.

           From my place high up in a tree, I stared at the sun. It was casting a faint orange glow over the pale blue waves, which were crashing on the shore.

           I pulled the little folded note out of my pocket. It was crinkled, having sat in my pocket for months. It had dropped in the ocean and dried up again, so I could see the black smears through the paper.

           A rogue tear slipped down my cheek. I wiped it away, refusing to believe I could be weak enough to cry. I must be strong, I decided.

           Ava was with Jace. But could I really blame her? All I’d done was push her away. Any slight chance of Marking her was gone.

            

           I unfolded the note carefully, my rough fingers opening the edges. My ears refused to be forced to hear the tearing sound of that paper.

 

           Joseph had handed me the note a bit before I found Ava. “Roman, you must take this. No! No, not here. Wait. Wait until I tell you to open it.”

           Joseph was more than the Pack’s leader- our Alpha. He had practically been my father for the centuries that my own parents hadn’t been alive for.

           A gust of wind tickled my cheeks, brushing past my unruly hair that I’d let grow too long. The hair of Shifters grew about three times faster than the average human- just a fun fact for you.

           I was stalling. I didn’t want to open the note. As if Joseph’s going to come back from the dead- from the depths of the ocean- and tell you, “Hey, Roman. Remember that note? Yeah, you can open that now, dude. Don’t worry about it. Go right ahead.

           I sighed and let my eyes wander across the page. You’re reading this at a time when the information I’m going to give you is important. Firstly, I’m sorry. If you are reading this, it probably means that I am no longer with you. Maybe we’ve lost each other, maybe we’ve been separated, or perhaps I’ve left you alone in the world. Once again, I apologize. Roman, you are a crucial part of the Pack. Don’t fight Jace. Don’t fight him- are you listening to me? Do not let anything come between the two of you because you have been teammates for centuries, friends. Brothers. Don’t lose him, too, Roman. How much loss can a person take before they break?

           I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you this sooner, but the Seer insisted I wait. Who it is, is not important. The Seer told me that she saw you and Jace battling- against each other. One of you will die. She said she couldn’t see which one, that there was an “explosion of light” but I cannot tell you the true outcome. Maybe she was prohibited from viewing such results.

           However, I can tell you this- You cannot afford to fight with him. He is to be named Alpha. I’ve spoken with him, and you have to convince him to choose his mate wisely. She must be a key member in the pack.

           You, also, will be his right-hand man, so to speak. Do not disagree with each other. 

           I am sorry for all of this. I cannot begin to tell you how much.

           Keep Jace close.

Sincerely,

                                  Joseph

P.S. I plan on gifting Jace with his note- similar to yours- on a later date.

           Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. It was that simple pattern that kept me from wrenching the branch off the tree, it was that simple pattern that kept me from death.

Ava

    My mind was clouded. I kissed Jace once more before standing and pulling off the tank top that was way too small. I tossed it onto the bed and said, “Jace, take off your shirt.”

           He smiled. “Ava, I told you, I simple can’t control-“

          I rolled my eyes and nudged him with my elbow. “Damn it, I need a shirt that isn’t going to suffocate me. Just give me your t-shirt.”

           He shrugged out of his white t-shirt and handed it to me. I pulled it over my head. Hmm smells like ocean and… Jace. I know this sounds totally pathetic, but… my heart fluttered in my chest. There, I said it. My heart fluttered like a little butterfly’s wings.

           I allowed my gaze to return to Jace. “You know, we could trade. You could wear the tank top, and I’ll keep your shirt.”

           He rolled his eyes. “At least your shirt wasn’t completely transparent. White on pink?” he asked.

          I blushed as I realized my pink bra was, indeed, showing through the shirt. “Oh, look at that.” I shrugged. “Better find out where my bags of new clothes are, then, shouldn’t-“

           A knock sounded at the door, interrupting me. Jace sighed, the joking mood suddenly gone.

           “Come in,” I called, moving towards the door.

            Victoria threw open the door and tossed her manicured hands into the air. “Ava!”

           “Hi.”

           “Wow, thanks for the greeting. Hey, Jace, I’ve been looking everywhere for you! I thought you’d be with Joseph doing whatever, eh, pack business.”

           “Oh…” I muttered.

           “Roman didn’t…” Jace’s voice faltered.

           She raised her perfectly-sculpted eyebrow. “What? What aren’t you telling me?”

           “Joseph’s gone,” I whispered.

           Jace said, “Our boat capsized.” His voice cracked, a tear sliding down his face. “We ended up swimming the rest of the way to the island.” I rubbed his arm with my hand, offering a touch of comfort. He took my hand gratefully and squeezed tightly. I didn’t object.

           “He’s… dead? But he’s immortal. How-“

           “He’s gone, Victoria. Being immortal just means that you won’t die from natural causes,” Jace mumbled.

           Her eyes widened. “Jace, are you or R-“ I wasn’t completely sure what she was asking.

Jace

           I didn’t need her to finish the sentence. Victoria had a right to know who her new Alpha would be. “Me,” I told her.

           Ava looked a bit puzzled, which was expected. Victoria, however, I could not read. “Oh.”

           “You sound disappointed,” I said.

           “No, no, not at all,” she said, too quickly.

           “Do not fear me, Victoria. I’m the same person I was two weeks ago.”

           She nodded, refusing to meet my eyes. She was admitting that I was dominant. Yes, I kept a dominant standing in the pack- but I had for centuries. This is Alpha. This is different, I thought. I squeezed my eyes shut, my hand still holding Ava’s. But I don’t want it.

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