Knox's footsteps echoed through the quiet hallway as he made his way towards Aria. Concern etched deep lines on his face as he approached her, his eyes searching hers for any signs of distress. Aria, lost in her thoughts, looked up, startled by his presence.
"Knox," she said softly, offering a weak smile. "I didn't expect to see you here."
He nodded, his gaze lingering on her, his concern evident. "I wanted to make sure you were alright. After what happened."
He kept quiet for a second before he continued, "I don't need to ask if you heard."
Aria sighed, "I don't understand how I am capable of taking away someone's wolf. Aren't we bound for life?"
"You didn't take his wolf. Whatever that thing around your neck is doing to you is responsible. But I need to know if you are okay Aria."
Aria sighed, her shoulders sagging. "I don't know honestly. I keep staring at my hands wondering what else they are capable of. I need to go back and find Mira. It's the only way to break the spell of the Shadowbane Crystal and save every wolf from myself.0"
Knox's expression darkened, his jaw clenching with unease. "I heard about it, that is another reason I'm here. You can't do it."
Aria folded her arms, "And why can't I?" He ran a hand through his hair. Aria's fingers twitched wanting to do the same before she turned her focus to him, " I understand the importance of this, Aria. But it's dangerous. Going back in time... it's unpredictable. You could be putting yourself in even greater peril."
Aria met his gaze, her determination unwavering. "I know the risks, Knox. But I can't stand by and watch everyone around me suffer. They will continue to live in fear of what I'm capable of. That wolf at the cloth shop I didn't even know when I killed her. The threats are never going to stop so I have to try."
Silence settled between them, heavy with unspoken emotions. Finally, Knox broke the stillness, his voice low and vulnerable. "Aria, there's something I need to tell you. It's about the mating bond."
Aria's heart skipped a beat as she listened intently, her eyes locked with his. She could sense the weight of his words before he even spoke them.
"I vowed never to form the mating bond again," Knox confessed, his voice laced with a mixture of pain and regret. "After what happened with Becca and then I found out she faked her own death to be with someone else. It shattered me, Aria. I vowed never to open myself up to that kind of pain again."
Aria's heart ached for him, for the anguish he had endured. She reached out a hand, her fingers gently tracing his jawline, feeling the tension beneath her touch. "Knox, I'm so sorry for what you've been through. But you can't let your past dictate your future. Our connection... it's different. I can feel it. There's something special between us."
Knox's eyes softened, vulnerability seeping through his defenses. He leaned closer, his hand brushing a strand of hair from her face, his touch gentle and comforting. "You're right, Aria. There is something special between us. Something I can't deny any longer."
The tension between them thickened, the air crackling with unspoken desires. Aria's heart raced, anticipation and longing intertwining within her.
In that moment, Knox closed the remaining distance between them, his lips capturing hers in a tender yet passionate kiss.
Aria smiled when he pulled away, "My wolf likes your wolf."
Aria looked down blushing as she remembered what happened when his wolf chased hers into the woods.
"I still don't like the ideas of you going to see this witch alone. Anyone that is capable of creating such a weapon of destruction—"
"You don't worry about her being alone."
Knox and Aria turned. Shana stood with a determined look on her face, "I have spoken to Elizabeth. I am going in with Aria."
Elizabeth stood before Aria and Shana, her eyes filled with a mixture of concern and determination. "To journey into the past and meet Mira, you must both be in a deep slumber," she explained, her voice carrying a weight of ancient wisdom. "Only then can I transport your spirits across the chasm of time."
Aria glanced at Shana, a mixture of anticipation and nervousness swirling within her. Shana, who had once called this ancient time period her home, had a far-off look in her eyes, a mix of nostalgia and trepidation.
Elizabeth motioned for them to lie down, their bodies resting side by side on plush furs. She began to chant an ancient incantation, her voice weaving through the air with a haunting melody. As the rhythm of her words increased, Aria felt her eyelids grow heavy, succumbing to the embrace of slumber.
When Aria finally awoke, the world around her had transformed. Vibrant hues of green and gold painted the landscape, and the air carried a scent of wildflowers and untamed wilderness. The towering trees whispered ancient secrets, their branches swaying in a gentle breeze.
She sat up, her senses immediately alive with wonder. This was a world untouched by modern civilization, a realm steeped in the raw beauty of nature's untamed grace. The sights and sounds transported her to a time long forgotten, filling her with a mixture of awe and reverence.
Beside her, Shana stirred, her eyes fluttering open. Aria could see a flicker of emotions crossing Shana's face, a deep connection to this time and place that Aria could only begin to comprehend. It was as if Shana had returned to her roots, to the very essence of her being.
Aria took Shana's hand, their fingers intertwining. "Shana, are you okay?"
Shana stayed still, simply staring.
Aria asked another question."How does it feel to be back here, to the time and place where you originally came from?"
Shana's gaze met Aria's, her eyes shining with a mixture of nostalgia and longing. "I don't know. It's overwhelming, Aria. This was once my home, the place where I was born. I can feel the echoes of my past, I never even got a chance to say goodbye. To my parents or to my mate."
Aria squeezed Shana's hand gently, offering silent support. She could only imagine the flood of emotions and memories that Shana must be experiencing at this moment.
Sunlight streamed through the canopy, casting dappled patterns on the forest floor. Everything was without the modern day colors. It was all natural, so beautiful.
Aria's fascination grew. She couldn't help but marvel at the simplicity and purity of this time, unburdened by the complexities of modern life.
"It's not as perfect as it seems, Aria."
Aria sighed, understanding Shana's feelings, "I'm really sorry Shana. If it's too much, you can leave."
Shana shook her head, "She has taken so much from me. I need to face her. I'm not going to run."
Melody and Knox as they sat side by side, their gazes fixed upon the slumbering forms of Shana and Aria. The weight of their shared experiences and the challenges they had faced as a pack hung palpably in the air.
Knox shifted uncomfortably, his voice finally breaking the silence. "I did what needed to be done."
Melody kept quiet, still staring at her friends' bodies. Finally she sighed.
Melody's voice quivered with a mix of sorrow and frustration as she turned her gaze towards Knox, her eyes filled with unshed tears. "I understand that you believed it was the right thing to do, Knox. I get that. But why didn't you give me a chance to say goodbye? Adeline was my mother, and after many years of thinking she was dead. I finally found her again. And now, you've taken her away from me again."
Knox's eyes softened with remorse, and he lowered his head, a heavy weight of guilt settling upon him. "I'm sorry, Melody. You're right. I should have waited, given you the opportunity to have closure. But in that moment, with Julian's shadow looming over us, I acted out of instinct. I thought I was protecting the pack, protecting you."
Melody's voice trembled as she choked back a sob. "I know you were trying to protect us, Knox. But at what cost? Adeline was my family. We had so much lost time to make up for, so many stories left to share. And now, it's all gone."
They sat in silence for a moment, the weight of the situation heavy upon them. The air in the room felt thick with unspoken emotions. Finally, Knox broke the silence, his voice laced with vulnerability. "Do you remember when things were so much easier? The first time father brought you to the pack."
Melody smiled a little at the memory, "I was covered in blood and I was so scared and when he told you that I would be your new sister, you stared at me for a few seconds before stepping forward ame wrapping me in a hug, with all the blood."
Knox smiled, "I knew from that moment that I wanted to protect you. That was why when you betrayed me, it hurt so much. I don't want to feel this rift between us anymore. I know I should have given you a chance to say goodbye. But I did what needed to be done. I need to protect the pack. Protect everyone." His eyes went to Aria.
"You are in love with her." Melody declared.
A small smile graced her lips, "You are looking at her the way you used to look at Becca."
Knox kept quiet so she continued, "Have you decided if you are going to form the bond or not?"
"I am. I am done fighting it and even if I wanted to do otherwise, my wolf won't allow it."
Melody's eyes went to their still figures on the ground, "Do you think they would succeed?"
Knox stared at his mate's face, "I really hope they can. This has gone on for too long. I don't want her to have any more blood on her hands."
"Then maybe we shouldn't have let Shana go with her. Shana isn't there to help Aria. She wants to face Mira."
Knox nodded, "It's something she needs to do. She needs to finally confront her past. I only hope it doesn't take away Aria's chances. There will be a lot of chaos in our world if the other wolves here about her ability."
"I've been thinking. How sure are we that it is the Crystal giving that ability. Has anyone thought maybe it's one of her abilities as a marked wolf. We saw what she did to Sophia causing her to shift back to her human form. Aria holds so much power in her hands, no matter what, she will always be a threat."
Knox tilted his head back in thought, "I never thought about it like that but no matter what, no harm will come to my mate."
Melody smiled fully finally, "So you finally found your Luna."
"We will probably have another mating ceremony to prepare for. I hope they are back in time for Sophia's mating ceremony tomorrow."
"I hope everything goes well." Knox concluded.
"Things are not going well." Shana gritted between her teeth, "Where the hell is she? She used to come here everyday."
Aria placed a comforting hand on Shana's shoulder, "It's okay Shana. We still have a few hours before the spell wears off. We can wait. Why don't we sit and talk about what's going on?"
Shana folded her hand before seating on a stone reluctantly.
Aria started, "So…"
"You wanted to talk right?" Shana bit out.
"I'm not the one you are mad at. You have every right to be angry. She took a lot away from you but you need to understand that I need this because everyday I wake up, I'm scared of what I will do. Whose blood I will spill. I agreed for you to come because I know you need this. But please don't ruin this for me."
"You should listen to your friend Shana. You have always been unreasonable."
Aria and Shana looked up at the witch standing in front of them.
Mira's eyes bore into Shana's, "You haven't aged a bit."
Shana's eyes hardened, "Mira."
A smile finally graced Mira's face, "Long time no see old friend."