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Shadows of the pack novel Chapter 52

The weeks that passed by had been awfully quiet, each wolf going about their different lives. The stillness hung in the air like a heavy fog clouding their vision from seeing what was coming.
Ryder wrapped his strong, protective hands around Lydia, pulling her close to him. Their bodies fit together perfectly, as if they were two puzzle pieces destined to be joined. He gazed into her eyes, mesmerized by the depth of their connection. Slowly, he leaned in and gently placed a kiss on her lips, savoring the softness and warmth they offered.
Lydia's smile illuminated her face as she looked up at Ryder. "It never gets old, does it?" she whispered, her voice filled with a hint of playful mischief.
"Never," Ryder replied, his voice filled with equal parts tenderness and desire. He couldn't help but be captivated by Lydia's beauty, both inside and out. He bent his head once more, his lips seeking hers with an urgency fueled by love and longing. As their mouths melded together, Lydia let out a soft moan, which only fueled the fire burning within Ryder.
However, their intimate moment was abruptly interrupted by a knock on the door, shattering the tranquility they had briefly found. Ryder sighed in frustration, his grip on Lydia reluctantly loosening. "Who is it?" he called out, annoyance tainting his voice.
"Aria," came the reply from behind the door.
Ryder frowned, his patience wearing thin. "What can I help you with, Aria?" he asked, his tone tinged with irritation but he got no reply.
"Not even a little moment of peace." Ryder muttered under his breath before opening the door.
Aria gave him a wry smile as the door swung open. "Hey, Ryder," she greeted, "Can I steal Lydia for a moment?"
Ryder's frown deepened, his wolf growling within his head. "Why do you need Lydia?" he questioned, a protective edge creeping into his voice.
Sensing the tension between the two, Lydia gracefully moved to the door, gently pushing her mate aside with a tender smile. "Of course, Aria," she responded, her voice warm and accommodating. "I will be with you in a moment. Just let me get dressed."
Aria nodded, a hint of gratitude in her eyes for Lydia's understanding. The door closed behind Lydia, leaving Ryder alone with his thoughts and his simmering frustration. He folded his arms across his broad chest, his expression a mixture of annoyance and longing.
"We were in the middle of something," he grumbled, his voice laced with longing and a tinge of disappointment.
Lydia turned to face him, her eyes dancing with mischief as she threw him a flirty glance. "Were we?" she teased, a knowing smile tugging at the corners of her lips.
Ryder's irritation grew, his wolf stirring within him. "Lydia," he warned, his voice a low rumble that reverberated through the room.
Undeterred, Lydia took a step closer, closing the distance between them. She stood on her tiptoes, her lips barely grazing his earlobe as she whispered, "It will just be for a minute, Ryder." Her warm breath tickled his skin, sending shivers down his spine. "Just a momentary interruption. And then," she continued, her voice laced with a promise, "as soon as Knox and Aria mate, you'll have all the time to do everything you want to do to me."
A surge of desire coursed through Ryder's veins at Lydia's words, his self-control wavering. Her voice dropped to a seductive murmur, and she nibbled gently on his earlobe, causing a low groan to escape his lips. "All the wicked things you love to do," she added, her voice laced with a hint of playful challenge.
Ryder's resolve faltered, his restraint slipping away like sand through his fingers. He knew he couldn't deny Lydia's request, for he loved her too deeply to deny her anything. Reluctantly, he released his grip on her, his eyes fixed on her retreating form as she strutted out of the room.
Lydia stepped outside, her footsteps light on the cobblestone pathway that led to the bench beneath the sprawling tree. The golden hues of the setting sun cast a warm glow on the scene, creating a serene atmosphere. She spotted Aria sitting alone on the bench, her eyes fixed on the distance, lost in her thoughts.
Aria looked up as Lydia approached, a small smile lighting up her face. Her eyes were filled with curiosity, tinged with vulnerability. Lydia smiled warmly, taking a seat beside her, the wooden bench creaking softly beneath their weight.
"Hey, Aria," Lydia greeted, her voice soft and inviting. "Is everything alright?"
Aria's gaze met Lydia's, a mixture of longing and uncertainty dancing in her eyes. She took a deep breath, the crisp evening air filling her lungs before she found the courage to speak her mind.
"I've been thinking, Lydia," Aria began, her voice barely above a whisper. "What does it feel like to be mated?"
Lydia's eyes softened, a spark of understanding igniting within her. She reached out, her hand finding Aria's shoulder in a comforting gesture.
"Aria, being mated is unlike anything else," Lydia explained, her voice filled with warmth. "It's like finding a missing piece of your soul, a connection that transcends words or actions. When you're mated, you share a bond that's unbreakable, a deep understanding that defies explanation."
Aria leaned in, her body language eager and open. She wanted to understand, to grasp the intangible connection Lydia spoke of. She longed to feel that level of intimacy, to be seen and cherished for who she truly was but she was so scared of forming the bond with Knox.
"But isn't it scary?" Aria asked, her voice laced with vulnerability. "To be so intimately connected to someone? What if it doesn't work out? What if it's too overwhelming?"
Lydia leaned back against the bench, her eyes fixed on the slowly darkening sky. Memories washed over her, a bittersweet reminder of the journey she and Ryder had taken to build their bond.
"It can be terrifying," Lydia admitted, a hint of nostalgia in her voice. "Opening your heart to someone, trusting them completely, it's never easy. But the beauty of the bond is that it's built on love, trust, and a deep sense of belonging. It's finding solace in each other, even when the world feels uncertain and chaotic."
Aria's fingers toyed nervously with the hem of her shirt, her eyes fixed on the ground as she contemplated Lydia's words. She couldn't deny the allure, the yearning deep within her own heart. Yet, fear held her back, its icy grip refusing to let go.
"What if I'm not ready, Lydia?" Aria confessed, her voice trembling with raw honesty. "What if I'm afraid to let someone in, to give so much of myself to another person?"
Lydia's hand found Aria's, intertwining their fingers gently. She squeezed it reassuringly, offering her unwavering support and understanding.
"Aria, I understand your fears," Lydia said, her voice filled with empathy. "It's normal to be scared of the unknown, especially when it involves matters of the heart. But deep down, I believe your wolf longs for that connection. It's calling out for love, for the bond that will bring you both peace and strength."
Aria's eyes glistened with unshed tears, her emotions on the precipice of release. Lydia's words struck a chord within her, igniting a sense of hope and possibility she had long suppressed.
"Lydia, I've been through so much," Aria confessed, her voice trembling. "I'm scared of getting hurt again, of losing myself in someone else. But you're right, my wolf... she's been going crazy, craving that connection. Maybe it's time I faced my fears and allowed myself to embrace what I truly desire but there is still a part of me that just won't budge."
Lydia looked at Aria with a compassionate gaze, her mind racing to find the right words to ease her friend's worries. She understood the conflicting emotions Aria was grappling with, the desire to embrace love and connection while guarding herself against potential pain.
"Aria, it's completely okay to feel hesitant," Lydia said softly, her voice filled with reassurance. "Taking that leap requires courage and vulnerability, and it's a journey that unfolds at your own pace. It's important to honor your feelings and give yourself the time and space you need to fully trust and open your heart."
Aria nodded, a mix of gratitude and uncertainty in her eyes. The weight of her past experiences still lingered, casting a shadow over her hopes for the future. She took a deep breath, searching for solace in the bond of friendship that she shared with Lydia.
"I just don't want to lose myself, Lydia," Aria admitted, her voice tinged with a hint of sadness. "I've fought so hard to find my own strength and independence. I don't want to give that up for Knox. What if it's too much? I didn't feel this way when it came to forming the bond with Liam. With Knox everything is just frightening."
Lydia's expression softened, her understanding deepening as she listened to Aria's heartfelt concerns. She reached out, placing a comforting hand on Aria's arm.
"Aria, forming a bond doesn't mean losing yourself," Lydia said gently, her voice unwavering. "A healthy bond is one that complements and supports your individuality. It's about finding someone who appreciates and cherishes the person you are, encouraging your growth and embracing your independence. You can still maintain your strength and identity within the bond. I have known Knox for the longest time. Beneath the hard exterior he puts up is a man that loves with all his heart. I saw him with Becca—"
Lydia stopped as a low growl escaped Aria's throat.
"I didn't mean to."
"Your wolf doesn't like the sound of another female's name especially not the one that has history with Knox. I understand."
"It's not just that.My wolf had been acting weird and I'm trying to understand."
"I'm sure she just wants the bond. Maybe you should stop denying her. The bond is a beautiful thing."
Aria's gaze met Lydia's, a flicker of hope returning to her eyes. The doubts that had clouded her mind began to dissipate, replaced by a newfound belief in her ability to navigate the complexities of love and connection.
"I want to believe that," Aria whispered, her voice filled with determination. "I want to find a love that empowers me and makes me feel alive. I just need to trust myself and the choices I make."
Lydia smiled, her voice filled with unwavering support. "You have incredible strength and resilience, Aria. Trust that you will make the right choices for yourself. And remember, you don't have to rush into anything. Take the time you need to fully embrace the love and connection you deserve."
As they sat there, a sense of calm settled over them. The evening sky transformed into a tapestry of stars, casting a gentle glow on their faces. Aria felt a newfound sense of peace, knowing that she had a friend like Lydia by her side and she knew exactly what she was going to do.
Suddenly, the distant sound of howling reached their ears, drawing their attention to the edge of the woods where the other members of their pack were gathered. Aria's gaze flickered with curiosity as she realized something significant must be happening.
"What's going on?"
Lydia threw her head back in laughter, "It's Ryder. I think I've taken enough of his time. He wants me back."
Aria smiled, "So that's what it's like?"
Aria didn't need to say anything further, Lydia understood, "Yes. The bond makes you happy."
The howl sounded again.
A brilliant smile finally graced Aria's face, "And extremely needy I guess."
Lydia returned the smile, "Go to Knox and just exist in the moment."
Aria got up, determination fueling her steps.
She felt it, she knew that she wanted the bond but now she wanted it more than anything.
In her haste she walked right into someone.
Sarah narrowed her eyes at her and then something shifted in the air.
"You are—"
Aria glared the older wolf down, "I'm really not in the mood for you today?"
Sarah's eyes softened.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" Aria asked her.
"You've not felt?"
Aria blinked confused, "Felt what?"
Suddenly her wolf let and she finally understood why her wolf had been acting weird.  She froze knowing the exact words that would come out from Sarah's mouth.
"The change. You are pregnant Aria."


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