Aria's heart raced as she faced Knox, the weight of their unspoken tensions hanging heavy in the air between them. She took a deep breath, her eyes locked onto his, searching for the answers she needed.
"Knox, we need to talk," Aria's voice was soft but resolute, a reflection of the determination that burned within her. She watched as his gaze met hers, different emotions swirling within his beautiful pools.
Her wolf purred, finally happy to be surrounded by her mate's scent, but there was something else— something off about the way he looked at her.
He hesitated for a moment, as if considering his response. Then, he nodded, "Yeah, Aria. We do."
The room seemed to exhale a collective breath, the atmosphere shifting as they acknowledged the necessity of the conversation they were about to have. Aria's fingers curled around the edges of the table.
She took a moment, gathering her thoughts before speaking again. "What's been happening between us, Knox?" Aria's voice was gentle, her intent not accusatory but seeking understanding.
Knox's gaze dropped for a moment, his fingers tracing an absent pattern on the table. When he finally looked up, his expression was a mix of emotions—hesitation, vulnerability, and a hint of regret. "I've been blocking you out, Aria. Keeping my thoughts and emotions guarded."
Aria nodded slowly, her gaze never leaving his face. "Why?" she asked, genuine curiosity lacing her words.
Knox's eyes met hers, a mixture of resignation and protection in his gaze. "I was trying to protect you, Aria. The less you knew, the safer you'd be."
Her wolf bristled at his words, she let out a growl in irritation, "I can't protect our pup if you keep me in the dark, Knox. We need to work together."
You're right," he admitted, his voice carrying a sense of surrender. "I shouldn't have shut you out. But this situation... it's dangerous, and I wanted to shield you from it."
Aria's fingers tightened around the edges of the table, her resolve unwavering. "I understand the risks, Knox. But we're in this together. The pup's safety is our priority. We need your knowledge and guidance."
His gaze met hers and she finally figured out what was wrong, there was a tinge there, something she had never felt from him before —fear.
"You are afraid?" but the way she said it wasn't like a question but a statement.
He let out a sigh, "Yes.Aria, I just... I don't know what to do. I'm afraid. I could hardly protect you when Lucas' threatened to destroy us all and now, our pup is involved. What if I'm not powerful enough?"
Aria took a step closer, her hand reaching out to touch his arm. "Knox, I'm scared too," her voice was sincere, her eyes locked onto his. "Especially now that we have a pup involved. But I'm not letting that fear rule me, and you shouldn't either."
His shoulders sagged further, the weight of his emotions evident. "I know," he said, his voice softer. "The Celestial Eclipse Aria. We lose our ability to shift. What am I without my wolf and what if—"
Aria's fingers curled around his arm, her grip gentle but firm. "We're a team, Knox. We'll face whatever comes together. Your fears are mine, and mine are yours. We'll share the burdens, the challenges, and the triumphs. That's what mates do but you have to stop blocking me out Knox."
Aria's hand remained on Knox's arm, her touch a grounding presence as their conversation took on a newfound clarity. "We'll face everything together, Knox," she said, "Blocking me out won't protect me or our pup. It'll only keep us apart when we need each other the most."
Knox's eyes met hers, "You're right, Aria," he admitted, his voice tinged with a hint of regret. "I should've trusted in our bond more. I won't keep you in the dark anymore."
Her smile was soft, a reflection of her relief and the mending of their fractured connection. Just as they were on the precipice of a newfound understanding, a realization swept over her. Her hand instinctively drifted to her stomach, cradling the life that thrived within her. A spark of joy lit up her eyes.
Knox noticed the shift in her expression, curiosity piqued as he observed her. "What is it, Aria?"
Aria's smile widened, a mixture of delight and wonder playing across her features. "The moon goddess blessed us with a male," she said, her voice carrying a note of joy.
Knox's lips curved into a smile, his eyes softening as he looked at her. "A male," he repeated, his voice warm. "Our pup."
The gravity of the situation lingered in the air, but for a brief moment, their shared realization brought a sense of lightness to the room.
Aria's gaze met Knox's once again, weariness replacing the momentary joy that had passed between them. "A male who will have the power to destroy the realm as they know it," she acknowledged, her voice steady.
Knox's expression grew serious, his eyes locking onto hers. "Yes," he replied, his voice tinged with a hint of solemnity. "But also a male who will have the potential to change its course for the better."
Aria's lips curved into a determined smile, her fingers tightening around Knox's hand. "That's the path we'll guide him towards, Knox. We'll shape his power with wisdom, compassion, and the strength of our bond."
Knox nodded, his gaze unwavering. "Together, Aria. Our bond, our pack, and our love will be his foundation."
The forest was a symphony of rustling leaves and whispering winds as Ryder sprinted through it in his wolf form. His paws pounded against the earth, each rhythmic thud a cathartic release for the tumult of emotions that had been building within him. The moon hung high in the night sky, casting a silvery glow that painted the world in shades of shadow and light.
As he ran, the chaos of the pack's troubles seemed to melt away, replaced by the simple, primal rhythm of his own existence. The wind rushed past him, the scents of the forest filling his senses. For a brief moment, he was free from the weight of his responsibilities, the decisions that had haunted him.
Eventually, his limbs began to slow, and then bones cracked as he shifted into his human form.
It was then that he heard the voice, a sudden intrusion into his solitude. "It had always amazed me how you creatures are able to shift from one form to another so easily."
Ryder's head snapped around, his gaze landing on a figure emerging from the shadows. Nicholas stood there, his gaze fixed on the mark on Ryder's face—the mark that bore the scar of their last encounter.
"The scar didn't heal," Nicholas stated, his voice tinged with a mix of bitterness and something darker.
Ryder's expression tightened as he regarded the young man before him. "And you are?" he inquired, his voice guarded, his muscles tense.
Nicholas' lips curled into a cold smile. "No surprise you've forgotten who I am. With all the lives you've taken, it must be hard to keep track." His eyes flicked to the mark again, his gaze lingering on the scar.
Recognition sparked in Ryder's eyes, memories resurfacing like shards of glass. "You're... the little boy," he whispered, the weight of guilt settling heavily in his chest.
Nicholas' eyes hardened. "I'm not so little anymore."
In an instant, a blade was drawn from the shadows, glinting in the moonlight. Ryder's instincts flared, but he found himself rooted to the spot, the weight of his past actions paralyzing him.
"It was a mistake," Ryder's voice cracked, desperation lacing his words. "I didn't mean to kill your sister. It has haunted me every day since then."
Nicholas' face twisted with rage, his grip on the blade tightening. "Words won't bring her back," he spat, lunging forward with a feral cry.
Ryder's heart raced as the world seemed to slow down. His instincts surged, and he dove to the side, narrowly avoiding Nicholas' blade as it whistled through the air. He stumbled to his feet, his mind racing to find a way to reason with the vengeful young man not wanting to spill blood after the first time.
"It doesn't have to be like this," Ryder panted, his voice strained. "I didn't want her to die. I want to make amends"
Nicholas' eyes blazed with anger, his chest heaving as he advanced again. "Amends?" he scoffed. "There's no amends for taking a life."
Ryder's back pressed against a tree, his heart pounded in his chest. He raised his hands in a gesture of surrender, his eyes locked onto the blade that glinted dangerously in Nicholas' grip, "I don't want to harm you. I am not your enemy and I won't fight you."
Nicholas' lips twisted into a malicious grin as he raised the blade high, the moonlight catching its edge. "This is for my sister," he whispered and then he plunged the silver blade into Ryder's chest.