“Dre! Where have you been? I think I found something!”
Maya pulled the phone away from her ear and waited until it was quiet before speaking. “Umm, hello? This is Maya. Andrei is in the bathroom right now. Can I take a message?”
There was a slight pause before Eva said, “Oh, sorry. Hello Maya.”
Maya smiled. She hadn’t met any of Dre’s family yet but he talked about them often. When his phone started to ring, the words “SISTER” flashed across the screen and her curiosity got the better of her. “Hi. It’s so nice to finally talk to you. Dre has told me so much about you.”
Eva chuckled. “Has he now? None of it is true. I never turned him into a frog – that was Tony. Dre always gets that incident wrong.”
Maya laughed. She sounded just like he’d described. Maya heard the bathroom door open and turned to see Dre walk out with a towel wrapped around his waist. “He just got out of the shower. Would you like to speak to him?”
“Oh, yes please.”
Maya watched as Dre walked towards her. She would have to ask him about the frog incident. “It was very nice speaking to you, Eva.”
Maya handed the phone to Dre, who lifted an eyebrow and gave her kiss before saying hello to his sister, “Louey!”
Maya smiled and headed into the bathroom. As she walked through the doorway, she felt a slight twinge at her side.
Maya closed her eyes and smiled. Today had been perfect. Every day with Dre was perfect. God, she was so in love with him and now that she was feeling stronger she could let herself see a future with him.
“Sand dollar for your thoughts,” Dre whispered.
“Just thinking of you, of us. Nothing special,” she teased.
He laughed. “Oh really? Well I think you’re pretty special.”
“You’re right. I am awesome.”
Dre reached out a hand and touched the ends of her hair. “Have I ever told you how much in like I am with you?”
Maya smiled sadly, looking down. She’d made him promise not to fall in love with her but they both knew that he was, that they loved each other. But as long as he never said it, she could pretend her dying wouldn’t hurt him. “I like you too, Andrei.”
“Maya, when you’re better, when you are ready, I will make this real. I will make us real. I promise.”
She glanced down, unable to look at him. He said things like that all the time. As if what they had could get better. She couldn’t imagine life being better but she knew he meant marriage and saying “I love you.” She was so ready!
Dre kissed her forehead and started to scoot back. “It’s noon. Let’s go eat and pop some pills.”
He stood and helped her up. She mentally shook off her thoughts and smiled up at him. “Yes sir.”
Maya yawned and turned her head away from the view she’d been contemplating. He woke her up the same way every morning. And with some of her hair finally growing back, she was starting to believe
him. “Good morning.”
“What do you want for breakfast?”
“Hmmm, a kiss.”
Dre laughed. He had such a beautiful laugh, deep, resonating and joyful. He walked over to the bed and leaned down to kiss her. She leaned up and met him halfway. As she shifted closer, wrapping her arms around his neck, she felt a sharp pain in her stomach and gasped.
“Maya?” The smile turned into a concerned frown. “You’ve been having these pains for a couple of days now. I think I should call the doctor.”
“No, it’s okay. It’s just a spasm, see? I’m fine, it’s already gone.”
It wasn’t fine. The pain was a constant fire in her abdomen, but she didn’t want to ruin this time with him. She’d be fine for a few weeks. He looked at her skeptically before saying, “This is such bullshit timing but Maya, there’s something I have to go deal with for a couple of weeks and this isn’t something I can avoid. Do you think…”
“Where are you going?”
“Just to see someone.”
“Is it your dad? Is he okay? Or do you need to go see Eva again? I’ll go with you. I can handle the boat ride. I think maybe if we just had a bigger boat…”
“My family is fine. It’s not that. I have – I think it would be better for me to go alone.”
He was avoiding her question. Her eyes narrowed and she searched his face from some clue as to what was going on. When he wouldn’t look at her, suspicion started to claw at her. Was he finally tired of her saying no all the time? Once she was off the hard meds and she’d gained some of her weight back, they’d tried the sex thing again. But it had been uncomfortable for her.
She knew a large part of it was mental. She didn’t feel desirable, no matter what Dre’s body was communicating. She’d been so embarrassed that she hadn’t wanted to try again. At least not that. They’d done some heavy petting and he’d seemed okay with that. Was he going to the mainland to find – no. He wasn’t like that. He wouldn’t do that.
She didn’t even know why she was thinking about it, except she was feeling like her old self again. The bags under her eyes were gone, she didn’t have to draw in her eyebrows anymore and she was starting to fill out her clothes again. She’d been shoring up her courage to broach the subject with him. Was she too late?
“Dre, just tell me. It’s okay, I promise.” Dear God let it not be that.
“I have to go to Roaring Heights to be with my pack.” He passed a hand through his hair, a nervous gesture. “I have to go see my…I have to go back to Ariany.”
She frowned. Why did that name sound so familiar? “Wait, isn’t she the one who kidnapped Cinder? You’re part of her pack?”
That made no sense. He never once talked about being in a pack. In fact, they never talked about anything wolf related. “Why do you have to go? Can’t you just stay here, with me?”
“Maya, I would if I could. You have no idea how badly I want to. But I’m bound to her.” He got up and started to pace around the room.
“Bound to her how?”
“Like for life. Or until she isn’t the wulfric anymore.” He looked thoughtful as he said that.
Maya’s brain was going a mile a minute. He was bound to some woman for life? “You’re married?”
“No, not really. Sort of.”
“How can you be sort of married?”
Her eyes widened before she turned to look out the window. Of course the man she fell in love with would be married. She sighed, “Of course you are.”
“Maya, it’s not a relationship that I want. I was tricked into it. I wouldn’t go at all except I swore -”
“Andrei, I’m too tired and too sick to deal with this.” She cut him off. “Just go. I’ll be fine by myself for a couple of weeks.”
She would not be fine, but she wouldn’t make a fool of herself in front of him. And now, because she was so trusting, she was stuck on this island. She couldn’t get back on a boat, not now, not with the seasickness.
“I’ll be back soon. I promise. Two weeks, tops.”
“It doesn’t matter. Just go.” She closed her eyes, not wanting to see him or the room or anything that would remind her how terribly alone she was. She should have gone home with her brother. She should have taken her mother’s offer and went back home.
She could hear him moving around the room, quietly opening drawers and the closet door. It finally grew silent, but she still sensed him. What did he want? She opened her eyes but refused to look at him. Instead, she stared out at the beautiful beach. She would sunbathe today. After he left, she would put on a bikini and just stretch out in the warm sun.
“Maya…” When she didn’t answer, he walked over to her side of the bed and crouched down, looking into her eyes. “I am so sorry I’m hurting you right now. I would do anything to stay with you. Anything. Please, just, please try to understand. Maya…”
She reached out to stroke his cheek. He was in such anguish. She felt herself relenting. He really didn’t want to leave. “Then don’t go,” she whispered.
He leaned into her touch, closing his eyes. She scratched his stubble – he liked it when she did that – and she was rewarded with a small smile. He turned his head and kissed the palm of her hand. When she didn’t pull away, he got up and crawled in with her, pushing her into the middle of the bed.
“Dre…” She warned him but he just kept coming, eyes glowing. She dragged herself back until she was lying in the center of the bed, Dre leaning over her, staring down at her. His arms made a cage around her upper body, but he held himself up. She was grateful for that small concession. There was no way she could support his weight if he chose to lie flush against her.
When he leaned down to kiss her, she turned her head to the side. He couldn’t seriously think they were okay. She started to tell him no, but he made a low sharp sound and she realized he was growling at her. He was actually growling at her!
She turned back to him and frowned curiously. His head tilted to the side and he growled again. It wasn’t very threatening, just a low short growl, like he was more irritated than angry. Look at me, the fricking werewolf whisperer. “What? What do you want?”
He bared his teeth and leaned down, pressing his nose to her neck. What the – was he sniffing her? She moved her head as far away from him as she could, but all that did was expose more of her throat to him.
His response was to touch one of her pulse points with the tip of his tongue. Okay, this was getting out of hand. If she wasn’t so emotionally numb already, she would probably be scared or disgusted, but all she felt was anger. How dare he tell her he was married and then lick up her body as if she was his damn dessert!
She turned back to face him, effectively barring him access to her neck and collarbone. Whatever the hell was happening needed to stop. She glared at him. She’d known him for a little over a year. Never once had he changed in front of her, talked about his pack or his wife, certainly never growled at her. Now in the space of twenty minutes he’d done them all. He growled again and bent down to sniff her. He lifted a hand and traced the edge of her shirt with a finger. When he curled the finger around the collar, she decided enough was enough.
“Get off me.” She pushed against him and was growled at again. Beyond frustrated with him, she growled back. A look of surprised confusion crossed his face and he sat back.
She lay there for a minute, staring at the ceiling, confused herself. Had that actually worked?
“Maya?” When she looked over at him, his eyes were back to normal. “I am so sorry!” He jumped off the bed and backed up until he was by the windows. “Fuck.”
She got out of bed and pulled on her bathrobe. It made her feel safer, less exposed to him.
He shook his head. “I think…fuck! Seriously, now?”
He started cursing, pacing back and forth in front of her. Up until now, she’d been only slightly alarmed, but he was starting to really scare her. “What’s wrong with you?”
He frowned and looked up at her. His expression went from panicked, to surprised to thoughtful. “Maya, how would you feel…?” He shook his head and started over, “Maya, I -”
“What? Just tell me.”
“I love you. I…my wolf wants to…mate with you?” He made it sound like a question, like he wasn’t sure.
She stared at him, her mind racing. She felt like Alice in Wonderland. He had to be kidding; didn’t he just say he was already mated? “You’re an asshole, Andrei.”
She turned away from him and walked into the bathroom.
He was such a jerk! She fumed while doing some pacing of her own. How dare he! How dare he say that to her after admitting that he was married and that he had to leave and go back to his wife! How dare he do this to her knowing…
They’d had an agreement! It was one thing to know you loved someone who was dying; it was completely unfair to tell her. What was she going to do, live because he loved her? She took a shuddering breath. She couldn’t deal. Like she told him earlier, she was too sick to have to worry about all this stuff and she wished he would just leave already.
As if reading her mind, he knocked on the door. “Maya, I’m leaving now. My cell is on; call me – for any reason. I’m sorry sweetheart.”
She rolled her eyes. Not sorry enough. She remained silent and with a heavy sigh, Dre walked away.
She stayed in the bathroom for another ten minutes, just to make sure he was gone before walking out and crawling back in bed. She was not going to deal with this today. Today she was going to relax and sunbathe. She would not think about all the people that she would leave behind if she died. She would not think about how that list had just grown by one. She would not feel like her heart was breaking at the thought of leaving him. The pain in her side grew worse, but she was too tired to deal with it. She would take a nap and hope it went away.
She was in the kitchen, peeling a cucumber and trying not to cry. She’d done a lot of that since Dre had left her to go to his wife. She couldn’t believe how stupid she’d been. Cinder had been right about him. He couldn’t be trusted. She looked down to see the butchered salad she was trying to make. Giving up on the mess, she walked out to the living room. She was getting tired more easily nowadays.
Reaching for her phone, Maya decided to call her brother and see if he would come and get her. She still got seasick but that was better than staying here. Andrei had called to stay he was heading back today. She hadn’t picked up the first time, but he’d called back, each time more frantic than the last. She’d eventually answered the phone because no matter how angry she was with him, she didn’t want him to worry. But now that she’d had some time to think about it, she didn’t want to be here when he came home.
She walked into the living room and started to dial Kraig’s number when a wave of dizziness suddenly hit her. She had a moment to feel a burst of anger at how unfair life could be before blackness engulfed her and she thought no more.