How the hell had things gone so horribly wrong so fast? After Liam received the news from his mother and the initial shock had worn off, things moved in fast-forward. Liam’s dad was dead. My mate was now the alpha of a pack that was over two thousand miles away from mine, and I had no idea how we were going to work around that.
Aiden got us on the earliest possible flight, but we still didn’t leave until four o’clock the next morning. I barely saw Liam before the departure, but I knew his brothers needed him more than I did. I figured we’d have all the time together on the plane, but I was wrong.
Liam remained near his brothers, even on the flight, so I stayed close to Jamie. She didn’t seem concerned with their silence, but it was killing me. Regardless, I had done my best to give him room to grieve in his own way without pushing him to let me in. Maybe that hadn’t been the best way to handle things, because when his mother met us at the airstrip and gave me the cold shoulder, I was gutted. I was nobody. Or at least, that had been the way I took it.
When we arrived in the Catskills, I hadn’t known what to expect, but it certainly wasn’t what happened. The four of them embraced each other while Jamie and I stood back. We glanced at each other, unsure of how to proceed until Caleb finally pulled back and introduced Jamie.
“Mom, this is Jamie. My mate.” He pulled her close to his side. “Jamie, this is my mother Sera.”
Sera wiped the tears from her eyes and embraced Jamie tightly, murmuring about how glad she was that at least one of her sons was finally growing up, but how devastated she was that Elijah wasn’t here to see it.
I waited for Liam to introduce me and correct her, but he was speaking quietly with Aiden, paying us no attention.
Sera didn’t acknowledge my presence before turning to her sons again. “Let’s head back to the house. I’ll have Addie show Jamie and her friend to your house when we arrive at the pack house.”
Jamie’s friend? What the fuckery? I jerked my head toward Liam, but he still said nothing. Caleb glanced from Liam to me and shrugged his shoulders apologetically. This wasn’t going how I had imagined, not one shitty bit.
“I’m sorry,” Jamie whispered as we began walking toward a waiting van.
“It’s okay.” I tried to school my features like I didn’t care, even though my heart was being slowly ripped from my chest.
Apparently, I didn’t hide my emotions very well.
Aiden cut in front of Liam for the front seat. “Don’t you want to sit in the back?”
Liam shook his head as if he was trying to clear it. “Oh, yeah. Sure.”
My mate had just lost his father. I was trying to be considerate, but my patience would only go so far if the behavior continued. I was walking a fine line between being the understanding mate and being a selfish woman. Losing his father so suddenly had not been something we could have anticipated.
Caleb and Jamie climbed into the back row, and I slid in the middle with Liam. He gave me a small smile, but still, no words were spoken between us. I reached out a hand toward him to offer some comfort. He took it, but his grip was limp as if he didn’t really want to be touching me.
I tried to focus on something other than my frustration and took the opportunity to study their home. The land was similar to Raven Point, but the trees were spread further apart, almost sparse in comparison to our lush forest. It wasn’t quite as vibrant as the Oregon terrain I was used to.
We drove past a few outbuildings, but nothing was marked to tell me what they were. I had wanted to ask what they were used for, but for the first time in my life, my self-confidence was lacking. I kept my mouth shut and waited, hoping things would begin to look up once we got settled.
The house we pulled up to was easily twice the size of ours back home. Large river rock ran up several accent walls, and the remainder of the house was painted a soft beige.
When the van came to a stop, Liam got out and shut the door behind him before I could get out. It was my last straw. Choice words began slipping from my tongue, but Caleb put his hand over my mouth.
“Easy, Firecracker,” Caleb whispered as he removed his hand. “Give him some time. When you met Liam, he might have seemed like just a playboy, but there was a reason he wanted to speak with our parents in person. He carried a lot of responsibility on his shoulders for our pack. Expectations for his future were high. Right now, he’s struggling between hurting his mother even more after losing her husband and choosing you. I know it’s hard, but please have some patience.”
I took a deep breath, glancing behind me to make sure the others were out of the car already.
“I’ll try, but I won’t stick around here and be ignored for long. He might be my mate, but we’re not bonded. I won’t be treated as if I don’t exist. I might not have lost my father, but I did recently lose a brother. I get grief. I’ll do my best to keep your advice in mind, but patience isn’t my strong suit.”
He nodded, and I opened the door for us both to get out. Liam was already several yards ahead of us, his arm wrapped around his mother’s hunched form. She was a small thing, maybe five feet tall, with short, blonde hair, and eyes that seemed to be a cross between Liam’s green ones and Caleb’s blue.
I pushed away my frustration the best I could, knowing it wasn’t her fault she didn’t know who I was. Deep down, I knew she wasn’t to blame for our current predicament, but it didn’t stop the hurt that coursed through me. Or the rejection that was eating away at my confidence, making me doubt the last six weeks with Liam.
Jamie took my hand in hers, and we followed Caleb into the massive house. I was grateful for her presence and friendship now more than ever. She’d been the only reason I’d held my shit together for the last twenty-four hours.
I paid little attention to the interior of the house as I tried to keep an eye on Liam, but Caleb and Aiden stopped in front of us, distracting me.
“Instead of having Addie take you to our house, I think we’re all going to stay here,” Aiden said. “Mom is a lot worse than any of us expected, and it’s better that we’re close to her while still sticking together.”
Jamie grinned. “I don’t think it will be a hardship for us to stay here.”
Ha! She’s not the one without her mate. At least if I was at a different house and Liam wasn’t around, I could justify not spending time with him. If we were under the same roof and he continued to ignore me, I was going to have a hard time swallowing that.
As Aiden led us to wherever we would be staying, my phone buzzed with a text.
Augie: Did you make it to the house okay?
Me: Just arrived. It’s been interesting to say the least.
Augie: Behave, Taya, and get home soon. I’m making your alpha training schedule.
I had nothing to say to that. I knew I would lose my shit if I said too much, and I needed to hold it together for a while longer. Augie made a good point, though. I needed to start my training and pick up my responsibilities around our pack. If Liam couldn’t work things out here, I may just be going back by myself. I shuddered at the thought, and my wolf whimpered inside me. Neither of us liked that scenario, but Liam and I both had people counting on us. It might be unavoidable to be separated, but I feared that if we parted ways, we might never find our way back to each other.
I shook off the dark thoughts as we entered an office. It was three times more prominent than my dad’s, and I wondered why they felt the need to make everything so immense around here.
“Aiden, will you keep Mom company while we show the girls to a room?” Caleb asked.
“Sure.” Aiden guided his mom to the couch against the wall.
Liam appeared torn between coming with us and leaving his mother, but Caleb tugged on his arm, giving him no choice.
Liam fell into step beside me as we followed Caleb and Jamie silently down several hallways. My mind raced as I tried to think of something comforting to say, something to break the tension that festered between us, but nothing came.
When words failed me, I reached for his hand once more. He held on tighter this time and offered me a slight smile. My heart soared for the small victory.
Caleb pushed open an oversized double-door entrance. “Think you ladies will be comfortable in here until we work out the details later?”
The room was bright and welcoming. There was a flat-screen TV on the wall with movies and games placed beneath it. A reading nook in the corner held an overflowing bookshelf and the French doors next to it appeared to lead out to a garden.
“We’ll manage, but do you two think I could have a moment alone with Liam?” I asked.
“Taya…” Liam drawled. “I have to get back to my mom.”
“Two minutes. Can you spare your mate that much?” The attitude was evident in my voice, but I couldn’t seem to help it.
Before Liam could answer and risk getting kicked in the balls for making the wrong choice, Caleb and Jamie slipped out the door and closed it behind them.
“What’s so important that it couldn’t wait?” Liam asked, seeming to be annoyed with my request.
“I really am trying to have some patience here, I promise, but it’s been over a day since your mom called and you’ve barely spoken to me. Forgive me for wanting to check in on my mate. Privately.”
My voice had risen, and he shushed me. He actually raised his finger and placed it on my lips. He was going to pay for that. My blood went from simmering to boiling in less than a second.
“Don’t say things like that so loud until I’ve spoken with my mother. She needs to hear it from me.”
“And when will that be, Liam? Caleb didn’t have a problem introducing Jamie as his mate.” Coldness dripped from my words.
“When I believe she can handle it. You saw how fragile she is. You have no idea what this kind of news will do to her.”
I pressed my finger into his chest. “Yes, Liam, I do. I knew from the first moment I thought of a future between us. I thought of all the ways this would be too hard for you to leave your family, but you convinced me otherwise. You said everything would work out. I trusted you with my heart, and you are slowly tearing it to shreds.
“I understand it’s only been a day since your dad died. I know the agony that accompanies that grief. My brother died, and for a while, I thought my dad wasn’t too far behind him, but I didn’t push those I loved away. You need to decide if you’re capable of doing the same. If you’re not, then maybe I should be on my way back to Oregon instead of being in your way.”
Liam took a step back from me, eyes heavy with fury. My words had hurt him, and guilt instantly slapped at me. I considered apologizing even though it had been the truth, but before I could try, he opened the door, slamming it behind him as he walked away from me. Shit!
None of this was working out how it was supposed to.
Jamie came back in. “What the hell just happened?”
“I’m an idiot. That’s what. I’ll be right back.”
I stepped into the hallway, but Caleb and Liam were nowhere in sight. I followed the path we had taken to get to the room, making my way back to the office.
I had been selfish with my words. I still believed I had every right to feel hurt by Liam, but I also knew I should have been more patient with him. It wasn’t fair of me to expect him to pull the rug out from under his mom so soon after getting here. I would try to be more understanding, but only if he showed an effort as well. Compromise was key to getting through this.
How things were currently playing out wasn’t fair to either of us, and we each needed to give a little to the other. Even if he only introduced me to his mother as his girlfriend, I’d be happier with that than being labeled Jamie’s friend.
When I got closer, I heard raised voices and quieted my steps, letting my curiosity take over. I missed whatever had begun the conversation, but the last of it was more than I needed to hear.
“Liam, if you hadn’t been off screwing Gerald’s daughter, maybe things would be different. Your pack needs you now. Make sure to take care of whatever drama you’ve brought home.” Sera’s words were harsh, and I waited with bated breath for Liam to refute them.
“I’m sorry, Mom,” was all he said.
I took back every remorseful thought I’d had on my way to the office. I was done with Liam. Grief or not, it was inexcusable for him to allow his mother to talk about me that way. I was supposed to be his mate. I would not be treated as some bitch he had a fling with. I turned away from the door and ran back toward the room as hot tears streamed down my face. I was leaving their territory with no intention of saying goodbye to Liam.