Chapter Fifteen

Jackson’s quiet for a long time.

It’s the kind of quiet that makes you realize just how deep in the sand you’ve dug yourself in, or when you discover that your mom has found all the report cards that you hid from her. It’s that stomach churning, ear-deafening, silence that creeps along your spine and wraps like a snake around you, pushing your organs up your throat with its tail.

“I would like to believe that I’m going blind,” he says through clenched teeth, his blazing eyes digging into me. I look at the ground. “But I doubt that’s the case.”

“No, it isn’t,” I mumble and hold my elbow.

Jackson releases a heavy exhale. “Anvi, I won’t force you to tell me what happened at Banastre’s pack,” he says, although his eyes are pained. “But if he’s doing something that can harm anyone else, then I have to know. It’s my duty as Alpha King to take care of it…and yours as Luna Queen.”

I keep my gaze on the ground. I don’t know if it’s embarrassment that forces me to comply in submission, or shame, but I don’t – I can’t look at him.

“I was a slave, Jackson,” I say quietly. “My pack sold me to Banastre after my parents died. I worked for him for two years, until I met you. The brand-” I touch the mark on my stomach and try to hide my grimace. “That was his property mark. He had one on Luna Hailey too.”

Jackson’s hands find my elbows, then up to my cheeks. He tilts my head up and forces me to look into his eyes, and I do so, because I have no force to prevent him.

“And you didn’t do anything?” Fury bubbles behind a curtain of gray. “You didn’t fight back?”

“I couldn’t,” I whisper, my voice a bit choked. “Oscar stood up for me when he could. Luna Hailey too. They never hurt me.” I need to make that clear.

“And Darcy and Amanda?”

“They…their abuse wasn’t physical,” I mutter and self-consciously shake Jackson’s hands off of me. “It’s my past, Jackson, let it go. I’m not there anymore.”

“I can’t just ‘let it go’ Anvi!” Jackson looks like he’s a volcano that’s threatening to explode. His cheeks are flushed and his muscles are tense. “A wolf under my command hurt you, my mate. You know what he’s done before, Anvi. Banastre is a threat, and that was his final straw.”

“Jackson – no!” I grab his arm before he can reach for his phone that sits in his jean pocket. “If you fire Banastre, who knows what he’ll do! He could be liable to do whatever he pleases, Jackson. He won’t have any rules to follow.”

Jackson stares at me, then uses his other hand to take his phone. He doesn’t shake me off, though. “Banastre never followed rules anyway,” he says. He takes my hand, and his eyes soften. “Whatever you went through, you weren’t supposed to, Anvi. He needs to be given a proper punishment. His daughters too.”

“Not Luna Hailey or Oscar,” I say then, realizing that I can’t reason with him. “They never did anything to me. They tried to help me escape – they’re my friends.”

With his jaw clenched, Jackson hesitates, then nods. “Okay,” he says. “But Hailey will become Luna of the pack until Oscar has completed his schooling. Speaking of…” he pauses dialing and looks at me. “Did you finish your schooling?”

I blush. “High school, yes,” I mumble. “Luna Hailey forced Banastre to let me finish.”

“I see.” Jackson puts his phone to his ear. “We’ll talk about further schooling opportunities for you later.”

I nod, subdued by the blaring silence that surrounds us, or perhaps it’s just in my head. My heart feels a little lighter now that I’ve revealed my past to someone, especially Jackson. It wasn’t really how I planned to tell him, and maybe it was a tad bit too soon, but I can’t deny the thriving jubilance inside of me now that I know that Banastre is going to get his lesson. It’s cynical, the thought of torturing him, but I relish it all the same. Now, he’ll know how it felt to be me for those two years. Him and his bratty daughters both.

“Hey, Mike.” Jackson’s phone stops ringing and he speaks at the click. “Yeah, no, something’s happened. Gather the second command and meet me outside. We’re going to Banastre’s pack…Banastre Yuen. He’s not far from here…yes…twenty…no….thirty? How many…yes, do twenty five then….okay, bye.”

“Who’s Mike?” I ask as Jackson grabs his keys. “What do you need twenty-five of?”

“Warriors,” Jackson responds. “And Mike is one of the trainers. You’ll meet him outside. Come.” He takes my hand, but before we leave out the door he pulls me close to his chest and his lips lock on mine, a little desperate.

“He made a big mistake,” Jackson whispers in my ear. “And he’s going to pay for it today.” He steps away from me and opens the door. “Do you have anything specific in mind? Would you like to do anything to him?”

A few diabolical ideas pop into my head, but they’re too cruel for me to accomplish with my own two hands. Knowing me, I’d probably faint before being able to do anything. Besides, I just started learning how to fight. I need more training – more time.

“Not yet,” I say, although my palm tingles with the urge to slap him. “For now, I think just seeing him realize how deep in the mud he is will be enough satisfaction for me.”

Jackson smiles and shakes his head. “You’re too kind, Anvi,” he says and kisses my cheek, even though there’s still something simmering behind his dark gaze. It makes me a little uneasy, because I know that sooner or later, this volcano is going to erupt, and it’s not going to be a very pretty scene.

We walk out of the house and towards the border – the same border where Jackson and I discussed our feelings and shared our first kiss. The memory sends little butterflies crawling up my spine.

A group of silent men and women dressed in dark camouflage uniforms stand and salute when we approach them. In front of the group is a well-dressed, older man in a dark purple suit and a few colorful badges pinned to his breast pocket. He has dark skin and beautiful gray eyes, just like Jackson, except his are less brutal to look at. He nods to Jackson when we approach and smiles warily at me.

“Alpha,” he says. “Luna.”

“Michael,” Jackson acknowledges him and nods to the group behind him. “I assume that you haven’t met my mate, Anvi?”

“No, I haven’t.” Michael takes my hand and kisses the top. “A pleasure to meet you, Luna Queen.”

“Oh, the pleasure is all mine,” I say. “Are you a general?”

“Commander, miss,” Michael explains. He gestures to the group behind him. “They’ve all been briefed, sir. What’s the plan?”

“Banastre’s out,” Jackson says. “His strikes are up – damn that fucking strike system – and we need to make sure that he doesn’t act out while leaving.” His hand wraps around mine. “Michael, keep the perimeter guarded and make sure nobody escapes when Banastre leaves.”

Michael nods. “Yes, sir.”

“Why would anyone escape?” I pipe up. “I don’t remember anyone being fond of Banastre.”

Jackson sighs. “When popular opinion doesn’t match your ideas, Anvi, some people will hide their true beliefs behind a mask of smiles and agreements. There are people who believe in Banastres leadership, trust me. Once he’s out, they’re going to try and follow him. We need to make sure that doesn’t happen, and if he’s done any more shit, then we’ll be able to extract that information from the rest of the pack.”

“And also, to protect the new Luna,” Michael adds. “We have no idea what Banastre will do when he finds out. He could be violent – probably he will be. We need to keep the next in line and Luna safe.” He pauses. “The girls too, sir?”

“No, not them,” Jackson says. “Amelia!”

One of the girls’ steps forward, a brunette with striking pink eyes. “Be sure to brief Banastre’s daughters, Amanda and Darcy, on their punishments and make sure that they don’t leave the pack. Take Gavin and Theodore with you – they’ll be under your command for the job.”

“Yes, Alpha,” Amelia responds in a mix of a shout and firm agreement. She steps behind Michael and disappears into the shadows that the trees make as though she were never there.

“What will Amanda and Darcy be doing?” I ask.

Michael and Jackson look at each other and trade small, sly smirks.

“Well,” Jackson begins. “We were thinking of letting you choose, but…”

“Community service!” I cut Jackson off from what he’s saying and jump up. “Community service!”

“Community service?” Michael’s brows crease. “That’s the punishment that you want to give?”

I nod and smooth my clothes down as my cheeks flush with embarrassment. God, I hope nobody saw that – I can’t afford to ruin my reputation already. I have to keep my composure. I can’t act out like that.

“They weren’t as cruel as Banastre, so it would be unfair to send them away,” I say. “Besides, they still need Luna Hailey to guide them…I think?” I shake my head. “In any case, I know that they hate getting their hands dirty. Community service would help them realize how I felt when I was doing their dirty work.”

Jackson shrugs. “If that’s what she wants them to do, then tell them to do it,” he tells Michael, and by proxy, Amelia. “Just make sure that nobody gets hurt or escapes during the whole ordeal. Like you said, Mike, we don’t know how Banastre will react, but most likely he’ll try to use a physical defense, so we’d best be prepared.”

Physical defense, I think a little bitterly. Something that I lack, although perhaps now that Adonis is helping me, maybe I can work on that?

And…maybe not, my mind loves to put me down. Like I can ever learn to defend myself. I can’t even defend a stick.

“Anvi.” Jackson’s voice brings me out of my thoughts. He pulls me towards the border. “Come on, let’s go.”

Shakily, I nod. “Okay,” I say and take a deep breath. Jackson is with me. I can do this. Everything will be alright. Nobody will hurt me, not anymore (at least, I hope not).

Clenching my hands, I take a look behind me at my new home. At the children running around and wolves going from house to house, market to market. They don’t know what’s going on. They have their own lives to live and their own things to do – mundane things – but things nonetheless. I’m leaving all of this behind to confront the man that I feared and despised for two years of my life – two years that I wasted. This is my revenge. This is what I wanted to happen to him. Maybe not so soon, but for him to feel how much I hurt, how much I bled in despair – that cruel image is what I want to see. I won’t be seeing it yet, but one day, maybe.

And so, I turn away from my new home, readying myself as I go back to hell.

~***~

“Well, isn’t this a pleasant surprise?” Alpha Banastre croons, hands on his hips as he observes the pack of military that rallies behind me. His eyes meet Jackson’s ferociously. “I wasn’t expecting to see any of you again…least of all you…Anvi.”

I don’t say anything. Behind him, Darcy and Amanda stick their noses up in the air and scoff, refusing to look at me. Oscar squirms behind his sisters, and Luna Hailey has an amalgamation of relief and fear mixed into her expression. She tries to meet my eyes, but I can’t look at her.

Not yet, I tell myself.

“Banastre, I think you know why I’m here,” Jackson says sternly. The authority in his voice sends a tremor among the wolves that study our confrontation, but if Alpha Banastre is worried, he doesn’t show it.

“Why? To show me what you took from me?” He asks. His fiery gaze slices through me and burns my chest. “Are you returning her? I told you she wouldn’t be good enough to be the Luna Queen—!”

“Quiet!” Jackson snaps, and now his eyes are blazing. He takes a step forward, and despite himself, Alpha Banastre falters backwards a little.

“I—!”

“Don’t you dare speak of my mate like that,” Jackson growls. “After everything that you’ve done, not only to her, but to your pack, son, and hell, your wife, I want not another word out of you.”

“But—!”

“NOT another word,” Jackson interrupts. His tone has risen considerably and I can see his wolf dancing in his eyes, growling and baring his teeth. His whole body is tense and ready to pounce, but Jackson holds himself from making a scene.

Alpha Banastre wisely shuts his mouth, but his lips thin into a disgruntled line and I know that he’s not pleased with the acquisition that he has to make. Jackson soothes his wolf and grabs the paper from Michael’s hands. He tosses it to Alpha Banastre.

“Banastre Yuen,” he begins, “You have officially received your third strike for endangering the lives of your Luna Queen, your mate, your son, and your pack members. Therefore, you are relieved of your title as Alpha and will hereby be declared a rogue. You will be banned from joining any packs in this vicinity and are expected to be ready to leave by tonight. Your wife, Luna Hailey,” he nods at her, “will be in charge of the pack until Oscar has completed his studies.”

Alpha Banastre goes pale. “W-What…” he stammers, frantically reading the slip that Jackson has given him. “But…sire…”

Jackson holds a hand up, effectively silencing his pleas. “There will be no debate.” His eyes blaze with sadistic amusement. “I warned you, Banastre. Because of this shitty, irreversible law, I gave you your three chances. You fucked every single one of them up, and for that, you pay.”

The whole pack is quiet. Darcy and Amanda look like they’re ready to cry. Oscar is covering his mouth, probably to hide his smile, and Luna Hailey purses her lips to keep from mimicking her son’s glee. Around us the pack just stares, shocked. I’m not sure if they’re happy or upset, but seeing the pure defeat in Alpha Banastre’s eyes makes my heart pinch. It irritates me, because after everything that he’s done to me, this should be justice. And yet, I can’t help but feel sorry for him. He looks so…helpless, and it reminds me of when I used to look at myself in the mirror, wondering what kind of trash bag I had become.

“Alpha Banastre…” I step around from Jackson and approach him carefully. “I…I’m sorry. I wish I could forgive you, and maybe one day…” I pause and grimace at the heavy coats of pity that lather themselves on my tongue. “Maybe one day I can.”

Alpha Banastre is silent. He observes the paper, then looks around at the pack until his eyes settle on me. My stomach spikes. I’m not ready for this yet. I can’t see him. It’s too soon.

I step away, but his hands shoot out and grab me roughly by the shoulders, extracting a yelp out of me.

“You!” His eyes glow with unimaginable fury. “You little bitch! This is all your fault!” He shakes me and throws me to the ground quicker than Jackson can react. “After I took you in, you little snitch!”

Fight back! My brain yells at me as alarms ring in my head. Adrenaline rings in my ears. Fight back, Anvi! Flip him like you did to Adonis!

I try, I really do, but just seeing him like this as he buries my body into the ground – a futile attempt – makes my whole body numb and weak. I can’t hear anybody or see anything but the bloodshot rage that soaks his eyes. My arms melt like ice cream against his thick limbs and my beginners training is worthless.

Even though it felt like minutes, Jackson shifts just as my body collapses on the ground with a thud and is on Banastre, prying him off of me. Embarrassment and shame flood my blood as I roll away from the two fighting men, watching through the prickly strands of hair that tickle my nose and eyelids.

“Anvi!” Luna Hailey rushes over to me, and both she and Oscar help me stand. “Are you alright? You aren’t hurt anywhere, are you, honey?”

“No…no, I’m fine,” I mumble as the cool air rinses my shame away. “I was just taken aback, that’s all. I’m…” I pause to breathe. “I’m okay.”

“Get the fuck off of me!” Alpha Banastre roars as Michael and another wolf drag him out of the pack. “I am the ALPHA! You can’t do this to me!”

“Daddy!” Darcy and Amanda call after him, their cheeks glistening with crocodile tears.

“You.” Alpha Banastre spits at me. “This isn’t over yet. I’ll be back, Anvi.” His eyes darken. “And you’ll pay.”

Amelia steps forward, but Jackson stops her.

“It will only encourage him,” he says, and eyes me. “Amelia, brief the girls.”

Amelia straightens. “Yes, Alpha,” she says. She nods to two young men and they trudge to Amanda and Darcy.

“Well, that’s one hurricane finally gone,” Oscar sighs, his cheeks pink with relief. “Thank you, Anvi.”

“Yes,” Luna Hailey smiles. “Thank you, Anvi.”

“Oh.” I blush and laugh awkwardly. “It wasn’t just me…Jackson did most of the work…”

“And so did you,” Luna Hailey says sternly. “Don’t downgrade yourself, Anvi.”

I smile. “Okay, I guess I did some,” I say placatingly.

“Anvi.” Jackson rushes over to me and wraps me in a safe embrace, and I all but melt into his arms. “Are you okay?” He pulls away and studies my face. “That bastard didn’t hurt you, did he?”

“No,” I assure him. “I’m fine. I was shaken a little, but I’m okay now.” I reach up and stroke his soft hair. Immediately, his eyes close. “See, I’m not hurt. I’m alright, Jackson.”

He sighs and kisses my palm as his eyes open slowly. “Okay,” he says. He steps away from me with reluctance and his gaze thaw. “Luna Hailey.” He bows slightly towards her and pulls me to his side. “We’ll have your ceremony in a week, if that’s alright with you? There is a lot of work to be done, and I would assume that you would like to get it done as quickly as possible?”

“Yes, that’s fine,” Luna Hailey agrees, and she’s trying to keep her composure, but I can see relief and excitement bubbling inside her. The front of her shoes dips a little and I know that means that she’s curling her toes.

“Good.” Jackson rubs my shoulder momentarily. “I have to finalize a few things.” He kisses my cheek, then my lips, quickly but filled with love and desire. “I’ll be back in a moment.”

He bows again slightly to Oscar and Luna Hailey and they copy him before he strides over to where a group of men are causing a ruckus.

As soon as I turn, I’m met with a fierce hug from Luna Hailey – one that nearly causes me to topple over! Oscar watches us with a small smile and shrugs before joining us in our group embrace.

“Thank you, Anvi,” Luna Hailey whispers as she pulls away from me. Her eyes are damp and I can see all the stress trickle down from her brain and out of her lips like carbon dioxide. “Thank you so much. I can never repay you for how much you helped us today.”

“You already repaid me, Luna,” I say as my own eyes water. “You looked after me like my own mother would when I was here. You took care of me and treated me with fairness and equality. Please don’t think that you have to repay me. You’re my friend.”

Oscar scoffs. “More like sister,” he mutters.

Luna Hailey beams, ignoring her son. “I know,” she says, stroking my hair. “You just mean so much to me, Anvi. I thought that I’d lose you when you left…”

“You would never!” I deny. “I was just so busy…I’m sorry that I never called.”

“It’s alright.” Her eyes twinkle mischievously. “How’s Alpha Jackson?”

“Mom!” Oscar complains.

I giggle, and Luna Hailey slaps his arm tenderly.

“Go if you don’t want to listen,” she scolds lightheartedly, and Oscar shrugs, pecking my hair quickly before he saunters to where Jackson.

“Boys,” she mutters. “Now, tell me, is he treating you properly?”

I can’t help but beam. “Yes, Luna,” I say, and my stomach feels giddy. “He’s been nothing but kind and patient with me. And…” I trailed off, thinking about Sara. “And I did learn some things that set me back for a while, but I understood why he didn’t tell me yet. We both needed some time to understand everything, but we’re progressing.”

She smiles. “That’s good…that’s really amazing, Anvi!” She hugs me again. “I can’t tell you how ecstatic I was when I found out you found your mate!”

“I was too.”

“Luna.” Amelia taps my shoulder. “We’ll be leaving now.”

“I’ll see you next week, yes?” Luna Hailey asks and kisses my cheek affectionately.

“Yes, I will,” I say, toying with my necklace. She glances at the jewel.

“Oh…you got it,” she murmurs, her eyes wide.

“Yeah, Oscar gave it to me,” I say. “Where did you—!”

“Anvi!” Jackson calls for me. “Come on.”

Luna Hailey squeezes my hand, noticing my reluctance.

“Next week,” she says, a promise.

“Alright.” I nod and let go of her. “Next week.” And I run to catch up with Jackson as we make our way back home.

~***~

Jackson is tense in the car.

Any clues to his previously good mood have been wiped from his face and he stares impassively at the road in front of us. His hands are tight on the steering wheel and his jaw is tight.

“Jackson, are you alright?” My tone is tentative and quiet, and Jackson takes a few second to answer.

“I’m…pissed,” he finally says, and the fire in his eyes certainly supports his response. “I’m fucking pissed, Anvi.”

“Oh…” I lean back on my seat. “Do you want to vent to me? Or would you like some silence?”

“No – well – yes, I’m not mad at you, my love,” he says and removes one hand from the wheel to kiss my palm. “I’m just…” he sighs. “I was scared.”

“Scared?”

“Yes, scared.” He sighs again. “When Banastre attacked you, Anvi, I saw red. I wanted to rip that fucker apart. I saw him attack you…and I saw…her.”

Sara, I think, and swallow.

“I thought about how I failed her, and how, when he pushed you…how I could fail you too.” Jackson squeezes my hand. “Anvi, I love you, and I…I can’t lose you. I lost one mate…I can’t lose another…I can’t…”

“You won’t lose me, Jackson,” I blindly assure him. I hesitate for a moment, then kiss the top of his hand, enjoying the blush that rises to his cheeks. “I won’t leave you, I promise.”

He nods silently, turning back to the road, and even though we’re both soaking in our promises, Banastre’s words come back to haunt men, and I can’t help but think to myself: Will he take me away from my new life? Will he take me away from Jackson?

~***~

Hey guys! 

 Sorry for the delay in chapters. I had a school project to attend to. What do you think is going to happen? Banastre is out and Hailey is going to become official Head Luna, but will Banastre stay true to his word? Will he go after Anvi?

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