Chapter Four (Part 4)

The term is endearing, and I feel my neck heat up rapidly. Wordlessly, I nod and he brings my hand down from his mouth. His hooded eyes stay on me for only a moment longer, snatching away my soul before he leads me to the dance floor. Wolves around us immediately maneuver their dancing to make a path for us towards the center, and once we’re there, I suddenly feel nervous.

“I…um…” I swallow thickly as he wraps his arm around my waist. My body gets pushed up gently against his, and I have to tilt my head back so it doesn’t collide into his chest. He places my hand on his shoulder and takes my other hand in his, holding it up in the air.

“Relax,” he says softly, his eyes on me and me only. “Just listen to the music and move your feet.” He instructs me with his own feet, moving them forward and back. “Forget about Banastre or anyone else around us. Focus on the music, the dancing, the lights. Focus on the way your body moves and the message the song is saying.”

My heart hammers in my chest, a nervous rattle, but I comply with his request. I close my eyes and tune out the quiet chatter around us. At first, it’s couples whispering to one another. They giggle and hush each other and share pecks every now and then. Then, their voices numb. Jackson’s warm embraces me and the side of my head touches his chest. I grip the lapels of his shirt. They’re slippery and warm. He’s humming to the song. Are his eyes also closed? I don’t want to look. It feels so nice here. I don’t want to leave. The music gets louder. The man – he sounds so happy, so in love. His voice is a bit raspy, but it’s also deep and heavy. He truly means what he’s saying to his lover. My feet move. They follow Jackson’s. He sure knows how to slow dance. Has he done this before? With another woman?

No, I scold myself sternly. Don’t think these thoughts already, Anvi. Can’t you just be happy that you’ve found your mate? And that he wants you? Forget about what Alpha Banastre has said and just enjoy the dance, my girl!

Internally, I nod. I have to enjoy this moment, I think. I have to live in the moment. It’s just me and Jackson. Nobody else. No Darcy. No Amanda. And definitely no Alpha Banastre.

I open my eyes as the music fades to an end. The night is almost over, I realize. We’ll be going home soon. My chest hurts at the thought of leaving Jackson. It’s only been an hour and our bond is already tightening. I’m afraid to get close to him, but I need him – selfishly so. He says he wants me, and my inner conscience believes him, but Alpha Banastre’s words just keep coming back to me. They don’t want to let me live – to enjoy this moment.

“I’m never going to leave you, Anvi,” Jackson says, as though he’s read my mind. He pulls away from me, his eyes glazed and hazy, and I realize that he has read my mind. Because Ama isn’t with me anymore, I can’t hide my thoughts from those connected to me, like my family, my pack, or my mate.

“You can’t be sure,” I say bitterly. I remove my hands from his chest and cross them over my chest, like my top has been exposed. “Everyone has left me. Everyone who said they’d always be there for me, they’re gone, Jackson. My parents, my family…” my eyes burn. Don’t cry, Anvi, I tell myself, but my eyes are already getting wet.

“Hey, hey,” Jackson cups my cheek, but I lean away from him, wiping my eyes roughly. He looks dejected for a moment, then glances around. Alpha Banastre is glaring at me, no doubt. I feel his eyes like spears in my back. Jackson scowls, then leads me towards the buffet table, into a secluded corner where nobody is paying any attention to.

“Here,” he hands me a napkin. I wipe my hands, then toss it into the trash bin beside him, sighing.

“My past isn’t something that I’m ashamed to talk about,” I say quietly. “It’s not something that is hard to speak about or that I’m still caught on. Life sucks and things happen. I can’t change what happened to my family, no matter how much I want to. I can only move on and hope for the best but…” I bite my lip. “It never happens. My whole life has been a disaster, Jackson. First my parents, then being with Alpha Banastre for two years…” I wrinkle my nose in distaste. “It’s been…hell, putting it lightly, and I…” I pause. “I’m just afraid that I’ll end up alone. Or that you’ll find someone better than me. Or maybe something will happen to you?” My heart nearly stops, and I turn my head towards the ground, frowning. “Here isn’t the best place to talk about this, but if you want to get the shorter version of my life story, here it is. This is how I feel. This is how I am. Paranoid. Crazy. Unlovable.”

I finish my speech with a gasp of air, and when I sneak a glance at Jackson, he’s silent – pensive. He didn’t interrupt me once during my spiel, and it makes me think that he agrees with everything that I’ve said, but then he grabs my hands, placing them on his chest just like when we danced. My mouth parts and my eyes widen.

“Anvi, I’m sorry,” he says. “I’m sorry for everything you had to go through, and I’m sorry that I wasn’t there to help you through it. I’m sorry that I’m even saying sorry, but it’s how feel. And I feel that you aren’t paranoid, or crazy, or unlovable. You’re just…” he pauses. “You’re just you. You’re a werewolf who’s gone through things that nobody should have to go through. To me, you’re the woman I want in my life. You’re my mate. No woman can make me feel the way I feel for you, and I apologize if that’s too soon.” He scratches the back of his neck shyly, and a small smile makes its way to my face. “I won’t force you into anything. I won’t rush you. I just want you to be happy, and I want to make you happy and love you. I want to feel love just as much as you do, Anvi. The butterflies and tingles and everything! I want that with you…if you want it with me?”

A mix of a laugh and a sob escapes my mouth and I nod, beaming. “I do,” I agree, and two tear drops trickle down my cheek. “I do, Jackson, I do. I just…” I sigh. “I need to learn all of this again. Love…I need to understand it.”

He nods, reaching up to my cheeks, and this time, I allow him to wipe my tears. “I’ll be with you every step of the way,” he murmurs, and the atmosphere between us is incredibly thick…until I break it by realizing that we’ve just had a serious conversation next to a piling trash can. A laugh breaks through my cracked lips, and Jackson smirks, noticing the can beside him.

“Funny,” he snorts. His arm wraps around my waist and he pulls me closer to him, moving away from the trash can at the same time and back into the dancing. “Anvi?”

“Hm?” I gaze up at him, a relieved sigh escaping my lips as a weight lifts from my chest. “What is it?”

“Will you – and please, tell me if I’m being too forward, but…” he takes a deep breath. “Will you come home with me?”

I blink. “To live?”

“Yes.”

“Now?”

“Yes – well, tonight. The party’s almost over.”

“For how long?”

“For…forever, if you want,” he mumbles bashfully. “We don’t have to stay in the same room! Separate rooms are fine. Or, if you want a place in the pack, I can have that arranged too. It’s just…” He looks up, and his eyes harden. “I don’t trust Banastre. And I’m not saying that you can’t fight for yourself. I know that you’re more than capable of defending yourself, but…with Banastre…”

“No, I totally understand,” I say, and another weight inside of me lifts. I was dreading the ride home and the eventual beating I would receive, and going home with Jackson is definitely more appealing than going home with Darcy and Amanda and Alpha Banastre! But then, I think about Luna Hailey and Oscar, and for a moment, I consider saying no to his offer. It’s very tempting, but Luna Hailey and Oscar…what would happen to them?

Banastre has never lifted a finger against either of them, Anvi, my inner conscious says assuring me. He definitely won’t do it now, knowing that you’re Jackson’s mate. Besides, he doesn’t know about how Luna Hailey and Oscar have helped you. They’ll be safe, Anvi.

Yeah…but still… I hesitate.

Luna Hailey would want you to, my conscious smirks at her victory, and I sigh begrudgingly (although not very begrudgingly, because secretly, I did really want to go with Jackson).

“Okay,” I smile, biting my lip. “I’ll go home with you.”

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