SIX MONTHS LATER.
I puffed the cigarette in my hand as I stared at the darkness in front of me. I was standing outside Jason and Jessica’s home in Bernice City.
Alpha Jace and Luna Amara, together with their son Colton wanted to visit their grandparents and Catherine.
Catherine had been living here since she got back from traveling abroad. She was moving on with her life while I was still stuck in the same place I’d been — still lost and trying to find meaning for my existence.
She rarely visited the territory, and I knew it had something to do with me. I had no idea which was hurting me the most: losing the chance to love her or losing the friendship we had nurtured since childhood.
A car stopped in front of the gate of their home, and Catherine climbed out, giggling, before waving to her friends. I glanced at the clock on my wrist. It was already past six in the evening.
Does the university end classes around this time?
“Tyler?” Her voice came out soft and sweet. I missed that voice.
I tilted my head up to look at her. Her eyes were rounded as if she couldn’t believe she was seeing me, and for a split second, I swear I saw them sparkle under the lights of the street lamps.
“What are you doing here?” She asked.
“I drove Alpha and Luna here.” I threw the cigarette on the ground and stepped on it, her eyes following my movement before she raised her gaze to look at me again.
Jace usually drove here alone with his family since I had to man the territory. But with Austin back on his post, I volunteered to come with them so I could see her.
“I didn’t know you smoked.”
“There are many things you don’t know about me anymore.” I forced a chuckle.
“Right.” She squinted her eyes and pointed a finger at me, flashing me a wide smile before she began walking toward the front door. “Catch up on you later! I need to be somewhere soon!” She added before she entered the house, and I was left staring at the door even after she was gone.
She had moved on, and I was still here, wishing she would give me the attention she used to give me.
Before I met my fated mate, everyone in our pack would tell me that Catherine had always harbored feelings for me. They didn’t need to tell me. I knew it all along.
I felt it. I basked in it. But I refused to acknowledge it.
I was taught that I was only meant to be with my fated mate and that rejection should never be an option. So I kept my hands off her. I did my best never to cross the friendship line — not to say or do anything that would make her think I had feelings for her.
But I loved Catherine.
I did love Catherine in my own way. I loved her enough that I didn’t want to crush her heart if she didn’t turn out to be my fated mate. But I kept praying for her.
And then I failed. Even with me not reciprocating the love and attention she was giving me, I still hurt her the day I brought home my fated mate.
It was only fitting that she was distancing herself from me. I was not the same man that I used to be. I was just a remnant of the Tyler that he liked. I had no idea how I would bring her attention back to me again because I had nothing more to offer her.
I was still lost in my own thoughts when a cab stopped in front of the gate, and two females in sexy outfits came out and waved at me.
I was about to ask them if they needed anyone from the house when the front door opened, and Catherine came out wearing a little black dress that almost hid nothing. It wasn’t lewd, but she looked so fucking beautiful and sexy that it was taking a lot for me not to let out a growl.
Where did she think she was going wearing that short dress? If she moved or raised her arms, the dress would probably hike up to her ass.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“One of the jocks at the university is throwing a party, and we are invited.”
“Is he your brother?” One of the females with blonde hair asked.
“No. He’s my brother’s best friend.” She answered right away.
“Oh, the divorcee!” The black-haired female gasped, but I saw how she fluttered her eyelashes at me. Her response made my brows rise.
Divorcee. That sounded weird, but I guess it was a term in the human world that explained my situation perfectly.
“Enough, enough! Leave him alone.” Catherine said as she opened the small gate.
“He’s too handsome to be alone, Cat!” The blonde stated.
“So, at this party you are going to, is a plus one allowed?” I asked the two females while ignoring the way Catherine was ignoring me.
“Do you want to join us? You can be mine!” The blonde girl volunteered on the spot.
“Or mine!” And the other one as well.
Catherine’s mouth dropped open, but I answered immediately before she could reject the idea. “I would take that offer since I’m bored tonight.”
Catherine was about to say something, but I had already pushed the gate open and gone to the taxi waiting for them.
“How much do they owe you?” I asked, and he showed me the meter before scratching his head. I knew he was disappointed as I was cutting his job, so I paid him triple the amount showing on his meter.
I asked the females if they didn’t have anything inside the taxi, and when they confirmed that they had all their belongings with them, I tapped the taxi roof, and he drove off with a big smile on his face.
“We’ll take my car, so we can leave anytime you want to go home,” I told them.
“We’re up for an all-nighter! But you can’t drink and drive!” The blonde girl said.
“I don’t get drunk easily, but if it makes you feel safer, I won’t drink tonight.”
“What a gentleman! Lindsey…” She extended her hand, and I shook it, and she was followed by the black-haired female who introduced herself as Cindy.
“My name is Tyler,” I told them as I slowly backed away. “Give me a minute to pick up my jacket.”
But the truth was, I just wanted to personally tell Jace I would come with Catherine. We were staying overnight, so I also wanted to make sure I was not needed here.
Catherine was still not saying anything, but I didn’t let her deter me from joining them because there was no way I was letting her out of sight wearing that tiny cloth tonight.
I drove with Catherine on the passenger side, but it was Lindsey who was dominating the conversation.
By the end of the ride, she was already aware I had been single for seven months and had not dated anyone after my “divorce,” while the female beside me remained quiet.
When we arrived at the place, I was already preparing myself that Catherine would abandon me and have fun on her own, but she surprised me when she didn’t leave my side. After she greeted the male celebrating his birthday, we headed to the back garden and sat in the empty corner of the bar.
She ordered Long Island iced tea, but I just asked for cola. I was sure I would not get drunk, but I didn’t want any trouble in human territory. I didn’t want anyone stopping me from driving these females home later, especially Catherine, so I better be careful.
We sat beside each other, but I swiveled my chair so my body was angled toward her. My eyes darted to her neck. She had the necklace I asked Jace to give her on her eighteenth birthday, but he was not to tell her it came from me.
It was a gold necklace with a letter C pendant that I had someone carve using her penmanship for that letter.
She might have noticed my gaze because her hand went to the pendant before a coy smile played on her lips. “Thank you for the necklace.”
“What?” I asked. Did Jace tell her it came from me?
“Fine, let’s pretend I didn’t know it came from you.” She chuckled.
I didn’t know what to say.
“I know my brother. He never buys gifts in advance, so I always get flowers and chocolates on special occasions.”
“But he does now. He plans all his gifts for the Luna way in advance.” I chuckled.
“I’m sure that’s exclusively for Amara.”
I bit my bottom lip to suppress my smile, but I kept staring at her, especially her lips and how they twitched whenever she talked.
“And let’s pretend I didn’t see a box on your bedside table when you asked me to go to your room to pick up something I was borrowing from you.” She said, her brows hiking up. “And that I didn’t open it out of curiosity to see what was inside. I was sure this was the one I saw there.”
I chuckled and shook my head, leaning my forearm on the bar. “And you didn’t bother to let me know you’d seen it.”
She propped her elbow on the bar and smiled at me. “I loved surprises. Unfortunately, I got the biggest surprise of my life the following day.”
I cleared my throat because I was sure the surprise she meant was that I came home with a fated mate.
I didn’t know what to say, but it was a good thing that Lindsey came, throwing her arm around my shoulders, which made Catherine’s eyes squint for a quick second.
“Are you flirting with your brother’s best friend?” She asked her, and I wanted to chuckle, but I kept a poker face.
If she only knew.
“Do you have a problem with that?” Catherine asked coyly.
“You can’t hit on your brother’s best friend. It’s like an unwritten rule.”
I turned my head to look at Lindsey. “Did you make up that unwritten rule?”
Catherine giggled before she added. “In case you were unaware, my brother is married to my best friend, so I think…”
“Fine! Fine! I’m out of here. I just thought I could dance with Tyler, but…”
“Go away. We’re busy.” Catherine told her playfully.
“So possessive!” Lindsey laughed before she looked at me, motioned with her hand, and mouthed, “Call me.”
Her action elicited a giggle from Catherine and made me laugh as well.
As soon as Lindsey was gone, I turned my attention back to her. She was still giggling softly, and for a moment, I was transported back to the time when she was still carefree and relaxed around me.
“I feel you don’t believe she’s interested in me. Do I really look that bad and undesirable?” I teased her.
She stopped laughing, and her eyes widened, making her look innocent in my eyes, and it was making my heart drop. It had been far too long since I had sat in close proximity to her.
“No. I was just protecting you… she changes boyfriends depending on her mood for the day.”
“I see. Well, thank you for protecting my heart.”
“I always do, Tyler. But you’re not returning the favor.”
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