“Don’t.” His voice was a growl though she didn’t seemed threatened by him.

Rachel shook her head at him. “This has to be said! One of you, or all of you, is going to end up killing each other. I won’t let your own pride and misplaced good intentions destroy us. We can’t go marching into a mansion full of Alphas and dominant wolves with you all so edgy. You have your friends, your closest confidants, men you trust with your lives and you are willing to die for and even with them you can’t control your possessiveness. When one of those males gets too close to your mate, how on earth do you think you will be able to keep from ripping his throat out?”

Jen’s hand flew to her mouth as she stifled as gasp. “Bloody hell,” she whispered through her hand. She hadn’t considered the other packs. She had been hoping that with each day, the males would begin to relax and trust one another again. She might as well have been hoping for world peace and all that other crap that the Miss America chicks were always spouting. The tension between the males was not lessening; it might even be getting worse. Decebel was possessive on a good day, but now that she was pregnant and he had just endured the very worst depths of hell. She didn’t even know if possessive was an adequate term for what he would be once they got back to the mansion.

“So you’re saying they are doing this to themselves?” Jacque asked, before Jen could and she nodded at her best friend for taking the words out of her shocked mouth.

Rachel met the eyes of each male briefly before she finally nodded.

“I did something that I would not normally do because I don’t like to invade someone’s privacy, not even my mates, but I’m worried.”

Gavril stiffened next to his mate and his eyes narrowed as he looked down at her.

“What did you do Rachel?” His voice was not unkind, but brokered no argument that she was to answer him.

“I searched inside of you.” Rachel hurried on before Gavril could respond. “We have been mated for centuries Gavril, centuries! We have been through much together, and in all that time, you have never drawn away from me. But now, you have. You only touch me when it gets unbearable for you not to. You only use the bond when absolutely necessary. You constantly keep your body between mine and anyone else’s. You are treating me more like a possession than the other half of your soul!” Rachel’s voice had risen to a near yell as she released the pain that had been building over the distance her mate had put between them. “I’m the light to your darkness, or have you forgotten that little detail of our mating? I was created for YOU! Do you get that? When you are hurting, I’m the one who can comfort you. When you are joyous, I am the one who can truly understand that joy. When you are raging and the wolf fights to take control, I am the one who can calm him. ME! The darkness that was consuming you when we met was breached and conquered by my light. Your need to protect me, your need to bear this pain on your own is destroying my light. The In-Between gave the darkness a place to seep through back inside of you and instead of welcoming our bond as you once did you nurture the darkness. You caress IT as a lover INSTEAD OF ME!” Rachel was gasping for breath when she finished and the air seemed to spark around her as her temper flared.

Sally’s chest was tight as she mirrored the pain and anger that surged from Rachel’s words. She had not been able to put into words what she had been feeling, but Rachel had tied it up in a rage induced bow. She looked over at Jen and Jacque and could see the realization snapping into place in their minds. Even Elle, Crina, and Alina looked stricken by the truth in the healers’ words.

“The worst part,” Rachel tried to hold back the sob that pushed out with the words, “the worst part is that you know what you’re doing, yet you don’t stop it.”

Alina stepped forward as the anger in Rachel, which had been so much more prominent than her pain, began to subside and the hurt began to take over. Alina’s face was stoic and the distance between her and Vasile shadowed the usual compassion that shined in her eyes. She took a deep breath before she spoke and the voice that came out was one of an Alpha.

“I have been trying to figure out what it is that has been causing the distrust and suffocating grasp of our males. Hearing what Rachel has seen inside of her mates mind, inside of his soul, I know that she speaks the truth. My wolf echoes loudly the truth of her words. But, my wolf and I are not in agreement on how we should feel about this revelation.” Alina’s eyes narrowed as she honed in on Vasile. “Had you not been aware of what was going on inside of you, had you not knowingly been keeping me from you, I could have understood. I could have empathized.” Her voice never wavered as her words filled the hush that had fallen over the forest; a hush that none of them seemed to notice. “As it is, you have decided for me what I can handle and what I cannot. You made the decision to keep a part of you from me. So, I am making a decision for you,” she paused as she watched Vasile’s fear morph into anger as he already saw what she was going to say. She said it out loud anyway. “You have denied me what I so desperately need and so I will deny you. Eye for and eye, yes? I don’t do this to be mean, childish, or vindictive; I do this because it is time for desperate measures. I have no idea how to tear down the wall you have so diligently and fervently built between us. So, I will no longer use human ways to reason with you. I’m going back to the nature that comes so naturally to us—to the nature of the wolf. The wolf doesn’t understand emotions as much as actions and the here and now. I’m giving your wolf something he can understand. Your touch is uninvited.”

A collective gasp from the females and low snarls from the males filled the stagnant air. To a human, it would seem unimportant and possibly even silly, but to a Canis lupus, touch was vital. Touch between mates was as life giving as the air that filled their lungs. The need to touch and be touched, whether for comfort, encouragement, or desire, was at the core of the wolf’s heart.

Vasile took a step towards her, but Alina held up her hand to halt him and took a step back.

“I am yours, Vasile, as Rachel has told her mate. I am the other half of your soul and when you are ready to give me the respect I deserve as such, I will give you back your rights to me. I never want you to have to deal with your darkness on your own. I want to help you get through the horror you experienced, but I will not beg. Not even for you.” Alina turned and walked across the path, far from her mate. Vasile stared as he tried to see through the red haze that had begun to blur his vision. She was denying him. HIM! He stood utterly dumbfounded and unable to move because of it.

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