My heart sank. 12:01. I was officially eighteen, but I couldn’t feel anything except for disappointment. Jacob was struck dumb. He hadn’t moved for a full minute now, and I could scarcely feel the movement of his chest rising and falling.

“Jake?” I whispered, pressing myself closer to him. He sighed.

“We’re not mates,” he murmured, and the heartbreak in his voice made my chest clench. “I asked my mum how we’d know. She said we just would, that our worlds would change, re-arrange so that you were at my centre. It feels the same,” he said, choking on the last word. I wrapped my arms around him and furrowed my head even further under his chin.

I still felt safe and at home, but there was no magic spark, nothing mystical or otherworldly. I could feel my love for him pounding against my ribcage, bursting like a firework and then fizzling out over and over as the realisation hit me. We weren’t mates. We weren’t meant to be.

I could feel tears worming their way up to my eyes, my throat burning as it clasped around nothing. I could feel myself clutching at straws, the desperation pounding against my skull as I tried to think of ways around this.

“Maybe you’re not actually eighteen yet,” Jacob said into my hair, and it seemed that he felt the same. “Maybe we have to wait until the exact minute of your birth.”

I nodded, but I didn’t agree. I could feel somewhere deep inside that we weren’t meant to be, that this wasn’t it. Jacob wasn’t the one. The tears started to fall; I could taste the salt on my upper lip, dripping down the sides of my nose and cascading down my chin. I wiped at them with a clumsy hand.

Jacob sniffled above me. When he felt my hand moving he finally looked at me, and he caught my chin with his fingers, wiping my tears away with his other hand. I leant into his touch, feeling comforted.

“This doesn’t change anything,” he said. “I still want you to be my Luna. You belong with me, Ari.” His voice cracked, and my heart tore a little more. It felt as though someone was toying with it, slowly pulling it apart at the seams. My eyes glazed over, and I couldn’t find any words to make this better.

My bedroom door swung open then, slamming so hard that it whacked against the wall. “Happy Birthday!” My parents yelled, with Jacob’s stood right behind them. They were beaming, but their smiles faltered when they caught sight of us.

“You’re not…” My mum managed to choke out, and she shook her head.

“This can’t be,” my dad added, looking crestfallen. Jacob’s parents hurried in behind them, their faces stunned.

“They aren’t mates,” Jacob’s mum whispered, her eyes immediately filling with tears. She moved over to the bed and took my hand in hers, my mum moving to sit on the other side of me. Our dads both clapped Jacob on the shoulder, frowning heavily.

“I know this must be disappointing for both of you,” Jacob’s mum began, regaining her poise. “But the Moon Goddess has a plan, and she’ll have a reason for this. It doesn’t mean anything has to change between the two of you,” she added, squeezing my hand. She wiped gracefully at her tears, and composed herself.

“Trust in your paths,” my mum added, smiling sadly at us.

“You two look exhausted,” Jacob’s dad said. “Why don’t you take tomorrow off of training, get some rest, gather yourselves. This is a big shock for us all.”

“I’d like to train, sir,” I mumbled.

“Are you sure?” My dad spoke up. “It’s your birthday, sweetie, don’t feel you have to-“

“I want to, dad,” I said with a small smile.

“And what’s with the sir?” Jacob’s dad laughed. “It’s Kele to you, and it always has been.” He leant over and gave my shoulder a squeeze. “Ari, you know I think you’re a wonderful girl. We both do,” he said, gesturing towards Liliana.

She nodded, smiling sweetly at me.

“If you two had been mated and you were to take over as Luna, we would have been so happy. And, truly, we thought that was the path the Moon Goddess was going to choose for you. But,” he said, dropping his gaze, “she did not, and that is something we all have to live with and adjust to. It does not, however, mean that we have any less regard for you. Of course not. We love you as our own, Ari, and it pains me deeply that you are not the one chosen for our son. But you must trust in the Goddess, and I promise you, everything will become clear.”

He spoke with gravitas, and I bowed my head. To receive such praise from the Alpha was overwhelming, especially after such an emotional shock.

“You two have an undeniable bond,” my father added. His words brought about a sense of reverence, too. “Do not let this draw you apart. Use it to bring you closer. Jacob will be the Alpha of the Silver Crescent pack one day and Ari, you may be his Beta. Do not let this weaken your connection. Everything will fall into place. Now,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye. “There’s cake downstairs. It was meant to be for tomorrow, but I don’t think anyone will notice if we have some now.”

Jake and I wiped at our eyes, wide grins spreading across our faces. We both train hard, so we eat well, too, and cake has always been one of my favourite foods. One of the Omegas took a shine to me after I dried up the clean washing for him, years ago, so he sometimes calls me over with a hushed voice to give me first dibs on something delicious and home-cooked.

Sometimes, he’d go as far to bake something just for me – once it was jam tarts, and another time a giant cherry bakewell. Thinking about it made my stomach rumble, so I leapt up and pulled on an oversized sweatshirt before blowing out the lit candles dotted around my bedroom.

My parents pulled me into a hug, one on either side of me. My mum kissed my forehead, before saying “Happy Birthday sweetie” with a smile. As soon as they let me go, Jacob tackled me from behind and pulled me up into a fireman’s lift, toting me downstairs. I laughed and flailed, raining a series of half-hearted kicks and punches down on him, but there was no real effort involved.

I heard our parents laugh somewhere behind us, and in that moment I knew that everything would be okay.

The cake was delicious, and I could see why my dad thought nobody would notice. It was a huge, tiered affair, and there were several other smaller cakes littered around the kitchen, some half-iced and almost finished, but most of them were complete. We snuck one of the smaller cakes into the pack house’s library, which was one of my favourite rooms.

It was right at the far end of the ground floor, past the meeting room and the few guest bedrooms that were kept for emergencies. I’d never experienced any emergency that had made use of a spare bedroom, but it still seemed like a good idea to be prepared. There were a number of bathrooms downstairs, too, as well as the kitchen and the large meeting room, which had a small office to the side.

This office was left unused most of the time, as each of the upper floors had private offices for each of the high ranking wolves. There was also a small but well-equipped gym, which was a little further away from the library, in order to keep it a quiet and peaceful area – as quiet as a house full of wolves could be, anyway.

It was a room constructed mainly of windows, and warm white and dark wood stretching across the floor and up the walls. Towering bookcases rested between each of the ground-to-ceiling windows, creating cosy nooks between them. Each of these had a small window seat and a soft lamp, with a view out onto the expansive lawns outside.

Curling leaves of ivy climbed up the sides of the bookcases, and hanging spider plants dangled down, almost touching the houseplants that grew upwards from their position on the floor. The window seats were draped in blankets and cushions, some worn and fraying at the edges. Many had been handmade, and were passed down through generations of wolves.

There was a large table in the middle of the room, and a collection of smaller desks lining the windows on the other side of the room. The moonlight spilled in, and several of the lamps were turned on, as well as a cord lit with glowing yellow bulbs that had been strung up between the bookcases.

My mum and Liliana ran ahead, after making me promise to close my eyes. I groaned but complied, and felt a smile tugging at my lips. I had a feeling I knew what was in store for me, but as much as I dreaded it, I also found it sweet. Their excitement was palpable, and it settled in my stomach, helping to soothe away the aching resentment from not being mated to Jacob.

I could feel his warmth next to me, and he reached over to grab my hand. His eyes were still open, and he whispered, “You’re not going to like this,” in my ear. It still made me shiver, and I wondered if, perhaps, we could avoid our true mates. I dismissed the idea quickly, though, and focused on the present.

“Why?” I hissed, trying to peek at him from the corner of my eye without fully opening them. He didn’t get a chance to answer before I heard it.

Our parents were singing together, an out-of-tune Happy Birthday to You that warmed my heart even as it made my ears burn. I opened my eyes slightly, and beamed as I saw the set up in front of me.

The cake had been covered with dripping candles, and the four of them stood behind it, gathered around the table in the centre of the room. They smiled warmly at me as Jacob led me in by the crook of my elbow, and we all took a seat when we reached them. My parents reached across the table and took my hands in theirs, their eyes kind as they met mine.

We ate until we felt sick, our stomachs bloated. Jacob had cake crumbs littered across his cheeks and chin, and I brushed them off with a laugh. Our eyes drooped, half-lidded under the soft lighting and against the darkness outside. I thought I’d been tired before my birthday began; now, I was exhausted.

We snuck the plates back into the kitchen. Our parents wished us goodnight, and Jacob and I stayed downstairs to cover our tracks. They had to be up earlier than us, and I wanted to make sure everything was clean so that nobody had to do any extra work because of me. Jacob protested, though, and tried to get me to sit down while he did the washing up.

“It’s your birthday,” he argued.

“Which is why there are cake crumbs everywhere. The quicker you relent and let me help, the quicker we can both get to bed.”

“True. And you said you wanted to train tomorrow. Now I’ll look bad if I don’t go, so, thanks for that, by the way.”

I shrugged. “Evil doesn’t take a day off,” I said with a snicker.

Jacob rolled his eyes, but let me stand next to him and help do the dishes. We worked in companionable silence for a while, both too tired to think, let alone form sentences. Eventually, though, Jacob spoke.

“I meant what I said earlier, you know,” he said, passing me a clean plate to dry. “You might not be my mate, but I still want you to be my Luna. We’ve loved each other for as long as I can remember. I can’t imagine wanting anyone more than I want you.”

I stilled, the wet plate dripping onto my wrist. Part of me felt the same: Jacob was my home, he was safe and warm and I loved being with him. I’d spent the best part of eighteen years with him, by his side every day without fail.

I broke my leg, once, and he was desperate to look after me. Wolves don’t get sick the same way humans do, and healing my leg was only a weeklong process, but he stood by my bed every day, for as long as he could. He even brought me soup and fresh bread, which I thought was overkill, but the way he’d smiled down at me had made my heart melt.

When he wasn’t being thoughtful, he was making me laugh, loud and raucous. I could see us being together, and everyone in the pack had not only thought we would, but believed it.

But there was another part of me, buried deeper, that made me want to wait. Jacob had been in my life forever, but so had the Moon Goddess, and my belief in her.

“I don’t know what to do, Jake,” I confessed. “I know how I feel about you. But I trust the Moon Goddess, and I have to believe that she knows the paths we’re on. She must have had a reason for doing this. I don’t know,” I repeated. “I think I just need a little time.”

“I’ll give you all the time you need,” he said. He put down the sponge and wiped his palms on the bottom of his t-shirt, then turned to me.

“It’s a big decision, I know, and I will respect whatever you decide. But I need you to know how I feel so that you can make a well-informed decision. I know it’s been a bit of a joke up until now, this idea. But I would reject my mate for you, Arienne.”

Comments (4)
goodnovel comment avatar
Hilde Majors
I like what I read
goodnovel comment avatar
Yup twist coming and I love it
goodnovel comment avatar
Catherine Greene
Aww I feel so sad for them. I already like them together.

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