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Chapter 20: Fire

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The night sky is clear as we walk to the center of the pack. The moon is starting to wane though its light remains lustrous—its surface bright white. Mom says a white moon wills us onward while a yellow moon beckons our reflection of the past. Blue moons are lucky, and blood moons—well, she said death is amongst us under a red moon. Apparently, her mother died during a blood moon.

When the moon is small, the Goddess is far; she's testing our faith. When the moon is large—my favorite—the Goddess bestows many blessings. Tonight the moon appears neither near nor far; it's simply there.

I think the Goddess is merely watching.

"There!" Elise points ahead. "There's the light."

Through the trees the bonfire's flame is lambent, and we follow the path around the trees and onto the smooth cut stones of the pack center. In the middle is a mosaic of all the moon's phases, around in one large circle, and in the center of the circle is the sun. I've walked over the mosaic more than once—with Alexa and again with Maude and Elise on our way to the seamstress'—but as I cross it now, my gaze lingers.

Alexa loves the mosaic and argued that it's special, but it isn't old. Alexa said it was made after Theo became Alpha. She said he has a secret liking for pretty things.

"Look at all the people already here," Maude comments. "Oh, there's Kalilah."

With Maude's direction, I spot Kalilah to the left of the fire sitting with no one in front of her. She sees us as well as we make our way to her.

"Celeste, Maude, Elise, please come sit with me. There's plenty of room." She stands to make sure each of us sits on the large log before she fits herself next to me and takes my hands in hers. "I'm glad you're here."

"I wish it were under different circumstances," I say.

Her expression is content. "I know. These things are never easy; it's been some time since the last attack. The last time I was here I didn't have children to worry about, but thankfully my mother is watching them. I had to lie and tell them Dad's out late helping the Alpha catch bad wolves."

"So how do you cope knowing what's really going on?"

"Goddess, I don't know. I come here, pray, talk to the other women in the same position, and I try to keep my cool." She rubs her pregnant belly. "As long as he stays in here until Corbin is back, I think I'll make it."

I ask, "Do you know anything about the history between Rowan and Draven? Theo said this has been a long time coming."

"Well, it all started when Theo's grandfather lost the pack's Old Blood title. Ever since, Rowan's considered Draven as less than Old Blood, and that forced respect everyone has for Old Blood packs was thrown out the window. We lost the title, but Draven's blood can't be changed like that — the truth is still the truth. Rowan doesn't think so; no title and your blood may as well be one generation deep."

"Draven is Old Blood. I haven't heard that term."

The firelight dances on her face. "Growing up at Rowan, I'm surprised you know other packs exist at all. But Rowan lost respect for Draven, and usually, such a thing wouldn't matter much, but when two packs are as close as we are, all little things—trespassing, accusations, lost correspondence—are blown up into bigger problems. So over time Draven and Rowan grew to despise each other, and then Draven's Alpha's mate is from Rowan—you. A war could have been avoided if Alpha Rowan let you come home, but he held you captive, and now here we are."

I look at the fire.

"Rowan can't stand the thought of Draven succeeding," she mutters.

"And succeeding is having a mate?"

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