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Chapter 18: Poison

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I wake in the guest room to the worst kind of alarm I could ask for. Inner body sensations that were once a mystery but aren't anymore start their subtle drum—a beat that grows louder until I realize I'm feeling something more than an upset stomach; it's heat.

I clutch the blankets under my chin and fist them hard. This is the last thing I need right now. After the disastrous meeting with Lily and my mom yesterday and another night of solitude, heat is another thorn in my side. Theo and I haven't spoken since I told him about my mother's proposition regarding Alpha Belrose, and if I don't smother my magnified, heat-infused scent, soon he'll know what's happening to me.

Theo made it very clear the last time heat overtook me that he knows exactly what's going on and what will go on if I try to quiet it myself. My whole body flushes red, and I let my bed covers swallow me.

One thing is very clear: I do not want Theo to know about this.

The only solution I can think of is to get far enough away that he can't smell me at all. He'll be at the house, the field, and possibly anywhere else on his territory, so I have to hide beyond that. I have to go onto unclaimed land.

I leave the bed and dress quickly, racing against my body as the heat slowly culminates. Discomfort already weighs in my lower body—I wish I could rip it out and tear it up.

I tie my hair back and choose clothes that will be quick to take on and off for when I have to shift. Hopefully, I'm able to find somewhere barren and quiet to wait it out.

I race down the stairs but pause before escaping through the front door. Maude is here. My conscience urges me her way; someone should know where I am.

I peek into the kitchen, and Maude is in her usual spot at the table. She's reading from a book with gold detailing on the cover, but her eyes lift to me, so I step into the archway.

"Sorry to interrupt," I say. "I just wanted to tell you that I'm going into the forest for a bit."

Her brows pinch together. "Why?"

"For a walk—a long one. I'll probably be back in a few hours."

"You smell off."

My cheeks redden. If I could wash the scent of heat away, I would jump in the river. "Oh? Weird. Well, I thought I would go past the border a bit."

"Past the border? You know we have wolves guarding it, right? They won't just let you pass without a good reason."

"Why not?"

"Because there are rogue wolves who take one look at a girl alone and their minds go to dark places." She closes her book. "Are you in heat?"

I scoff. "No."

"Yes, you are you little liar. You think you can just go onto unclaimed land and wait it out? Anything wandering by will immediately be drawn to you. And that's not even considering what the Alpha would do if he found out."

Irked by too many culminating things, I say, "Screw him, I don't care! I hate heat. It makes me so uncomfortable and crazy and I just want it to be over. I just want to yank it out of me and stomp on it until it dies."

"Goddess," Maude mutters. "Mating solves all heat-related problems, you know."

"I'm not mating with that jerk. All he cares about is attacking Rowan. We don't even sleep in the same bed anymore. Besides, I don't even know what mating really means. Everyone keeps saying it like I'm supposed to know, but no one ever tells me anything more." My eyes start to well with tears. "For Goddess' sake now look—I'm crying. This is what happens when I go into heat. It's... It's..." I throw my hands down.

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