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Chapter 28: Avoidance

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I'm paralyzed in the archway, hearing only snippets, sounds, and nothing comprehensible from the study beyond the living room. Nervous sparks travel throughout my fingers and palms and up my arms.

What is Theo telling Corbin? That none of it is true—that Dan is mistaken?

I could handle my parents' betrayal, and my sister's when she told Ben my secret, but I don't know what to do about the betrayal of my own body—of the bond in my chest that, like my veins, travels, winds, and pumps something like blood throughout me. The Goddess' gift.

Again, I find myself questioning why she gave me this matehood. A gift... I clench my jaw, my heart aching.

The front door sits just over my shoulder. I peer down at my robe, knowing I can't go out there and search for Maude dressed like this, so I detour. I slip upstairs into the bedroom and jerk a shirt and pair of pants off their hangers in the closet. As rapidly as possible, I shrug off the robe and put on clean underwear along with the hung clothes. My hair is still wet, but I can't be bothered to dry it—I've survived enough chaos tonight—a cold isn't particularly threatening amongst my other worries.

I conquer the stairs and move across the foyer to the door, keen on nothing else. Theo didn't lock it, so I pull the door open and close it behind me, wasting not even a second before joining the path.

The obvious advancing hurdle is that I have no clue where Maude lives, and there are groups of houses all over the territory. I'm most familiar with the houses near the pack house by the training fields and the cells, but there are more houses just south of the river that sweeps in and out of territory's northern end—Alexa and I walked there.

Neither Maude nor Elise have told me a thing about their homes, but I suppose I never asked.

The pack house door opens behind me, though I don't dare look. I keep walking away from it.

The moon floats above the treetops ahead. Tonight the moon isn't red, and is exactly half full—I couldn't possibly understand why.

"Celeste."

My fingers spread and then ball up at the sound of Theo's voice.

How can I see the truth with our mate bond constantly blinding me?

His footsteps come after me—his scent too. My heart hammers.

"Celeste!"

"I'm looking for Maude," I say without turning back.

Theo already reaches me, moving much faster. "She doesn't live this way."

I yank my arm from him when he tries to grab it. "Don't."

"Come back to the house. I'll go check on her."

I refuse to look at him, so I keep walking. "I said I got this."

"Stop walking away," he says, getting heated. "I don't need you outside alone right now, not after—"

"After you ended my home pack? Or after you betrayed Alpha Belrose?"

"Celeste!" He shouts, and I face him. "Enough! Go back to the house."

The cloth on his face didn't wipe off all the blood he shed tonight; it's still in the crevices of his eyes and in his brows, not to mention the red that besmears the rest of his body. His bare chest is as red as a blood moon. He's brutally beautiful. I can hear our bond: you're his.

My lip quivers. "Is this why you wanted me to trust you? So once you killed forty innocent men you'd know I wouldn't leave?"

"I don't want you out of the house right now," he says very clearly, stepping closer. "The borders aren't secure."

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