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Chapter 29: Lily

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Theo's grip on my hips is like iron as he drags me to the edge of the mattress. He stands proudly between my legs, as naked as he was when getting in the shower.

I reach out to him, not wanting all this space between us, and he obliges. He leans over me, almost close enough to kiss my lips, and then I feel him against me elsewhere. My stomach muscles flex. He's going to—

My eyes open—my face pressed far into my pillow. I lift my head and then my shoulders, and I prop myself up on my elbow. Theo's side of the bed is empty, daylight shines in thin strips through the closed shutters, and I remember he's gone off to Rowan for the day.

I reflect on my dream as its details gradually slip away from me, and I feel frustrated. Why couldn't I stay asleep for a minute longer? In reality, Theo and I are again strained and any prospects for mating feel out of the question, but my dreams are my own—a secret.

I would have happily stayed dreaming, but perhaps the dream had to end; I don't know what mating feels like. My unconscious mind had no basis to build off of.

I get out of bed and ready myself to go downstairs, not expecting anyone to be there. Though, halfway down the staircase, I hear one of the chairs in the kitchen slide against the floor.

"Maude?" I instantly call and hurry the rest of the way.

Maude almost runs into me in the kitchen archway. "Goddess," she gasps, "you—"

Without thinking, I hug her. She goes stiff at first but eases piece by piece, freeing one arm from my squeezing embrace to hold me back. "I'm sorry for what happened," I say over her shoulder. "You were thrown into things when you didn't deserve to—"

"It's okay, Celeste, really. If anything, you should apologize for handing yourself over to try and protect me."

I draw back. "What would I apologize for that?"

"Because a Luna doesn't put herself at risk to save her staff."

"That's stupid! You aren't my staff, you're my... You're Maude, and I would do the same for Elise. Besides, Rowan wanted to take me somewhere—he said we were going to my family. I don't think he wanted to hurt me until Theo showed up out of the blue and got in his way. But whatever the case was, I stand by my decision to keep you out of it."

Maude overcasts with judgment. "Handing yourself over to the enemy is never a good decision. I-I was freaking out. He had you surrounded, and I didn't know where to go. The Alpha, Beta, and Dan were all off the territory, John was at the border—I stood in that doorway," she points through the walls to the foyer, "for who knows how long until I knew you weren't coming back, so I... I went home and drank a bottle of..."

"Maude," I clasp her shoulder, "I love you too."

She brushes my hand off. "Oh, shut up you little..."

Her lips shut, and her tense face softens some. She lets out a much-needed breath as though she's releasing her pent-up worries, and what's left is only her—or, at least, the least-armored version she's shown of herself.

Maude nods subtly in acceptance.

"It's over—the war with Rowan."

"I know. The Alpha said Rowan was dead when he came to tell me you're alright," she says.

"I sent him to find you, to make sure you were alright, too."

She fights whatever expression her brain can't help but make. "Well, what about your family? If Rowan's dead, so is his pack."

"Theo told me last night he would try to find my sister Lily and bring her here with him."

"If your sister's coming, I should prepare one of the guest rooms."

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