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Chapter 32: Rejection

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"You're her mate?"

Elise nods, void of her usual cheerful aura.

I unconsciously step back and place my hands on my hips. "I'm supposed to say things to you, but I-I didn't think it'd be you. I'm supposed to be talking to some random person."

"She's inside? What is she doing?" Elise asks, understandably unconcerned with my dilemma. She looks past me and through the open front door.

"I'm trying to calm Lily down. I told her I would wait out here for her mate so I could tell them..." I gather myself, forcing my enclosing thoughts away. "Elise, she just lost her mate Ben two days ago. Being mated again so suddenly is really freaking her out—she doesn't know what to do."

"Her mate died?" Elise pulls back, this time having heard me. "I-I forgot you said she's mated—was mated—and I didn't... These circumstances..."

"It's a delicate situation."

"He... Two days ago?"

I nod. "She needs time."

Elise laughs somewhat nervously. "What is the Goddess thinking anymore? She can't be. Why would she do this?"

"I'm sure if you give her some space to come to terms—"

"Was she upset when she felt the bond? Angry?"

"Um, not angry. Flustered, maybe. It was a big surprise."

"She doesn't want to see me?" Elise asks, and my heart swells like it's filling with water, sloshing uncomfortably.

"I think she feels guilty because of Ben. She's mourning," I explain.

"Of course," Elise mutters, running her fingers over her hairline. "How did he die—her previous mate?"

"Theo had him here in the cells, but Alpha Rowan messed everything up when he tried to free him. And it's not just Lily here, my mom is staying with her at one of the guest houses which means Lily is only more miserable."

Elise holds still. "Goddess, I just want to see her, you know?"

"I know."

"My heart is beating so hard."

"I'll talk to her, calm her down, and, who knows, she might come around to meeting you tomorrow, but I don't think she can handle this right now." I sigh. "I wish this could go differently—you deserve for this to go differently."

Elise fastens a look to her angular face that's infinitely more content than she must be feeling; her mask cracks at the edges of her mouth and in the blacks of her eyes. I scour for something better to say to help her cope, but everything I conjure up doesn't seem good enough. There isn't anything that could make this twisted situation alright.

"It is what it is," she says. "I can handle it; I can wait."

"You're willing to do that?"

"What else do I do? She's my mate. If seeing me hurts her, then I can only wait until she wants...to see me." Her mask buckles.

"You're right. She's your mate," I confirm even though I'm still processing the fact that my sister is mated to a woman. "The bond can overcome this."

Elise's slim frame caves as she releases a deep breath.

I move closer. "Don't worry about working tonight. Go home, try to relax, and I'll talk to her."

"You'll let me know if anything happens, right?"

"I will, and tomorrow when you come back, I'll have an update for you for sure, okay?" I say, and this seems to help soothe her.

"Okay." She breathes in, calming. "I don't know how I'm going to sleep tonight."

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