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Chapter 33: Completely

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Though he has a clear path to the doors, Theo turns to me instead.

"I don't blame you for not liking how I do things," he says. "I like that you care about people, that you want to save them. You're gentle, Celeste—that's good."

"Well, I don't want to reject you," I say, a touch quieter. "That's the last thing I'd ever want; I wouldn't know what to do if we were no longer mated. I only want to be mated to you."

Theo sighs, easing up.

"Okay," he murmurs and collects me, taking me to the bed where we sit together. "I take risks, I'm not afraid to kill men who choose to become warriors, and I'll do anything within my power to make sure my pack flourishes. What I won't do is cross a line like Rowan did with you; I follow the Alpha code. Alphas like Rowan may paint me to be a monster, but they don't look at me and see a monster; they see an Alpha who can take what's theirs. Now I can't make you think the way I do, nor do I want to, but maybe the best thing I can do for us is explain myself so you can at least hear where I'm coming from."

Theo extends an arm behind me, and I long to lean into him.

"That was my mistake, keeping too much from you," he continues. "I thought keeping you separate would protect our bond, but clearly it's done the opposite. I should have learned that being upfront is better for us after the full-moon ordeal."

Does this mean he's letting me in—completely? The thought of it is thrilling. I've wanted him to share his whole self since we met, and shadowing him as he went about his Alpha duties was a good start, but by the sound of it, he's going to be even more upfront with me. Not even Corbin knew about his plan to betray Alpha Belrose, and now Theo wants to give me such insights.

But, on the other hand, if Theo shares all his thoughts and plans with me, then I'm completely disposed to the realities of Theo's leadership, and merely hearing about Belrose's forty-slain warriors was enough to have me wondering about rejection.

I peer up at his face, and as he gazes back at me, I start to favor more candor. I want my mate to trust me and talk to me about everything—having this discussion is already settling my fears about the forty deaths—so as long as we're straightforward with each other...

Or is that too naive? Would Theo and I only be pushed further apart?

The only thing Theo could do that would make me consider rejection is cause harm to the ones I love, but Lily is safe in his guest house, and he has no reason to put Maude and Elise in danger. If that remains the case, and as long as our bond is intact, we should be able to overcome difficulties like the one we're hiking our way out of now. And maybe if Theo is upfront with me, I can help him make less deadly decisions before it's too late.

"I think that would help," I decide.

"You do?"

I nod as a particular warmth unfurls over my body. "I want you to tell me everything. I always have. And growing up at Rowan... Things I thought were true—they aren't. I don't know how much of my knowledge of the world is affected by that; it's a little scary. Like, I was told most packs are allies and that Rowan has allies all around, but Rowan didn't have all those allies, did it?"

"True allies are few and far between," Theo says. "Rowan had acquaintances like Belrose, but nothing near what you were told, no."

"Why would Rowan perpetuate that? For a false sense of safety?"

"And to boost his ego, I'm sure," Theo says as he moves my hair behind my ear as though he's been waiting to do so. My neck becomes hot.

"Did Belrose think you were true allies?"

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