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Chapter 36: Rowan

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I gradually wake to Theo's hoarse voice and stroking hand.

I twist up further into our bedsheets and wonder how I got here, but the answer comes to me punctually through a vague memory. Last night I was waiting in Theo's study, sipping his potent liquor while lounging in his leather chair, and I must have fallen asleep because I recall him lifting me up and carrying me upstairs. I was not fully coherent, but I remember asking for the time.

I don't remember what he said.

The second he put me in our bed, I must have fallen back asleep almost instantly.

Theo continues to reel me from the comfortable darkness behind my eyes. "I have to leave for Rowan," he croons, "but you can come another time."

My eyes open at once. "I-I'm coming."

I push off of the mattress and clear my hair from my face. Theo backs up—dressed and ready to leave—as I hurtle into the bathroom with the coordination and speed of someone who didn't just rouse from sleep, but I don't want him to leave without me, and I don't want to set him back either.

I rinse my face, brush my teeth, tie my hair up, and rush into the closet all in a matter of minutes. We'll be shifting, so I exchange my pajamas for clothes just as easily removed, and hop out of the closet on one foot, pulling on one sock and then switching to hop on my other foot, slipping on the second.

"Okay," I announce, "let's go."

Theo and I entertain ourselves with small talk as we walk across the pack to the East border, discussing things like the slowly-adapting Rowan warriors, the fact that Theo is almost finished sorting through Rowan's remains, and that Alpha Rowan's Luna was never seen after her mate's death.

"Where do you think she went?" I ask as we traverse through the block of forest at the territory's edge.

"Probably to her family—parents or siblings. She wasn't from Rowan, so her relatives must be at another pack," he says.

Whatever we talk about, I make sure our chatter stays mellow and doesn't lead into last night's events, although Theo doesn't seem eager to discuss it. At some point, I don't doubt his temperament will change, but for now, I savor our deliberate ignorance.

Shifted guards greet us at the border, and I separate myself to shift, doing so quickly in the cover of the undergrowth. I return and find Theo's monstrous dark brown wolf with an unshifted man and one other wolf. The wolf accompanying us is fastened with a leather bag to carry our clothing, and the unshifted man stuffs my clothes into it before our party of three sets off.

Though Theo runs incredibly quick, he matches my pace. This gesture, while expected, still gratifies our bond.

I don't know what to expect when we arrive at Rowan, but until then, I try not to assume how it will be. Theo warned me that the remaining Rowan pack members—those who have yet to leave or the warriors who haven't accepted Theo's offer to join Draven—will be angry, and I don't think my presence will help. By now, everyone must know I'm involved in Rowan's downfall. To what extent, well, I'm not sure, but any involvement at all can't be good when people are losing their home.

I nurse my worries by telling myself the remaining Rowan pack members will soon find another pack to call home, but I know reality is rarely so cut and dry.

A small, spindly voice in my head whispers: Theo did this. Belrose is next.

I shake the thought from my wolf's head as I continue to run beside him. Theo's wolf glances at me.

It's not only Theo who brought on such an outcome, though. Alpha Rowan threw the first blow by holding me captive, which any Alpha knows is against their unwritten code of conduct. Theo had to do whatever was necessary to retrieve me. Theo couldn't let Alpha Rowan's injustice slide. He had to go to war; it wasn't to start conflict with Alpha Belrose.

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