He scoffed. “You take me to be far stronger than I am.”
I met his eyes, and they were dark and sparkling back at me. He was so handsome, and when he moved in for a kiss, I leaned in as well. It was the only thing I could think to do, and I immediately felt no regrets when our lips touched. How could I ever regret something that felt so right?
Ithought that once Eliza left, I would be able to find her pretty easily. I wanted to explain to her that I’d talked to Amos, but he wasn’t to the point where he saw what he had done as a mistake. It was pretty clear that Sondra would be his mate soon enough, but they weren’t going for it quickly like I thought they would. It had been almost a month, and no one had said anything about setting a date. Two perfectly good full moons had come and gone.
It was time for me to get to work. The bison were breeding well, and it was going to be another record-breaking year for us. None of it mattered, though. I could only think about Eliza, and everyone noticed. I heard constantly that I wasn’t myself and needed to find a mate. I was almost forty, so finding a mate probably wasn’t going to happen. Every time I heard something like that, though, I thought of Eliza.
I called her phone repeatedly, but she never answered. It would just ring and ring. I thought maybe it was turned off, but it never went to straight to voicemail. It was always ringing, and Eliza was never there to answer the phone. I left another message and went about my day, doing my best not to think about her the whole time.
It didn’t go very well, and by noon, I was calling her number again. I was used to it ringing, so when she did answer, her voice a balm to my mind, I immediately felt a rush of relief.
“I have been worried about you Eliza. I wanted to make sure that you are okay.” I wanted to hear that she missed me too, but she didn’t sound too happy with me.
Eliza scoffed. “I am better here than I have ever been with my own pack. I was never happy there, always miserable.”
I knew that to be true, I knew how she had been treated. Her parents had held her to a different standard, like she deserved their anger and mistreatment. I would always blame myself for not taking the brunt of the punishments hurled her way. I had stopped some of it, but not nearly enough of it. It was hard to imagine all she endured.
“Who can blame you?” I asked, conciliatory. I missed her and I wanted her to be okay. I wanted her to know that I had her back, no matter what.
“What do you want, Patrick? I have a lot of work to do, and I need to get back to it.”
I was surprised to hear that she was working, though Eliza had known hard work her whole life. Ever since she was about seventeen, Eliza did anything she was told, and she had gotten some of the hardest, dirtiest, and most demeaning jobs people could come up with. Once she was marked as unworthy by the future alpha, no one wanted to have anything to do with her. It was sad, really it was, but I knew she had made herself stronger from it. It was that strength and refusal to give in that I liked the best about her. I could hear in her voice that it hadn’t changed. She was still just as determined.
“Where are you?”
“Why do you want to know?”
She was suspicious, and I was hurt. She was acting like something was going to happen to her if she told me. I wanted to see her so badly, thought about her all the damn time, but what if she didn’t feel the same way? I was trying my best not to let it get to me.
“I miss you, Eliza, and I have been worried sick about you. I am glad to know you are safe, but I still want to see you. I don’t know what’s going on, but I am still holding out hope that you will figure out a way to stay here. You left, and though Amos hasn’t admitted to it yet, he knows he did the wrong thing. He will let you come back.”
She laughed bitterly. “I don’t want to go back. I know that you tried to keep me safe, and you saved me from a few beatings, but you missed even more. My parents didn’t really care, no one could save me from Amos, and I will not live like that again. I never want to have to go back to that. It’s better where I am now, people don’t treat me badly. I am happy. I have worth now.”
I was glad to hear that she was doing better, but I hated that her doing better meant that she wanted to have nothing to do with me.
“You are really not going to tell me where you are Eliza?” I tried to hide the pain from my voice, but I didn’t think I did a very good job. She had to see that I was just trying to help. I wanted see her with my own eyes. Then I would be able to think straight.
“I am close, Patrick. I don’t think you need to know much more than that. I know you’ve always tried to help me, and you wouldn’t tell Amos to start something, but maybe he finds out another way. I don’t want to deal with him or anyone else from the pack. I think it’s best that they all just forget about me and leave me alone. Maybe it’s the best thing for you as well. I’m not going home. I am not going to be out that way for a very long time.”
I couldn’t believe she was trying to write me off. “Do you really not want to see me again?”
“I just want to make it easier.”
For her? Certainly not for me. Not seeing her again wasn’t an option. I couldn’t believe she was even trying to make it an option.
“Are you okay? Is someone there making you say those things?”
Eliza sighed. “No, Patrick. I’m safe here. I don’t ever want to go back home. I am safe for the first time in my life.”
“I am sorry I failed you, Eliza.” I didn’t know what else to say, but I truly meant it. I never wanted to fail her, but I had in so many ways. I had been too worried about upsetting Silas and others in the pack. I would hate myself for what happened to her. If she didn’t let me back into her life, though, how was I ever going to pay her back?
I heard a voice in the background where she was say the name Mystic Falls Ranch and the name of the neighboring town. She may not want me to know, but I knew now. Eliza was with the pack’s enemies. Was she really okay, or was she being held against her will?
“I don’t want you to worry about me, Patrick. You did a lot of that when I was younger. I know you tried to help me, more than my own parents did. I will be fine, and you will be too Patrick. I am not your kid; you don’t have to worry about me anymore.”