Sacred Silence – Quinn Loftis

“Finding a mate was not something on my bucket list … not that I have a bucket list. When one is immortal, he doesn’t give a lot of thought to what he wants to do before he dies. But Jennifer says I should have a bucket list because she might kill me at any minute, so best to be prepared. Regardless, before I met my Jennifer, had I had such a thing as a bucket list, finding my true mate would not have been one of the things on it. But now that I have met her, I realize how foolish it was not to have it listed as number one on the list … and having a daughter would certainly be a close second.” ~Decebel A little over a century ago: “One day, brother, you will meet your true mate, and she will not take any of your silent brooding.” My brow rose as I stared down at my younger sister. Her dark brown eyes twinkled with mischief as her lips turned up into a taunting smile. I growled at her. “The Great Luna would not curse some poor female with the likes of me as her mate,” I said. “I was created to fight and protect the pack, not for romance.” “Decebel, you would not be a curse on some poor female. First, the Great Luna will give you a female with a backbone even stiffer than yours. Second, you were created for more than just a single purpose. You are a male of worth, brother.

You don’t see it. But I do.” And she did. I couldn’t see it in myself, but I could see it in her eyes. She truly valued me as a male and as her brother. Cosmina always saw the best in people. It grieved her greatly to see anyone dwell on their faults. She hated when other people were disappointed in themselves. She was tender, kind, and precious—an asset to the pack. “It doesn’t matter anyway.

All the females are scared of me.” She laughed. “Because all you do is glower at them.” I didn’t glower. Okay, perhaps I glowered a little. “The females are just so silly,” I grumbled. “Some are, perhaps. But maybe you are just a bit too serious,” she offered. “I am the exact amount of serious that my position requires.” I knew it would make her laugh.

And she did. Her eyes squinted, and her cheeks lifted as her face was transformed, glowing with joy. “Well, I pray here and now that the Great Luna not only gives you a true mate that will love your glower, but that she also gives you a beautiful daughter, that way your glower will actually come in handy.” “What are you talking about?” I asked. “If you have a daughter,” Cosmina replied, “then you can use your glower on all of the males who will undoubtedly drool over her.” “Oh, great, a pack of males sniffing around my daughter. That’s exactly what every male Canis lupus wants.” I growled. “I’m being sarcastic, if you couldn’t tell.” Truth be told, any male worth his salt would be thrilled to have a pup, male or female.

Cubs among the Canis lupus were rare and, because of that rarity, treasured above all else. But I couldn’t see a child in my future, especially not a daughter. Female pups required gentleness, and I didn’t have a gentle bone in my body. “I can’t wait until I get to laugh and tell your mate all about this conversation,” Cosmina said, her eyes twinkling with delight. “Speaking of true mates, sister, you will be a great treasure to the one destined for you by the Great Luna.” I reached out and ran my hand down her dark hair as I spoke, giving her the touch needed by our wolf nature and pack bond. She issued a mock sigh. “Maybe, but should that day ever come, he may not accept me.” “Why on earth would you say that? The males already practically kill themselves fighting over you.” “True, but if he accepts me, then he must also accept the fact that one day, my old, grumpy, mate-less, bachelor brother will have to live in our garage.

No one wants a true mate with that kind of baggage.” “Hey,” I said, indignant. “And he will probably have to give you medicinal sponge baths, since all the battles you’ve fought have left your old, tired body a hopeless wreck.” Her words were coming out in short spurts as she began to laugh at the image she painted of our future. It might not have been funny if it wasn’t so accurate. All good jokes held a hint of truth, and I couldn’t see a future for myself much better than the one she’d predicted. “How kind of you to make room in your future home for me,” I said dryly. “Now I can look forward to my mate-less life with joy because I will have you and your male looking after me. If you think I’m grumpy now, just wait until I’ve got a few hundred more years under my belt.” Cosmina was cackling by the time I had finished talking.

“It wasn’t that funny,” I grumbled. “But … it sort of was.” She reached up and wrapped her arms around my neck, squeezing me tight. “Goodnight, Decebel. Have a good night watch.” I kissed her on her forehead and pushed her toward the small hut that was our den. I both dreaded and rejoiced for the day when she would find her true mate. At that point, she would no longer be mine to care for, protect, and provide for. Another wolf would rightfully take on these responsibilities. Not that these duties were a burden to me, far from it.

They were a privilege, but it would be a relief to have only myself to look after. However, I wasn’t sure if I could ever truly trust anyone else to take care of Cosmina as I had done her whole life. I stripped out of my clothes and phased, allowing the wolf to take over. Spending time in my wolf form was freeing, much easier than living as a man. The wolf didn’t worry about past or future. The wolf lived in the moment. And in this moment, it was our job to protect the pack while they rested for the night. Letting go of my worries for Cosmina, I padded off into the surrounding forest and began to patrol the village. TWO DAYS LATER, much sooner than I’d anticipated, my hopes and fears came to fruition. I was splitting firewood when I heard my sister’s voice call out to me.

“DECEBEL!” My head snapped up, and I took off at a run in the direction of the sound. My feet pounded into the ground at inhuman speed, and yet it wasn’t fast enough. I could hear the terror in her voice and, as I got closer, I could see a gathered crowd of pack members. “MOVE.” I thundered as I pushed past them until I finally stood before my weeping sister. She was staring at two wolves who were in the heat of battle. “Cosmina, what is going on?” I growled, feeling my wolf pushing at my flesh to break free. “He challenged him,” she said through her tears. “Who challenged who?” I was trying very hard not to lose my patience, but I couldn’t fix anything until I knew exactly what I was dealing with. “Draiden challenged Bastian.

I haven’t seen Bastian in over a year. He just showed up.” The wolf was part of our pack, but he lived on the furthest line of our territory. “Okay, what about him, Cosmina? Focus.” “Bastian is my true mate. I was just talking to Draiden when I saw Bastian appear. Right away, I knew. As soon Bastian came to us, Draiden realized what was happening and challenged Bastian. I guess he wanted to claim me before my true mate had a chance.” She pointed at the two wolves attempting to tear each other apart.

“You have to stop them.” Looking into her eyes, seeing her pain, shredded my insides. But I couldn’t fix the problem. “The challenge is allowed, Cosmina. You know that. You aren’t marked. Any unmated male can challenge your true mate. I cannot stop it.” She grabbed my forearm as I started to step back. Her fingernails dug into my flesh, scoring the skin, and drawing blood to the surface.

“I’m your sister. Please, I don’t want to lose him.” “He has to prove that he can fight for you, that he has the strength to protect you. Consider this his first test.” She bared her teeth at me and whipped around to watch the battle, which was already almost over. Bastian had phased back to his human form and had a forearm across the other wolf’s throat. The wolf twisted on his back and tried snapping his jaws, but Bastian was stronger, keeping him pinned. “I will spare you if you submit. But consider this challenge done. Cosmina is mine.

” I let out a relieved sigh as Draiden tilted his head back and relaxed his body. Submission. He was willing to give up without making Bastian kill him. Bastian stood and stepped back, watching the wolf for a few seconds longer before he finally turned to look at his mate. It happened in a split second. Draiden had been on his back, legs in the air, completely still. Then, the instant Bastian looked away, the defeated wolf was up on all fours. He lunged. I thought he would hit Bastian, possibly sinking his fangs into the back of the man’s neck. But I hadn’t realized Cosmina had sprinted toward her mate.

Draiden’s teeth were in her flesh before I could make a sound. As her body fell, silence surrounded me. I felt myself moving, catching her in my arms before she could hit the ground, but I couldn’t hear anything. The world was silent as I stared down at the bleeding body of my sister. I didn’t hear Bastian kill Draiden or the wolves that had gathered around howling as they stared down at their fallen packmate. I didn’t hear anything until one long, mournful howl silenced all the others. It was coming from deep within me. THE COOL NİGHT air felt good against my skin as I sat next to Cosmina’s grave. It had been a fortnight since I’d buried her, and still I came to her grave every day, all day. It was like I’d convinced myself that she could hear me, that she missed me as much as I missed her.

I knew it was just her soulless body buried within the ground, but it was all I had left of her, and I wasn’t yet ready to let her go. The pain her death had caused was not something I could have ever even begun to comprehend. There was a hole in the shape of Cosmina in my heart, and I knew nothing would ever fill it. “Decebel.” The deep voice drew me from my thoughts as I looked up to see Bastian. “May I?” He motioned to the other side of the grave. “Of course.” He sat. I couldn’t help but notice how hollow he looked. They hadn’t yet bonded, but the loss of Cosmina was destroying the young male.

“I don’t regret it,” Bastian said suddenly. “Excuse me?” I asked. “You’re looking at me with pity because I met my mate and lost her before we had a chance to bond.” “Such a thing does not happen often,” I said, “but it is always tragic.” “It is rare,” he replied. “We Canis lupus bond because our souls need one another to exist. The bond ensures we leave this life together. It guarantees one does not live without the other. It’s unnatural for our kind to be left on the earth without our true mate.” Here he paused a long moment.

“Yet, here I am. You say it is tragic. Maybe it is, but I don’t regret finding her. I treasure the thought she was mine, even for the quick breath that it was.” I didn’t refute his words. But the anguish I heard in his voice was in complete contradiction to what he’d said. Still, I wasn’t about to challenge a man who’d just lost the other half of his soul. “But,” he said, meeting my gaze, “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else. So, I shall pray for you, Decebel, as not only my packmate, but a man who I know consider my brotherin-law, even though the bond was not completed. I would spare you from this pain, brother.

I will pray you live your life without your true mate or die the second she does.” A single tear slid down Bastian’s cheek as his eyes dropped to my sister’s grave. In that one tear, I saw the life he mourned. Not just hers, but the life they would have had together. And I agreed with Bastian. I didn’t want a true mate if the pain of losing her was even a fraction of what I was feeling now. “I covet your prayers, Bastian,” I said quietly. “It would be a greater mercy never to find her than suffer what I see you in your eyes.” Cosmina’s words echoed in my mind, taunting me even as Bastian said he’d pray I wouldn’t find my mate. My sister had prayed just the opposite.

Cosmina had prayed I would not only find my true mate, but that she would also give me a daughter. “Never, Cosmina,” I whispered to the cold ground below me. “Not if there’s a chance I would have to endure this pain again.” “I Chapter One “Nipples. The small round protuberances are something that are rarely in the forefront of a woman’s mind but always in the forefront of a man’s mind. Bloody nipples, however, quickly consume the mind of the woman whose had her boobs suckled and chewed on until they are an unrecognizable mess. All those books raving about the wonders of breastfeeding and the incredible bond formed between mother and child at mealtimes tend to leave something out. They forget the fact that, at three in the morning when your screaming infant is hungry, you’ll be screaming right along with her because your nipples are on fire, and they don’t really give a damn about the bonding experience.” ~Jen Two days after Thia’s birth. The female pack members have been rescued from the Dark Forest.

suck at this,” Jen cried as she laid her daughter down on the bed in front of her. “I’m not supposed to suck at this. She’s supposed to suck at this,” Jen continued dryly. Then she looked over at Decebel. “Get it? Because she’s the one nursing, and she should literally be sucking?” Her words trailed off. “That was lame. I suck at not being lame too.” Jen was sitting with her back against the headboard. She’d been trying for the better part of an hour to get Thia to nurse but was having little success, and both baby and mother were getting frustrated. Decebel felt helpless as he watched the tears stream down his beautiful mate’s face.

His daughter was crying as well, her little fists balled tightly as she screamed her displeasure. Helplessness was not something he handled well. It reminded him all too much of the day his sister—and his daughter’s namesake— had died and how he’d been helpless to stop it. It was a different kind of helpless, but it still had the same effect on him. It tore him up that someone he loved was in a vulnerable state. “You don’t suck at anything, baby,” he said gently as he scooped Thia up and attempted to calm her. He placed her against his bare chest and allowed a low growl from his wolf to rumble out. For some reason, the sound usually soothed the girl, and this time was no exception. Thia began to calm immediately. Jen threw her hands up in the air.

“That’s ridiculous. I’m her freaking mom, for crying out loud. I’m a walking dairy bar for the girl. I deliver fresh milk made to order, and I can’t even calm her that fast.” Crap, Decebel thought to himself as he ceased the rumbling. He’d thought his upset mate would calm down herself if Thia quit crying. Apparently, comforting his daughter had been the wrong move. As more tears fell from Jen’s eyes, he seriously considered secretly pinching the baby and pretending he couldn’t calm the baby either. But even though he didn’t understand babies or crazy postpartum mom hormones, he knew that two wrongs didn’t make a right. So, instead, he waited until Thia was asleep and then laid her gently in her basinet.

He took a deep breath and then walked over to the bed where he gathered his mate into his large arms. “You are a fantastic mother, Jennifer,” he said as he put her in his lap and leaned back against the headboard. He brushed her long, blonde locks away from her neck and pressed his lips to her flesh in a gentle kiss. “You’ve only been at this for a few days, and you’re doing beautifully. We’ve all been through a traumatic experience. And you, more than any of us, have reason to fall apart. But here you are, as strong as ever, tackling the task of motherhood just like you tackle everything—boldly and completely. You amaze me.” She shook her head. “Well, it would be nice to amaze you with the ability to actually keep our child from starving.

I can’t get her to latch on correctly. She’s so hungry and my milk has come in.” She held her hands up in air quotes. “Yes, that’s a thing, and it’s painful. I’m hurting, and I’m so damn tired I can barely think straight.” She pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes as she growled. “Cynthia gave her life for our child, and I can’t even make the little turd happy.” Decebel wracked his brain, trying to find the right words or actions to comfort his mate. He felt like a bull in a china shop, stumbling around in his mate’s fragile psyche. One wrong move and he could send the whole thing crashing down, shattering the shelves of fragile crockery that were Jen’s precious soul.

He stroked her back and breathed his scent over her, finding peace in the nearness of her body. Since they’d been back, he’d been unable to allow her to leave his sight for more than a few minutes because he was terrified that she and Thia would disappear. Irrational? Most definitely, but his wolf didn’t give a damn about reasonableness. All it cared about was the safety of their pup and mate. “How about a hot bath?” he asked gently. “Sally and Jacque got you some bubble bath. I could fill up the Jacuzzi tub for you.” Jen sniffed and wiped the remaining tears from her face and shrugged. “If all else fails, I guess I can just drown myself. Death by bubbles wouldn’t be a horrible way to go.

” Decebel growled at her and nipped her neck in punishment. “Don’t joke about such things, female. I nearly lost you already. Both of you.” Jennifer looked up at him and pressed her warm palm to his cheek. “You’re right. I’m sorry.” She leaned forward and put her lips against his. He could taste the salt from her tears, and his wolf howled at the pain of being unable to comfort her. “A bath sounds nice,” she said when she pulled away.

“Although I was reading in that book on nursing that warm water makes the letdown effect happen.” “Hmm.” He looked down at her as he set her on the bed and stood. “You’re speaking in a language I don’t understand. What’s the letdown effect?” “Basically, it’s what happens when my body thinks mini-me wants to eat. If she cries, or some other ankle biter cries, then my boobs get a signal and, boom, milk starts flowing like the promised land,” she said, pointing at her chest as if he didn’t know where the milk came out.


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