The next few days passed slowly. When John left the room, he locked the door again. He only left to get them food, then bring the tray back to the kitchen. When he was in the room, they sat silently. Staring. Sometimes Chloe would grab a book while he was out of the room, and after she ate she would read the book intently, trying to forget it all. She would look up sometimes, to John. Sometimes he was just staring. Staring into the fire, or at the picture of his sister and Kade at their mating ceremony. Most times, he stared at the green silk, his eyes filled with pain, and what seemed like loneliness. Sometimes, she swore she saw a tinge of regret.
Each night, Chloe went to sleep on the couch. Each morning she woke up in bed, alone. On Monday morning, she was in the same position. She got out of bed, and took the opportunity to grab fresh clothes and take a shower. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the warm spray, then got dressed and braided her towel- dried hair. Chloe was surprised to find that John hadn't returned, and when she checked the door it was unlocked. She realized then that it was Monday, and it seemed John had gone with Kade already.
Chloe shut the door, then put on shoes and finished getting ready. She didn't want to see Celia just yet, so she tried to be sneaky as she opened the kitchen door. When she saw blonde hair she backed up, but heard a cheery voice before the door closed.
"Hello!" said an unfamiliar voice.
She closed her eyes then reopened them and walked in.
:"Are you hungry?" the woman asked.
"Yes, thank you."
Chloe sat as the woman smiled and began looking through cabinets. She was fairly short, with skin that had seen a lot of sun. Though she was not too old, she had laugh lines on her face. But there were two very striking features; her bright green eyes, and the faded scar that ran from her neck just under her jaw to her right shoulder, and disappeared under her tank top.
"So, what's your name?" she asked, breaking Chloe's train of thought.
"Chloe Thomas." She said, sitting at the island in the center of the kitchen.
"Hm, Chloe Thomas…" she said, considering the name as she cracked eggs into the bowl. "I don't recall that name from last time I came…"
"Oh, no… I… Just came here. So, you don't live here..?"
"No, dear." There was a sizzle as she put the egg mixture into a pan. "My husband and I live in another clan, with our youngest child. We come visit when we can, some of our children live here."
"Is that common, people switching, uh, clans?"
"Only in some situations," she said as she added some cheese to the nearly cooked eggs. "But it isn't unheard of. I take it you weren't part of a pack before you came here?"
"No, I wasn't… I was raised by humans."
"I see." She smiled and went to get a plate.
"I've been wandering for a few months, but now I'm kind of stuck here… Thank you." She added as the woman set the plate down. "So what's your name?"
"You can call me Emily." She smiled, and started to wash the pan. "My kids don't know I'm here yet, but I love sitting in the kitchen." She smiled more. "I don't do things like that anymore, at home."
"Why not..?" Chloe asked between bites.
"Well, my husband is the Alpha. He doesn't like me doing household things, thinks I should be pampered… It gets old." She smiled as she finished washing the pan and began to dry it.
"Is it always like that..?"
"No, not always. Jared is just, well… A little fond of using his authority. I'm afraid my older children are much the same way." She rolled her eyes, and Chloe giggled.
"How many children do you have?" she asked.
"Four; three boys and one girl."
"Yes, it is… My youngest son is thirteen, he is much more like me than his father." She shook her head. "My daughter is a good mix, but my older boys are their father through and through… Though the middle one, Keith, is the worst."
"Ignore me if it's rude, but… Why is it bad that they are like your husband?"
"It's fine," she laughed. "They're very assertive. Used to getting their way, and they will use their authority to get it. My sons are both Betas…" she shook her head. "I sometimes feel bad for Keith's pack. He hasn't found his mate yet… But perhaps she is lucky."
"So… you don't think mating is so wonderful?"
Emily snorted. "No. Now, that sounds wrong… Mating is good. I love my husband, very much. But some people think it works, but default… And that just is not true. I was sixteen when I met my husband, he was a Beta on the track to become Alpha. I was nowhere near ready to be married yet, and that didn't sit well with him… I hated him for nearly three years."
"What changed that..?" Chloe asked quietly.
"He saved my life." She came to sit next to Chloe. "But that is a long story, for another day."
"Right," Chloe said on a nod. "I just met my mate… It's very frustrating… I don't even know him! I don't want to be married, mated, whatever to him…"
"Is he being too forceful? You could talk to the Alpha."
"I don't know… I guess he isn't so bad, all the time… I'm very independent."
"Nothing wrong with that," Emily said on a smile.
"I've never been controlled before! SO him and everyone else telling me what to do, it's driving me crazy! It makes me hate him, hate all of them…"
"I understand." She nodded. "I'd like to tell you it gets better, but I really can't promise that. Mating means you have the potential for great love and happiness, but it isn't guaranteed."
Chloe nodded, then got up to wash the plate. Emily took it with a smile, and started the sink.
"Thank you for talking with me…"
"Any time, dear. I'll be here for a little while, feel free to come talk if you need it."
Chloe nodded and smiled. As the door opened, she turned and saw Celia walk in. She opened her mouth to greet her, but Celia spoke first.
"Mom! Put that dish down, I didn't know you were coming here!"