After Jude got ready to leave, he came downstairs to meet me. "Lead the way," I tell him and he motions for me to follow him out the door and so I do. He leads me out onto a narrow dirt path, so narrow in fact that Jude and I have to walk one after the other to go down it. Jude keeps me in front so he can see me at all times for protection. I told him I would be fine, but he insisted, said it wasn't safe.
The narrow path finally widened a bit and Jude and I could finally walk alongside each other. "How far is it?" I ask, looking up at him.
"Not that far," he tells me. "About ten miles. It'd go faster if we ran, but I thought we could just walk for the first part?"
"That's fine with me," I shrug.
"So how are you adapting to the new place?"
"It is quite the change from my old house. My dad's wasn't full of new electronics or nice furniture. Everything is beat up and falling apart and the only gaming console we have is the Nintendo 64, but it doesn't work anymore," I laugh, but it doesn't quite sound right.
"You miss it though, don't you?"
"Yes. I miss my dad and I miss my old pack members, but I think I'll have fun here with you guys too. I'm really looking forward to getting to know all of you. You all seem nice, especially you."
"Especially me?" He asks, grinning down at me arrogantly.
"Yes, you." I smile, "I don't know why . . . I just feel comfortable with you."
"Well I'm glad. You seem like a nice girl, so don't go proving me wrong."
"I won't," I laugh again. "Hey, can I ask you something?"
"Why were you so upset when I said I wasn't going to go to Alice's?"
"Because no one else has ever offered to help Knox, not even Kineta who's known him the longest. You just seemed so genuinely willing to help him without even knowing him and I just loved that about you," he whispers so quietly I had to lean in to hear him. His eyes meet with mine, and for a second I can't breathe. But then he looks away and my breathing evens out and it's like the moment never happened at all. Before I can respond he says, "C'mon, let's shift and run the rest of the way."
We shift and take off running and despite the wind rushing past me, deafening my ears and the evergreen trees blurring past me, all I can think about is Jude and the words that just passed his lips. For some reason every time they replay over and over in my head, the fluttering of butterflies in my stomach deepens.
We get to Alice's pack's house a couple hours later. Their house isn't as extravagant as Knox's is, and it's not anything close to a log cabin. It's more of a regular everyday house, besides the fact that their are a bunch of wolves living inside of it instead of regular mortals. And it's bigger than a family home.
Jude and I walk up to the door and he raps his knuckles against it three times. After a moment of waiting, Jude is just about to ring the door bell when a male opens the door. He's big, bigger than Jude anyways. He's very tall as well, he towers over me. "What are you here for?" He asks.
"We're from Knox's pack, we came to see Alice," Jude says.
"Alright, come in. Alice is in her room, first door on the left."
Jude nods and grabs my wrist, sending a sudden shock to run across the length of my arm. He pulls me up the stairs and follows the man's instructions to the first door on the left, knocking twice on it. The door swings open and reveals a petite girl with short, shoulder-length black hair. She looks at me first, her dark blue eyes confused and wide, like Knox's were last night. Then she looks at Jude and I can see the recognition flash in her eyes before she smiles brightly and hugs him tightly, throwing his arms around his neck. A spark of something stirs inside me. Was that jealousy? I frown inwardly. There's no way I'm jealous.
"Jude!" Alice exclaims, letting go of him. "I haven't seen you in forever!"
"I know, it's been a long time," he says, walking us both into her room.
"Who's this?" Alice asks, glancing at me.
"This is Raina, our newest member. She joined a couple days ago."
"I see," she murmurs. "So what are you here for?"
"We need to ask you about Knox, Alice."
She looks at him, frowning slightly. "What about him?"
"Why he doesn't let anyone in. Why he doesn't sit with us at dinner . . . or ever, really."
"Oh c'mon, that can't be true."
"The only times Knox is with us is during training, that's it. So tell us why he's like that, there has to be a reason."
She looks at us and sighs, "Alright, fine. But it's a very sad tale so you should sit down." She motions for us to sit on her bed and we do. "It all started with Knox's first girlfriend, Iris."
I can't help it, I gasp. Iris. The name Knox called me less than twenty-four hours ago. The name of his girlfriend. But why would he call me by her name?
"Raina, what's wrong?" Jude asks.
"N-Nothing," I stammer. "Go on, please."
Alice nods and continues her story, "Iris and Knox were together before he became an Alpha. They were madly in love, but they were also very young and naive. Iris was Knox's whole world. He couldn't imagine life without her. On her fifteenth birthday, Iris didn't want a party. She just wanted to spend the day with Knox and so they did. At the end of the night, she told him she was pregnant. He was extremely happy with the news and all it did was make him love her even more," she pauses, letting the beginning of the story sink in.
"Continue," Jude says.
She nods and takes a deep breath before continuing, "Unlike Knox and Iris, Iris' father was very angry. He and our father were enemies, meaning Knox and Iris were not supposed to be together under any circumstances, let alone have a child together. When Iris made the mistake of telling her father that she was pregnant, he demanded that she got rid of it. When she refused, well . . . he had her and the baby killed," she murmurs, her voice hollow, emotionless, full of defeat.
I can feel the sting of threatening tears behind my eyes. My throat feels tight and hot and I can't breathe or swallow properly. My heart aches with pain for Knox. No one should have to go through something like that. And for a baby to have it's life ripped away before it can even begin . . . that's just so horrible. If I thought it couldn't get any worse, I was wrong.
"Iris' father made Knox watch," she murmurs. "Knox was very messed up after, as you would imagine. He got into drugs and alcohol. That's why he's isolated himself from everybody. He's afraid of getting close, caring too much about people, and then losing them like he did Iris." Alice starts bursting into tears, sobbing her heart out. Jude pulls her to him, hugging her to his chest. "Every night," she says through her tears. "He would howl for the loss of Iris and his unborn baby. It was one of the most heart-wrenching sounds you would ever hear in your life."
"That makes perfect sense, actually." Jude says, sighing.
"He called me Iris," I say.
Jude looks at me, frowning. "What?"
"There's a reason for that too," Alice says, wiping her tears away, composing herself. She grabs her purse and takes out her wallet, pulling out a small picture from one of the pockets. She faces it towards Jude and I so we can see it. It's a picture of Knox and a girl who I presume is Iris. When I actually look at Iris, I draw in a sharp breath.
She looks exactly like me. Besides her eyes, which are a pretty shade of light blue whereas mine are a muddy brown, but other than that there is not a single difference. It's like Hale and Kale, but I'm not Iris' twin.
"You . . . you look just like her," Jude stammers.
Alice puts the picture back, her eyes welling up again. "I don't mean to be rude, but can you please leave me alone now? I'm not really in the mood for company anymore."
"Of course," I say, standing. "I'm sorry for making you talk about it."
She shakes her head, "It's okay, Raina. Just help my brother, please."
I nod, "I will."
When we get back home, Knox walks over to us, his face red with anger. "Where have you two been?! No one knew where you went and you didn't tell me you were leaving!"
"We were just . . . out," I say, not sure if I should tell him that we went to see Alice or not yet.
"Out where?" He demands.
"We went to see Alice," Jude says before I can say anything.
Knox frowns, "Why?"
"She told us what happened to you and Iris," I say, waiting for the outraged explosion to come.