Rejected Mate and Following Fate - Awakening Book

Chapter 28: Finally Free

The tears mist my eyes, my throat swelling so I almost can’t breathe as ache hits me low in the gut and
threatens to make me crumble. I push the note back inside quickly, trying to combat it and flick through
the cash, mentally counting almost two hundred dollars and it breaks the wall that’s been holding in the
tears. I slump down onto the floor, like a disheveled sack and begin to cry, holding it close to my chest
and completely break down. It’s not just for this, but for everything.

Why now did I find my pack, at a time when I thought I had no other option? Why would the fates give
me something closer to a real home, only to make it unreachable by the tiniest stretch?

I have to pull myself together and stop being weak. None of this matters, and it doesn’t change things. I
have to get my crap together and stick to what I decided. I have to stay strong and determined. I can’t
break, because if I do, I won’t be able to put myself back together.

I pull myself to get up and walk to the closet, despite heaving with wracking breaths, sniffing, as I try to
stop the tears. I have to find some sort of bag to pack my shit up and focus on doing, not feeling.
Luckily, whoever brought my things from the orphanage, packed some of them in a large backpack that
had been Vanka’s. I drag it out of the bottom corner, holding it for a second, a fresh wave of pain
twisting my insides as I stroke across the corner where she wrote her name in a black marker pen.
Bold, jaggy letters, that somehow represent who she was in life. I numb it out, swallow it down, and
begin to haul out essentials and stuff them inside.

I need basics, like a couple changes of clothes, toiletries, the money, the snacks I have in my room. I
need something to sleep with too, like a blanket to lay on the ground, and something to carry water in,
just in case I can’t find a stream or river in hours. I don’t know what else to pack, and I end up shoving
things in haphazardly. A book I never got to reading, the iPod that was among my belongings, and then
I realize I probably won’t be able to charge it if I stay in the wilderness and put it back on the shelf. I find
a lighter, a swiss pen knife that I kept among my treasured items from my father’s possessions. Some
old camping matches, and his flint stick for making fires, should I run out of the others.

I push through my stuff and come to Colton’s grey t-shirt, pausing painfully, recognizing it as the one he
gave me to wear when I shredded my clothes. I thought I ‘d given everything back to Meadow for him,
but this still remains, like a scar on my heart. His human smell still lingers in the fabric, despite it being
washed, or maybe I’m just conjuring it up for myself, his scent so ingrained in my head that I will it to
come back at me. I impulsively push it in the bag, stroking it for a second too long, and zip everything
up inside. I shouldn’t take a part of him with me, for my own sanity, but I can’t bear to take it back out.

I keep checking my watch, even though I know I have another 3 hours before they assemble for dusk
patrol. I have to kill time without going back downstairs and acting weird. I need to occupy myself up
here until it’s time to go, without obsessing and driving myself crazy.

A shower!!! The thought hits me… that’s an idea, and a nap if I can force it. Refresh myself, change
into more suitable clothes than this sport pant and t-shirt duo I have sweated all over. Tasks will pass
the time and keep my brain centered.

I pull my clothes off without hesitation, throwing them in my wash basket and head to the bathroom
quickly. Yanking my hair down from my ponytail and turn on the shower, testing it before I go to step in.

Lorey? You there? Colton’s voice hits me in the center of my forehead, the last thing I was expecting
and I almost slide with surprise as I lay my foot on the wet shower floor, grabbing onto the door to stop
myself falling, like a newborn fawn on unsure legs, almost crashing into mayhem.

For the love of all that is holy!! Why are the fates screwing with me today?

Yes, what do you want? I snap, a little harshly, instantly remorseful at my knee jerk reaction to him,
then not, when anger kicks me in the butt and reminds me what an ignorant asshat he is. That he’s all
good to reach out now, after an unexpected brush with me downstairs, that clearly pushed his need to
contact me button a lot harder. I rub my bruised shin which bashed the shower screen and jump in
under the hot water instead of standing out here like an idiot.

I just…. after seeing you downstairs….. I wanted to make sure you’re doing okay. I can pick up on the
hesitation, the agony in his tone and I end up sighing heavily. Madness wavering, because I’m a fool
when it comes to him sounding like this, this boy, and against all my better judgements, I soften my
tone when I should be cutting him off instead.

Why are you reaching out? We both know what you’re going to do, can we just not do this? He’s killing
me, making all those emotions spiral up and mess with me all over again and I need to be stronger
than this. I need to bring back the bite to my voice, the steel to my resolve, and end this before I make
myself even more confused.

I can’t seem to stop myself. I can only go so long and the need to see you or hear you gets too much. I
have no will power when it comes to you. Back to his hot, cold, bullshit and I know if I let myself get
drawn in again, it’s only going to go like every other time. A couple days of pulling close and then he
backs off and leaves me feeling desolate again. I get it, I do, because the need for him is always
stronger when we have some sort of contact, but I’m not playing anymore. It’s not helping either of us,
and as much as I love him, I have to do this.

I have a solution… every time you feel like you have to talk to me… go talk to Carmen. I’m sure she’ll
love that. I focus on something to be pissed about and it does the trick. Moody, bitchy tone initiated. I
can always count on my broken-hearted jealousy to find the fire in my soul. I sound as bitter as he
makes me feel, and I’m glad the water is pouring over my face and camouflaging the tears that have
started to fall of their own accord. I have zero control of that right now, and glad he can neither see nor
hear them.

I deserve that. I don’t know what to say to you. I’ve been a coward for days because I can’t face you. I
guess we both know what’s going to happen in a week’s time. I don’t know how to say the words to
you, or how to say sorry for what I’m going to do. In that one little statement he confirms my worst fears
and solidifies my decision. Ripping what’s left of my shredded mutilated heart out, and stomping on it

all over the floor until there’s nothing left but mess. He’s chosen to go through with marking her and this
is his goodbye. His confirmation.

Then don’t. Maybe just leave me alone until it’s done, and then we’ll see what happens from there. I
need to go. I have to go do chores. I lie, trying to sound tough. Mentally scathing in tone, even if my
body is starting to shake with the buildup of sobbing coming my way. Trembling as I try to hold it in,
breathing fast and shallow. Throwing cold and snappy in there, while my limbs are quaking with the
effort, but I can’t let him know what it is I am planning on doing. He would stop me, even with his mind
made up. His need to protect me would overrule everything else.

Right, chores, of course. I have to go assemble for patrol in a couple hours too. Enjoy your chores…. I
guess, I’ll see you around. He lingers, saying it slowly as though looking for a reason to not let this end.

Yeah, you too. Now I gotta go. Bye. I don’t give him a chance, to linger more, or to reply, sensing his
hesitation so I take control. I’m the one to close the door on our connection and shut it down dead as I
do. Doing something I haven’t ever done to him, it was always him that did it to me, metaphorically
shutting it, bolting it tight, and pushing the soundproofing button on our link so he can’t come back
anymore. I don’t want him getting through, I mentally lock it and toss the key aside. I’m not going to lie,
it feels like I just stabbed myself in the chest with a dull object, and I gasp sob when the dead silent
noise consumes that part of my mind. It’s horrendous to know I’m the one to cut him off but I have to do
this for my own sanity, I can’t have him popping into my brain anymore. Never again.

I stop for a moment to process the conversation, and despite trying so hard to be strong, I end up
sitting on the floor under the full force of my shower head, and sobbing my heart out until I can’t
breathe with the effort. The doubts start to slide in, and I have to keep chastising myself for being so

This is why he’s stayed away, because it makes both of us weak and clouds our judgment. I should
have known seeing him would push him to contact me. It’s harder when we do, especially touching,

and we did when we collided. I probably played on his mind after I left because of that simple moment,
and I’m just as pathetic, sitting here crying over him. I shouldn’t have responded to him at all, he
shouldn’t have reached out. It’s just proof that our bond is powerful, no matter what we try to do, and
neither can control the way it keeps bringing us back together.

I hate the fates and this infernal bond. It’s messing up everything and I’ve no control over my feelings
anymore. I thought I was strong, but when it comes to him, I’m an idiot. I’m a fool for him in every way,
and I can’t even stay mad, or hateful, no matter what he does, because the second I get a chance at
connecting, I let him. I shouldn’t have left the link open all week; I should not have let myself get taken
in for even a second. It should have been done the second I decided I was leaving and not given him a
window of opportunity. I won’t make that mistake again, for sure.

I yank myself up, pull my head out of my ass and aggressively wash down while refusing to break down
anymore. It’s the past. It’s not where I need to be mentally.

I wash my face until it feels raw, wiping away tears I don’t want to cry anymore, and shampoo my hair
with vigor as though cleansing my head of thoughts and feelings. I finish up fast, tug a towel on when I
step out, and focus all my efforts on drying quickly, rubbing my hair as dry as I can get it, before
combining it into a sleek ponytail and pulling on fresh underwear and clothes. I slide on jeans, a tank,
and sweater, pull on some socks, and sneakers, and take a last look around the room for anything I
want to add to my backpack.

I tidy my room, make the bed, and then lay down on top of it and try to force myself to take a nap to kill
some time, staring blankly at the ceiling and refusing to let my mind wander back to him, us, or this
crappy situation.

There’s a noise outside my door that makes me flinch, and I pause, stare at it, praying to god he hasn’t
decided to come here and start this shit all over again. It’s what he does… and I hold my breath, listen
intently, my own heart beating loudly in my own ears as panic sets in.

I can’t see him… I can’t let him sway me, or touch me, or get close. My heart will betray me if I do.

It’s followed by the squeak of one of the cleaning carts and I exhale in relief when it rolls right on by my
room and fades into the distance. My body weak with relief, and I sprawl out star shaped on my bed,
exhaling so heavily I let out a whoosh noise and then moan at my own stupid despair.

Stop freaking out, Alora. You’re going to get yourself in such a mess and not be able to follow through.
Relax, breathe, count.

I put everything into doing just that, remember the techniques I used to use when I stayed in the home
and couldn’t relax or sleep on nights when everything got to me too much. I picture a meadow, a sweet-
scented field full of pretty flowers, and one by one as I walk through them, I count the heads, picking
them out, touching them as I go. I visualize the colors, the feel of their softy silky petals on my fingers,
and the way the subtle scent blows around on the breeze. Coming to me in mixed smells as they all
dance and sway in ripples. It helps me drift into a calmer state of mind. The noise of nature drowning
out everything else in my mind’s eye. If I can just focus my energy for a little while longer, then I can get
through this. Once I’m out of here and on my way, it’ll be easier.

It seems to work, I drift into a semi hazy state of rest and before I know it, an hour or more has passed
and it’s getting dull outside.

I come to, aware I’ve lost time and must have slept, blinking at the sudden light change of the space
around me and check the clock on my wall. I’m shocked that it’s been more than a couple of hours
since I came up here already. I guess I spent a long time in the shower to begin with and I hop up
woozily, pacing to bring the nerves back in line that are firing up and wakening my senses.

It’s early yet, but I don’t think I have it in me to wait any longer, and I stalk to my window to look out
over the back of the pack house. It’s deserted back here, still too light for the guards to take up position
and maybe it’s a sign I shouldn’t wait until the dusk hour. Maybe too many will be out there, and I might

not be able to make up excuses if I get stopped trying to make my way out. Everyone should be
running around, doing chores right now, so I might actually have a better chance if I do it now.

A quick plan comes to mind, and I turn, picking up my damp towels from the laundry and wrap them
haphazardly around my backpack, adding my sweats so they look like a bundle of dirty clothes. I had
intended scaling down my window later if I could, but this way I can walk through the house, as though
I’m late for laundry duty. If anyone sees me then I’m just collecting clothes and I can use the exit in the
hall before the laundry room to access the rear of the house. It’s a solid plan, and I don’t waste time in
pulling myself together.

I bundle my faux pile up in my arms, checking in the new mirror that was hung in here the other day to
see if my backpack is on show. Satisfied it isn’t, I head to the door, take one last look around my room,
and take a deep steadying breath.

It’s time to do this.

I use one hand to haul it open, slide out, and head left towards the back stair down to the first floor. The
one that’s closest to my door and brings me out in the same narrow corridor that leads to the back exit
and the laundry door. It’s perfect. I don’t know why I didn’t click on this before and maybe this is the
fates trying to make up for messing with me.

I pass a few people who are lugging carts and hoovers from room to room and keep my head down,
not really noticed by them, wishing I’d worn a hoody so I could pull it up, but it’s too late now. I stick on
my route, turn into the stair, scale it in seconds in hyper speed and then head along the final corridor to

Soon as I get near the door I look around, see no one is out here despite the hustle and bustle and
steam coming from the nearby closed door to laundry, and head out the back door instead. No one is

back here either, oddly. It’s either good fortune, or someone up there is giving me a break. I’m aware a
lot of windows look this way though and I’m still not free and clear.

I unwrap my bag, pull it onto my back and kick my dirty clothes and towels in a nearby bush. Look
around before sticking up against the house, back sliding along the harsh brickwork, eyes darting all
around me to check no one is around. I almost crawl under the window to the room I’m meant to be in
right now, holding my breath every inch of the way. Heartbeat’s crazy fast and racing, my breaths
shallow and hurried. My face damp with perspiration because I’m scared to hell of being caught and
marched to Juan Santo.

I stick in the flower beds, stepping over them so I don’t trip, up tight to the walls, and duck under every
window I get to. Taking it slow, trying to remain silent as I do, and battling my own shaking limbs. I’m
heading for the tree line which runs one side of the manor and once I get in there, I can run as fast as
my body allows me, relatively unseen in its dense close-knit woods. It extends for a couple of miles
right out of the valley and into the farmlands beyond. I can’t turn as I don’t want to ruin my clothes now,
I only have two full outfits, but I should be able to speed out without doing it.

I hold my breath when a door swings open behind me, freezing in place, half crouched, and eyes
widening in horror. I glance back, seeing it swing out into view and my heart skips a beat, sweat rolling
down my forehead from my hairline. No one comes out, though a voice waves my way closer than I

“Yeah, leave it open, it’s like a god damn sauna in here. It’s inhumane making us work in this shit for
hours on end.” I don’t recognize the female voice and whoever opened the door mumbles in response,
retreating inside, and fading in volume level.

I exhale, relaxing heavily, thinking my legs might give out with that little moment of shock, move my ass
back into gear and run crawl the rest of the way, feeling lightheaded.

As soon as I hit the tree line, I pull myself behind the biggest trunk I can find and use it as a viewpoint
to check if anyone saw me come over here. Taking a much-needed minute to pull myself together,
breathe properly, and lean up against the rough bark until I regain my strength, and the wobbliness in
my leg’s fade. I check my surroundings, surprised that there is literally no one at all out here, but as
Juan has made it clear for days the vampires can’t be out in daylight, I guess that’s why. Everyone is
busy doing what they’re meant to be doing, and I can hear voices on the wind from the front of the
manor, hinting that a lot of those with no chore work are assembled in the front field. I won’t get another
chance like this.

I put my head down, turn into the direction I want to go and set my legs in motion with no intention of
slowing down, stopping, or looking back, until there is at least five miles between me and Radstone. I
feel like I may have a heart attack as soon as I set in motion, but I keep one strong thought at the
center of my mind.

I’m finally free…. don’t let up until I’m sure of it.