Audrey opened her eyes with a smile on her face. Being with Darius was better than she could’ve hoped for. His touch still lingered on her skin. She got wet all over again just thinking about the things he’d done to her body.
“You should probably eat something.” His deep voice vibrated through her body.
Audrey turned around. “Good morning,” she beamed. She melted into Darius, wrapping her arms around his neck.
“Good afternoon,” he said.
“How long have I been here? What day is this?”
“Oh, no.” Audrey’s countenance fell.
“I missed Christmas,” she said.
“Oh,” Darius brushed off what Audrey said like it was nothing. “When you put things in perspective, it’s just another day.”
“It’s not just another day. It’s the opposite of just another day. It’s Christmas. It’s the day.”
“I’m just saying, the whole concept of Christmas is completely commercialized. It’s all about spending money on things people don’t need. Christmas is the fakest time of year.”
“I should’ve known you were a grinch. Why do you hate Christmas?”
“I don’t hate Christmas. I just don’t feel the need to go overboard pretending life is perfect for one day out of the year.”
“Don’t you feel the magic of Christmas, spending time with the people you love, singing carols, giving gifts.”
“You can do all those things any time you want.”
“But people are so busy living their lives. Sometimes they need a reminder to stop and appreciate the people they love. Is there something wrong with that?”
“What if the person you loved died on December twenty-fourth and you were waiting for Christmas to show them how much they meant to you? Wouldn’t you feel like an idiot for waiting for one day.”
“That’s a hell of an exaggeration.”
“It makes a hell of a point.” Darius stood. “Why don’t you get cleaned up? I’m going to get you something to eat.”
“Fine.” Audrey sat on the edge of the bed and grabbed her phone. Her family must be worried sick about her. “Oh,” she said as she looked at the display screen.
“Everything okay?” Darius turned around.
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
“You can’t hide from me. I can feel what you feel. Why are you sad? What’s on your phone?”
Audrey shook her head. “You wouldn’t understand. It’s stupid. I bet you think Valentine’s Day is stupid too, don’t you?”
“Don’t even get me started on Valentine’s Day.”
Audrey shook her head. She was beginning to realize that Darius was an illusion. She didn’t even know him. She just assumed he was this great guy, maybe even the guy, but he wasn’t the perfect dream man she wanted to think he was. He was just a man who hated her favorite holidays. There was also the matter of the white wolf.
Darius caught himself. “Tell me what it is. Did you get a bad message?”
Audrey shook her head no as she tried to hold back tears.
“Don’t cry, Audrey.”
With those words tears streamed down her face. She covered her eyes with her hands. Darius embraced her as he rushed to her side. He fumbled then decided to put his arm around her.
“Come on, Audrey. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
Audrey remembered why she was so smitten with Darius, his scent and his strong arms and chest comforted her. She held on tight before she pulled back. “It’s not you.”
“Tell me what’s wrong.”
“I got a message from an employee and a generic Merry Christmas mass text from one of my sisters. Other than that,” Audrey paused, “nothing.” She looked at her feet.
Darius didn’t know what to say. “Oh, Audrey.”
“Christmas morning we usually get together for a big family breakfast with my parents. I guess no one noticed that I wasn’t there. Looks like you were right. It’s just another day.”
“I’m sure they noticed.”
“Then they just didn’t care.”
“Maybe they thought you were busy.”
“It’s a tradition. I know I complain about my family, but I’d never miss it. Nobody called to check on me. I can’t believe no one even thought about me.”
“I’m sure that’s not true.”
“That’s sweet but, no need to bother. The proof is right here. She shook her phone.”
“That doesn’t prove anything. I know your family loves you. How could they not? You’re amazing.”
“You’re just saying that. You don’t even know me.”
“I know all I need to know about you,” Darius said.
“Oh yeah. I forgot, you’ve been stalking me.” Audrey sighed. “At least someone cares.”
“I’m not a stalker,” Darius said.
“You kind of are.”
“Why don’t you get dressed? I’ll be back with food. Do you need anything while I’m out?”
“No, but hurry back. I’ll be needing some more sex soon.”
Darius cracked a slight smile. “Your clothes and everything you need are in the bathroom. Make yourself at home.” Darius walked away.
Maybe he was a nice guy after all. He did his best to comfort her. He didn’t treat her like a random hook up. He didn’t mind leaving her alone in his house. It felt like they were in a relationship, but men didn’t just commit that easily, did they? There was also the matter of him being a wolf man, albeit a sexy ass wolf man.
Audrey had lots of questions and the occasional thought that she must be out of her mind for sleeping with a strange man, but his home felt like home to her. She wanted to be in his presence, and she wasn’t ready to leave yet. Her body cried out for his. Feelings like that never happen, and she wanted to see what it all meant, so she went to the bathroom, took a bath, and got herself together. She wanted to look nice for Darius when he got back.
The thought crossed her mind to call her parents or her siblings, but she was hurt that none of them had called her. As she stared at her phone, it occurred to her that Darius had been gone for quite some time. Audrey began to worry. “Did he ghost me? That’s crazy he wouldn’t leave me in his house if he wasn’t interested,” she answered herself. She took a look around. She’d never been in a cabin before. This one was beautiful and warm, very rustic, very masculine. The floors were even made of real wood. It did seem strange that there were plants and the occasional flowers throughout the house. “It wouldn’t kill him to have a Christmas tree,” she said to herself. She imagined sprucing the place up with throw pillows, new rugs, and a few accent pieces. She’d like to have couches that weren’t leather and maybe a nursery.
“Shit.” There she was, thinking like a girl. One, or four, mind blowing orgasms and she’d mentally moved in and started planning a family. “Get it together, Audrey,” she said to herself. She opened a door and looked inside. It was an office. “I wonder what he does.” She couldn’t resist sitting behind his impressive desk in his leather chair that smelt like him.
"He owns a chain of flower shops. A pretty well known chain, actually.” There was a diploma on the wall. “He’s a botanist. I would’ve never guessed. I thought he was a lumberjack or something.” The questions were piling up. Without thinking she opened one of his desk drawers, but caught herself. “That would be inappropriate,” she said, but as she closed the drawer, a photograph caught her eye. It was a younger Darius with a beautiful woman. They were both smiling and happy. It was winter. They were bundled up. His arm was protectively around her waist and she leaned into his chest. They were in love.
Audrey compared herself to the woman. They were opposites physically. That made her wonder what Darius’s type was. This must be the woman that broke his heart. Audrey couldn’t help but wonder what happened. She rose from his desk. The sound of the front door closing made her jump. She scurried out of the room and closed the door. She figured it would be best to go back to the bedroom and wait.
Darius had gone in and out of the front door a few times.
“Audrey,” Darius finally shouted.
Audrey headed for the living room. “You really took your time, didn’t you? I’m starving.”
Darius stood in the middle of the room with a grin on his face.
“What’s going on?” Audrey asked.
She looked behind Darius. There was a Christmas tree peeking over his head.
“You got a tree?” she yelled, surprised at how excited she was. “You did this for me?”
“I certainly didn’t do it for myself.”
She ran into his arms. “I can’t believe you did this.”
“I also went to the store and got decorations. There’s even something pink in there for you.”
“You didn’t have to do that.”
“I know. I wanted to see that beautiful smile on your face, the one you have now.”
Audrey blushed. That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me. Thank you.” Audrey rushed to the bags and started looking at the decorations as Darius watched.
“Wait. Not this one,” Darius grabbed a black bag from Audrey. He’d decided to take Damien’s advice and get Audrey some gifts.
“What’s in that one?” Audrey asked.
“None of your business.”
“You have many secrets, don’t you?”
“A few, but none that I’ll keep from you.”
“I’m going to hold you to that.”
“Why don’t we eat first and decorate the tree after?” Darius suggested.
“Are you going to help me decorate?”
“Wouldn’t you prefer to do that alone?”
“I’d really like to do it with you.”
“If it’ll make you happy, then I’ll help.”
Audrey grabbed his hand as he led her to the table where he’d laid out the food. He brought her favorite chicken alfredo, and Audrey couldn’t help but wonder if it was a coincidence.
“This is delicious,” Audrey said.
Darius smiled as he watched Audrey scarf down her food. He couldn’t remember the last time he smiled so much. Audrey had been a dream to him, one he fought with everything in him to resist, but how could he resist her when she was so close to him, when he could smell her skin and taste her lips. His smile wouldn’t last long. He knew he was only biding time until she wouldn’t even want to talk to him.
“Darius, don’t just watch me. Eat,” Audrey said.
“I didn’t realize. I guess I can’t help staring at you.”
“That’s kind of sweet? If I didn’t know any better I’d say the magic of Christmas is getting to you.”
“Maybe it’s just you that’s gotten to me, and that smile you’ve had on your face since you saw that Christmas tree.”
“Why did you do it?”
“I want to make you happy. You are my mate after all.”
“What does that mean?” Flashbacks of their intimate moments played in Audrey’s head. Darius asked her to be his mate and she agreed. That’s the last thing she remembered.
“That means you’re mine.”
“What exactly do you want from me?”
“I want you to be with me. Be my woman.”
“I don’t know about that. You were pretty mean to me.”
“I can admit that I tried my best to keep you away. I was foolish to think I could deny what I knew in my heart was real. My mate and I belong together, and now my mate is you.”
“You said you were a wolf. What does that mean?”
“As you can see, I’m a man. I’m also a wolf.”
“A wolf man?” Audrey asked.
“I’m a werewolf shifter. I can shift between human and wolf. I am Alpha In Charge of White Mountain Pack. Myself and my alpha brothers Felix and Damien lead one of the most powerful packs in the states.”
“You’re pretty important then.”
“I am to my pack.”
“How do you do it? You must live a double life.”
“Our secret is not too hard to keep. You’ve been living amongst wolf shifters your whole life, and you never knew.”
“How would someone like me fit into your world?”
“Perfectly. My mate is an important part of the pack and of my life.”
“What do you expect from me as your mate?”
“Do you think that you could love someone like me?” he asked.
“Darius, that’s a heavy question. We just met.”
“But deep down, you know the answer. Don’t you?”
“I can’t answer that.”
“Wolves mate for life. It’s not something to be taken lightly.”
“And you’re sure you want me to be your mate?”
“There’s not a doubt in my mind.”
“I want to know more about you.”
“I won’t keep any secrets from you. Did you not find what you were looking for when you were going through my things?”
“How dare you accuse me of such a thing?”
“Don’t insult my intelligence.”
“I think it’s only fair. I don’t know how much of my life you’ve gone through.”
“That’s one way to look at it.”
“The alpha wolf is a botanist.”
“I thought you did something different. You look like you’d work with your hands.”
“I do work very well with my hands. Maybe I should refresh your memory.”
“I wouldn’t mind that, but first, tell me about Alaria.”
“You mean Ona.”
“Yes, Ona. I searched for it, and I couldn’t find it anywhere. I couldn’t even find a photograph of it.”
“That is because I created Ona. It is my own special breed.”
“It’s an amazing creation. Do you have any idea what it does for my hair?” Audrey asked.
“I did notice the difference. What made you use it in your hair?”
“They smell amazing. Most women love the scent of perfume. I’m obsessed with the scent of my hair, and I thought it was perfect. I had no idea it would make my hair so soft and shiny.”
“Come here,” Darius beckoned.
“What is it?”
“I want to smell your hair.”
Audrey put down her fork and sat in Darius’s lap.
“Are you nervous?” Darius asked. “You’re trembling.”
“I don’t know what I am when I’m around you.”
“You are safe when you’re with me, always. I fought a bear for you, and I’d do it again. I’d take an army for you.”
“You shouldn’t say things like that if you don’t mean them.”
“My feelings for you are strong and real. I haven’t confessed my love for a woman in a long time. It’s not something I take lightly.”
“Are you confessing your love for me?”
“What do you think?” Darius asked.
“I need to know who the woman is,” Audrey said.
“There’s no one but you.”
“I found a picture.”
Darius didn’t reply. His jaws tightened, and his body tensed.
“Darius, don’t be angry with me. Tell me about her. What was her name?” Audrey asked.
Darius rose from the table and walked away.
“Where are you going?” Audrey called after him.
Audrey jumped when it slammed behind him. “Unbelievable.” She shook her head and decided to go after Darius. She struggled to catch up as he walked ahead of her. “Darius,” you can’t shut down on me,” she shouted.
Darius turned around. “It’s cold out here. Go back in the house.”
“I will if you’ll come with me.”
“I’ll be there in a minute.”
“You need to talk to me now. I will not be your mate if you’re stuck pining for another woman. I won’t do it.”
“You have no idea what you’re talking about,” Darius shouted.
“Then tell me. Who is she? What’s her name? Tell me something.”
Darius walked off.
“Darius, did she dump you? Did she cheat on you? Did she leave you for someone else? Where is she?”
Darius turned around and headed for Audrey like a raging bull. He stood in front of her and put his finger in her face. “Don’t you say those things about her.”
“What’s her name?” Audrey shouted. “What did she do that has you like this? What?”
“SHE DIED,” Darius shouted. His face turned red and his chest heaved. “Are you happy now, Audrey? She died.”