Zade had rummaged through his bag for the clothes the three of them had packed. He snatched a pair of shorts for himself and then gripped tight to two pairs of jeans and two plain camisoles, one black, the other navy blue. Whenever Annabelle and Lana returned from their ‘weep-a-thon’ as Zade referred to it in his mind, he would give these to them so they could dress properly. He still hadn’t spoken to Annabelle. She’d fallen asleep shortly after shifting, not that anyone could blame her. But she’d also left before he woke up.
Annabelle listened intently while Lana talked. Lana’s eyes were distant, staring off at the water.
"I was bitten three years ago. My boyfriend bit me. I didn’t know what he was—how could I have? I was fourteen. A child. We were alone one night, and he bit me. Bit me and ran off like a coward. I didn’t know what had happened," Lana admitted slowly, sighing wistfully. She picked up a stray stone and cast it into the water. "I didn’t know I was supposed to keep it a secret. So I told my family everything that I felt. I thought maybe they would try to help me…but they never did. My boyfriend—his name was Andrew—he came back. He asked me if I was mad and of course I was! He wanted to know if I would run away with him." Lana paused for a moment, her breath hitched in her throat. "My parents dragged him into the living room. Demanded to know what’d happened. What he’d done to me. He told them everything, hoping that it would somehow make up for cursing me to this life. Instead my family disowned me and kicked me out. I’ve been rogue ever since."
Annabelle rubbed Lana’s arm consolingly. "I left my family to be with Zade. I miss them more than anything. But I have him—he’s all I’ll ever need. We grew up in a small village—named Iron Stone—no one knows about it except for the few who live there. He was a woodcutter, making very little money for his hard work. My mother arranged my marriage to a blacksmith—their wages were far more than a woodcutter’s. The day before this marriage, Zade and I ran away. We stole my father’s horses and left. Zade and I have known each other for eleven years. I never had to be possessive over him because there was no one else besides me. Then we moved here—to the city, and everything changed."
Lana lowered her head, ashamed. "I truly am sorry for what I’d done to you. To you and Zade. I saw the pain in his eyes when he kept a quiet vigil over you."
Annabelle hushed Lana. "Your apology has already been accepted. No need to dwell on past misfortunes."
"Right," Lana agreed halfheartedly. "How long have you known Zade was a werewolf?" she asked timorously. Annabelle inhaled deep.
"Zade’s been a werewolf since he was thirteen, but I’ve only known for a few months."
"How did you find out?" Lana wondered aloud.
"A witch named Vesta cast a spell on Zade one night when we were asleep. She caused him to transform—and tried to kill him with wolfsbane. She returned to finish me off, and I killed her," Annabelle finished solemnly. "Many things have changed. I ran away with Zade, thinking, believing he was just a human. When I discovered that he wasn’t human—and hadn’t been for quite some time, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him, not that he wanted my sympathy. And now I’m like him, like you. A lycan. In a way, I am glad that Zade no longer needs to suffer alone. But I know when he gets upset. And he’s got to be angry at himself for this." Annabelle stole a glance behind her, at their resting spot. "We should head back; he’s probably awake by now."
The two gradually got to their feet and began to make their way back to camp. Meanwhile, Zade had already found their breakfast and cooked it—more deer meat, stuffed away in multiple bags at the bottom of their backpacks. When Annabelle and Lana came back, a look of appreciation dawned on both of their faces. Zade tossed them their clothes and they dressed before sitting down beside him next to the fire. "The food will be done in a minute," he said gruffly.
Annabelle could sense his anger, his hatred that he directed to himself. He truly loathed his decision, but if she was alive, breathing another breath, he would eventually forgive himself.
"Um," Lana whispered to Zade awkwardly. "I seek forgiveness for my actions last night. I hope that in time, you will understand how sorry I am."
Zade huffed incredulously. "What, are you and Bella friends now?" he asked with a shudder.
"Zade," Annabelle hissed. "She does not need to be punished like a child. Do not treat her like one."
"You could’ve died, Bella."
"But I didn’t, I’m here because you saved me."
"Saved you?" He shook his head. "More like damned you."
"It will take some adjusting, but I will manage. Don’t beat yourself up over this. If the situation were reversed, I would have come to the same conclusion."
Zade didn’t respond. He knew she was right; he was being foolish. Zade just didn’t know how to live with Annabelle—transforming on moons, teaching her the ways of the werewolf, the skills…he didn’t know how to be open about that part of his life. To share it now with Annabelle was scaring him half to death, which also spurred on his anger.
"This is our second chance," Annabelle whispered quietly, staring up into the sky.