The Lost Slipper Page 6

The ache in my chest is growing and spreading through my body. Being separated from your mate is painful in the beginning, especially if the mating heat starts. I just had no idea how bad it could be. I’ve heard people explain it before, but this…I never thought it could hurt this deep. Down to the marrow of my bones.

“I know all about that pain you speak of, Stone. You remember when you locked me away in this cage? I will be better to you than you were to me. But you will hear Winnie out first.”

I look up into his eyes, and I see that I was wrong in how I treated him. I nod slowly, recognizing that I didn’t do right by him and Gwen when they were going through their mating heat. It seems everything I think is for the best keeps blowing up in my face. What kind of alpha does that make me?

X turns, walking away and going up the stairs. After what feels like hours, but is probably only minutes, he comes back downstairs, followed by Winnie.

“I will be over here if you need me. I’ll try not to listen, but I probably will because my hearing is better than yours,” X tells Winnie, before walking over to the corner of the room and sitting down.

I look to Winnie, and after she takes a deep breath, she looks up, her big brown eyes locking with mine.

“I’m sorry—” I start to apologize, but she holds her hand up to stop me.

“Stone. All I ever wanted was your attention. You were my first memory, my first piece of anything that was good, and you pushed me away. Over the years, I tried to be your friend, and even that was difficult for you. And now you show up, saying I’m your mate and we’re going to be together, but I don’t feel that.” She looks away and whispers, “I don’t know what I feel.”

“Please, Winnie. Let me fix this.”

Her eyes shoot up, locking with mine again. “You can’t just fix this, Stone. You have to prove it to me. If you want me, you’ll wait for me. You’ll give me time—”

“Anything,” I cut her off, but she shakes her head.

“You’ll give me time and space, Stone. I need to figure out what this is,” she says, gesturing between the two of us. “X is going to let you out, but I’m not going with you. If you can’t handle that, then Dominic has offered to keep you drugged until the needing passes.”

She looks away as if the thought hurts her, and the idea of not needing her tears me apart inside.

“Please.” I get down on my knees in the cell, not caring if X watches. “Winnie. Don’t leave me in here. I’ll give you time.” I take a deep breath, closing my eyes and opening them again. “And space, if that’s what you need.”

After a moment, she nods, coming to a decision. “Okay. I’m leaving. X will let you out when I’m gone.”

Her words are like an arrow to my heart, and I don’t think I’ll be able to function. But I can do this. I can stay strong and show her that I’m good enough for her.

I watch as she climbs the stairs and leaves the room, taking my heart with her. I will give her what she wants, but I won’t stop making her want me.

3 Winnie

Lying back on my bed, I stare at the wooden ceiling of the attic. How many nights have I lain here, wanting Stone to notice me? Every single one of them. It’s stupid. I should embrace this. It’s what I’ve always wanted, but now it just feels tarnished.

My memory floods with all the times he’s pushed me away over the years. Like I was unwanted. Like I was a stray, as my stepsisters like to call me. It didn’t help that I wasn’t subtle with my crush for the first few years. Anyone with eyes in their head could see I followed him around like a lovesick puppy. If only I was a puppy. Then maybe things would’ve been different.

He only wants me because nature made it so. I wasn’t so much as a blip on his radar before today. I was just someone who got bossed around and was made to follow orders, no matter what I wanted. Stone, my stepsisters, and my stepmother. They were the worst. I thought it was bad when my stepfather was here. But when he died two years ago, things only got worse. I hate it here.

The bitter reality of it all is that if I did become Stone’s mate, I’d be stuck in a pack that never truly wanted me. I’d only be accepted because my pack-mates were made to. My stepsisters have made my life hell. It didn’t help that they got their friends to join in on their little taunts as they picked on me in school.

It seemed like each day that ticked by, my bear retreated more and more inside me. Now I don’t even feel her. At first she clawed at me to have a family, to try to fit in, and to be a part of a den. I craved it, just like I’d craved Stone.

For the past four years I’ve been here, all I’ve ever felt was that I was being tolerated. The only true friend I had at any point was Gwen, and sometimes I wondered if she just pitied me. Maybe she felt I needed a friend more than she wanted to be my friend. Not that Gwen isn’t good to me. She is. She’s been there for me when I’ve had no one else, but I still question it. I can’t stop myself.

I roll over and punch the pillow next to me. Pity party for one, anyone?

When I hear the door to my room open, I inwardly cringe, knowing who’s coming up the stairs. Now I really wish it was just a pity party for one.

“Look who it is,” Trish snaps as she stomps up the stairs. I don’t even wonder why she’s in a bad mood. She always seems to have a reason to direct some kind of hostility at me. Over the years I’ve learned to let it roll off me. There wasn’t a hateful thing they hadn’t hurled at me before.

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