Alpha Asher's pov Maya was my mate! This was the only thought that ran through my mind, even as I went through this hell of a meeting. Cypher has been a constant bug, running through the thin thread of my sanity, leaving me in an uncontrollable frenzy. It was weird sitting around a conference table with people whose focus was solely on the matter at hand while my thoughts ran in a circle, skirting on likely methods to tame the wild redhead in the packhouse. Of course, I'd give the suggestions of Daniel a trial. I only hope it yields satisfactory results because right now, my patience has started to wear off; like petals of a rose flower, I was losing my resolve at a faster pace than thread by thread. The meeting ended, and I was out as light; I needed to be somewhere other than that building. Maybe, just maybe, one peek at her lovely face would do the magic. 'Where is she?" I asked Edna as soon as I stepped foot into the packhouse. 'Define her," Edna retorted, looking pissed as hell. Her mouth was pressed into a firm hard-line, and her eyes held a glimmer of venom that wasn't there before. 'Maya… where is she?" I questioned again. 'Oh, Maya... She should be in her room, I guess," she replied nonchalantly. 'The fuck you're talking about, Edna? I left someone in your care, and you dare guess her whereabouts?" I barked, but Edna didn't flinch. 'Just pray nothing happens to her and that she is still within the confines of the pack,'' I howled before storming away aggressively in search of my mate. I got to her supposed room, and to my utter disbelief, she wasn't there. I searched the corners and her bathroom, but she wasn't inside still. My panic level skyrocketed, and if Cypher was roaring before, he was definitely thundering as I felt the echoes of his groans in my head. At a much faster pace than before, I hurried to the rooms nearby, but she still wasn't inside. I mind-linked Daniel and the rest of the guards, informing them to go in search of her while I joined them. To make matters worse, I couldn't smell her. The more I walked, the more Maya's scent faded. I groaned internally but continued down the staircase to the living room. At that exact moment, Daniel rushed in. 'Where is Maya?" I asked, rushing to his side like a wife whose husband had just returned from the military after five years. 'Not anywhere outside the guards across the borders had reported not to have seen her." 'Argh," I groaned loudly as I felt his words cut through my heart, and pain exploded like a bomb of fire in my head. I ran my hand through my hair while my stomach churned in restlessness. I'd never thrown up before, but I imagined this was the feeling you get before it happened. I took a shaky, calm breath, trying to put myself together before facing everyone. Vomit be damned, I fucking felt like I would cry. I felt prickling behind my eyes, warning me that I was on the verge of tears. This was the first time I wished I wasn't the alpha because being alpha meant I couldn't cry in front of people 'Hey, calm down," Daniel cooed, patting me on my left shoulder. 'It's all going to be fine. I think she is within. Let's have a look inside." ' I already did, but…." I stopped talking when I caught sight of red curtails at the back of one of the couches. 'But what?" Daniel inquired, but I shunned his question and continued to walk towards the figure. Daniel trailed behind me skeptically. I felt the air in my windpipe gush out as I took in the view before me. Behind the couch was Maya, curled into a ball, her red hair framed her face. Faint whimpers left her mouth, and her body shook even in her sleep. I again swore by the moon goddess to avenge whoever made her so fragile. I moved closer to her statue and picked her up. Her whimpering got louder, but she didn't open her eyes, and I also didn't drop her. Daniel made way for us to pass, and I did it gently, carefully so that our movement didn't wake her up. I took her up to her room, seething like a mad dog. I didn't want to wake her up, but I couldn't bear seeing her like that. She somehow stirred on my arms and used her hands to wrap around my neck. She nuzzled her head in the crook of my neck, which somehow slurped every bit of anger I felt. I pulled her closer to me like a second skin. The gesture made her eyes flutter open. "No, you cannot take me up. I will be punished gravely if they find me upstairs. I'll be forced to walk on burning coal. Drop me," she whimpered and kicked while trying to break away from my hold. "No one is going to punish you. You are here with me," I said and held her still. 'Asher? Her sweet tiny caramel voice chirped weakly. Her ocean-blue doe eyes opened wider as she took me in. 'Yes, Maya," I replied. 'Please don't let them catch me. I don't want to go back there. They will hurt me." 'I promise, I won't let them hurt you, baby. Trust me. You are safe with me. They will have to pass through me to get to you." I got stuck between carrying her to the bed and holding her in my arms. Sure, I have no issue holding her up. She weighs less than a feather, but I needed her to be comfortable. I looked at her again, and she was already fast asleep again. Her neck was slightly bent to fit into my neck, and since I didn't want her waking up with muscular pain, I decided to drop her on the bed. I couldn't fucking believe she was made to walk on burning coal. I felt rage pulsated through my veins at the mere thought of her walking on burning coals for reasons as trivial as sleeping on a bed. On impulse, I checked her feet, and true to her words, scars from burnt were indeed under her feet "Goddammit," I groaned between clenched teeth. I forced myself to take calm breaths, and with no other idea to help myself remain calm, I climbed onto the bed with her and stroked her hair. Once again, she nuzzled into me why I flung my arm around her and pulled her closer to me, allowing her scent and warmth to overshadow my anger. I must have laid there for several hours before finally drifting off into a restless sleep. When I woke, the realization that Maya wasn't in bed hit me harder than it normally should. Did she have a bad dream of someone punishing her in bed, and that's why she left? My mind wandered like that for a bit before I stormed outside and saw her sitting in the living room—opposite Daniel and Edna. Edna looked serious, almost bored, while Daniel looked like Daniel—flustered and cheerful. I heaved a sigh "Hey, Maya," I called sweetly, but she glared at me. Awe. I felt the love "What?" She snapped at me, and my wolf sighed, content in hearing our mate's voice. Where did all the cuteness and body-touching of the early hours of today go? Bro, it is pathetic, but according to Daniel, if I must yield good results in our relationship, I must learn to travail in patience and tolerance. I sighed too, and Edna chuckled. ______________ Everything in me was telling me to run after her. To chase her down, make her see my reasons, but I knew that wouldn't work with her. Forcing Maya to do anything would only further push her far away for the opposite reason. She had been telling me from the beginning that she needed space, so I planned on giving it to her. First day, second day, and now the third day. It felt like dying a slow death, but we both needed it—her to think and me to get my shits together. I walked into the packhouse because I wanted to see her and not because I wanted to talk to my beta and zeta like I claimed—that was my silly excuse to see her one more time for the night. "You called us," Daniel started when we were all seated on the three-seater couch in the packhouse living room. "Yeah, I did," I answered bemusedly. "Why?" Edna flared. For reasons unknown to me, she's been acting weird lately. Always on the tip of her tolerance if you ask me. I opened my mouth to speak, but my words disappeared in my throat when Maya suddenly appeared out of nowhere, looking fresh and clean. Her thin flawless legs were left on display, and so also was her belly button. She was wearing a sporty nude color with green striped Nike shorts and a matching crop tank top. The urge to run my tongue across her belly button was overwhelming. I became speechless as I watched her form. I swallowed and swallowed until there was no more saliva in my mouth. I wanted to hold her in my arms, but I refrained from touching her. Hell, my look was subtle because I didn't want to be caught or to come off as too strong. I struggled to keep my face neutral, but that didn't stop her from eyeing me curiously. Or maybe the rising dough in-between my legs was what made her hesitant. "When you're down gawking at her and ready to talk, you can call me. I'm off," said Edna irritably, stood up, and began to walk her quarters. I cleared my throat, and that made her stop. "I was about to send for Maya because what I have to say concerns her, but since she's here, I'll go ahead " my words captured Maya's attention, and she turned to look at me. "What did I do this time?" She snarled. "I think the right question is what am I about to do this time," I said, emphasizing the last eight words of my sentence. "I don't understand," Maya replied, looking at me as though she was searching for something in my eyes. "Neither do I," Daniel chirped in, looking truly confused for the first time since I had known him. There's always a first time for everything "I'm allowing Maya to leave," I said, and everywhere turned serene. Not even the sound of our heartbeat was heard. "You might have to say that again. I don't think I heard you clearly the first time," Daniel said and shifted on his seat as though something suddenly stung him in his butts. "Since Maya came into the royal pack, her greatest wish hadn't wavered—her desire to leave had been so strong. And now, I'm granting her wish. " I turned to Maya and said, "you can let me know when you want to leave or not, but I want you to be safe, so I'd appreciate it if you let me know when you'd leave. And if it doesn't seem like crowding your space, I spoke to some of our allied packs, and they agreed to let you come live with them. I want you to be safe—they are allies, so you should be safe" I finished my spiel, and they all looked astonished, especially Maya. Litany of other emotions danced across her face, but I couldn't quite decipher what it was. "Asher!" Daniel's voice cut through in anger making everyone but myself and Edna flinch. "This wasn't what we agreed on," he further seethed. "I know. But anything else, I want Maya to be happy. I'll be a dick of an Alpha and a mate if I make her wither instead of making her glow and grow," I said, and a snicker from Edna greeted us all. "Oops, sorry. It's just funny. Since when did you become a poet? WTF, Ash?" Another snicker erupted from Edna's mouth, but she did quick work to end it. "Can you guys please leave us alone?" Maya's little voice suddenly sounded heavy with authority and need? "Can we talk, please?" She asked quietly after Edna and Daniel left.

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