It was here. The day of the full moon, when Grey and Teddy were supposed to wed. It had been a long wait, all the longer for what went on between full moons, and though the sun was a long way from going down, the council was already starting to gather for the nuptials.
Not Grey and Teddy though. Not yet. Grey wanted to visit with Alex and Kol before heading to the clearing and Teddy was getting to visit with Julian in person for a bit, under doctor supervision of course. She wondered if Teddy would tell him what was happening—she doubted it.
Her visit was strictly business, though. That morning, Barrett had finally called and told her the news they’d been waiting to hear: Shepherd was dead. She figured her witch-friends might want to hear that.
As she pulled up in front of their little house, however, she started to second-guess herself. She hadn’t seen Alex much since their trip into the fairy club; she worried that he was blaming himself for their lost time, since he had been the reason they went. But Grey had agreed to go; she was just as guilty as him. Taking a breath, she walked up the steps to the door and pressed the doorbell.
She heard the ring from outside, echoing in her sensitive hearing. This close to a full moon, even she had a hard time keeping completely human and all of her senses were on fire. Her body thrummed with the untapped energy within her, begging for release.
Then the door flung open and words fled as she saw Kol standing there…almost completely naked. “Um…” she began intelligently, staring where bare skin met towel. She quickly glanced up at his eyes. “Did I interrupt a shower?”
“Nope,” Kol said.
“Where’s the shampoo?” called another voice, distinctly male and not belonging to Alex.
“Not yet anyways,” Kol corrected with a devilish grin. “Should be under the sink! Wanna join us?”
“What?” called the voice.
“Not you! I was talking to Grey that time.”
Suddenly a face appeared at the top of the stairs and a grinning, blue-eyed behemoth of a man was grinning back at her. “She’s cute! And if she’s anything like you in bed…” The man’s sentence trailed off suggestively.
“I um…really can’t stay. Is…Is Alex here?” Grey asked, cheeks burning.
“Yep. He’s buried in his books. Come to think of it, he might be in need of feeding and watering…” Kol’s brows puckered in thought, as if trying to remember the last time he’d seen his roommate.
“He’s not a plant,” Grey said, though her lips tipped up in a smile. “I’ll take care of him. You go take care of…” she nodded towards the stairs where his paramour was waiting. “That.”
“Oh, I will,” Kol said, winking before heading back up the stairs. Grey waited to hear the bathroom door close and the sound of the shower turning on before heading upstairs herself. She found Alex’s room easily enough and, just as expected, he was buried up to his eyebrows in books and, weirdly enough, parchments. Massive bags were beneath his eyes, spectacles placed on his nose doing nothing to conceal them.
“You wear glasses?” she asked curiously.
Alex startled, nearly upending an entire tower of books on top of himself. Grey’s fast reflexes saved him from that gruesome end and she straightened the stack out, trying not to laugh as he tried to compose himself. “Gods, you scared me,” he breathed, then started laughing too.
Grey folded her legs neatly beneath herself and sat with him, reaching for a nearby parchment. “What are you researching?”
“Hunters,” Alex said. “Since I didn’t get a chance to research them…you know…before.”
“Before we flung ourselves at a fairy club and didn’t realize we were dancing our lives away?” Grey suggested.
“Yep, that’s it,” Alex said, taking his glasses off and rubbing the bridge of his nose. “What brings you here?”
“Shepherd’s gone,” she said.
She could tell Alex was trying not to look as relieved as she felt. “It’s okay, you can be happy,” she said.
“No, I can’t,” Alex said, shaking his head. “The loss of a life, no matter how inconvenient or unworthy that life is, should always sadden us. It’s what separates us from the monsters.”
Grey frowned. “Does that make me a monster, then?” she said, quietly.
“No, of course not,” Alex said. “Any more than I’m a monster, because even though I know that I shouldn’t, I feel—not happy necessarily—but relieved. I just need to try and convince myself that the relief is from the idea of him no longer suffering.”
“Is it working?” Grey asked wryly.
“Not yet, but give it time,” Alex returned with a grin. “I’m an expert at convincing myself to believe things.”
“Yeah?” Grey said, leaning forward over some books, almost close enough to kiss, but not quite. “Like what?”
“Like,” Alex began, glancing at her lips and then back up at her hazel eyes. “Someone as beautiful as you could possibly, maybe, actually enjoy my company.”
He gently reached up to tuck a piece of hair behind her ear. “I think I do a good enough job convincing you of that myself,” she said, leaning into the touch. “Because it’s the truth.”
“Hm…I dunno, I think I need more convincing,” Alex joked.
“Oh, do you?” Grey said, closer now. “I better get to work then, huh?”
They kissed then, more passionately than they had before. Several books toppled to the side as they pressed together, closer and closer, wanting to feel every inch of one another’s body through the thin layers of their clothing. Grey gasped a breath between fevered kisses, thinking that this is what love was supposed to feel like; this is what she had been waiting for. It didn’t matter that they hadn’t known each other long; he was already swimming in her veins, invading her thoughts.
When at last they parted, Grey didn’t go far, leaning her head against Alex’s. The silence stretched out between them a moment longer until she decided she needed to break it. “I’m getting married tonight,” she confessed.
Alex froze, confusion warring with jealousy. “What? But you said…”
“Shepherd’s dead,” she agreed, “And he is. But I’m not marrying him. I’m marrying Teddy.”
Grey sat back, trying to catch Alex’s silvery-green eyes. It was clear that he still wasn’t quite understanding what she was trying to tell him. “I thought…isn’t Teddy…you know…” Alex struggled to find the right words.
Grey tried not to smile too much. “Gay? Yes, he is,” she said.
Grey rolled her eyes. “It’s a wolf thing,” she explained. “It’s political, but at the same time…I can’t think of a better person to marry. If I’m married to Teddy, I get a seat on the council and he gets alpha status. We can actually make a difference now.”
For some reason, the words were not as comforting as she thought they would be. She frowned. “What’s the matter?”
“You said you can’t think of a better person to marry but…what about…I mean, I know it’s too early to talk about that at this point but wouldn’t it be better to marry the person you…you love?” Alex asked.
“Well, of course,” Grey said, “But love doesn’t need marriage to flourish. Marriage by definition is simply a political match to strengthen one’s standing in a community and propagate the species; it’s an institution wherein you create an obligation between husband and wife to remain with one another so that the child is raised in a stable environment. Love isn’t even necessary there and anyway, it’s Teddy. It may not be romantic love, but I’ve loved him since I was fourteen. And it’s not like he’s going to stand in the way of…of you and me.”
It had never occurred to Grey that she could marry Alex. More than that though, she hadn’t thought he’d mind the arrangement of her being technically married to Teddy but remaining romantically tied to him. Was he so invested in a traditional marriage? Why hadn’t she thought to ask?
“You don’t think it’s the least bit awkward, being married to someone else and carrying on an affair?” Alex asked.
“I wouldn’t call it that exactly,” Grey said, feeling discomfort at the word. It sounded so tawdry when he said it like that. “And Teddy knows about you; he likes you and knows that you make me happy. And he’d have Julian, of course. So it’s hardly an affair.”
“And that’s not weird at all? You talk about an open marriage like…like it means nothing.”
“I don’t understand,” Grey admitted. “Of course it doesn’t mean nothing. Teddy and Jules have been my best friends for years; they’re everything to me. Even if I weren’t technically marrying Teddy, they would be a huge part of my life. They always will be. Marriage is just a means to an end; a way to achieve power. Love, that takes many forms.”
“Marriage is supposed to be a monogamous commitment; it’s a pact between two people who love each other in a special way—in a way that’s more than what you feel for a friend or sibling or child,” Alex tried, but Grey was already shaking her head.
“Marriage didn’t make my parents love each other any more or less; it only made them obligated to one another. What good is love if it isn’t freely given?”
“Would you have children with Teddy?” Alex probed.
“Well…” Grey paused, thinking for a moment. “Yes. I mean, we probably wouldn’t have sex, but science is capable of so many wonders. It’s my duty as a Lycan to continue the line; to create more like me. I can hardly do that with…”
“With a witch?” Alex asked and Grey knew as he said it that this conversation had taken a very wrong turn somewhere and she didn’t know how to navigate it out of the troubled waters. In a way, it was way too early to have this conversation. In another, it was way too late. She was going to marry Teddy that night; there were no two ways about it. But she certainly hadn’t expected for her relationship with Alex to end that same night.
“Alex,” she began, reaching for him, but he pulled his hand away. The rejection hurt her more than she cared to admit.
“Sorry,” Alex said. “I just wasn’t expecting…”
He sighed and scrubbed a hand worriedly through his hair. Grey nodded. “I get it. I guess we were raised two different ways.” She stood, dusting off her knees. “You can call me later if…” She didn’t finish the sentence; she didn’t have to. If you decide I’m worth sharing with my Pack, because we’re a package deal.
Alex nodded. “Let me show you to the door at least?”
“No need,” Grey said, then slipped out of his room. She ignored Kol’s lewd comment inviting her to rethink her shower invite and made her way out of the little Victorian and into her car. She took a few deep, steadying breaths…then made her way towards the clearing where she would become Teddy’s wife.
She wished Alex had understood what that meant to her.