Wolf Child - Serena Akeroyd
“Why do you weep, child?”
The female jolted at my question, and I knew why.
I spoke to my children once in their lives, and here I was, communicating when I wasn’t supposed to, but her grief called to me. As did her idiocy.
So many mistakes… I’d made them, too, in my long life. They were powerful enough to eat me up inside, terrible enough to make me regret not just the bad, but the good also.
Having traveled along the path of this one’s life with her, I understood her grief.
Two sons abandoned.
One mate lost.
Such a waste.
“I miss him, Mother. I miss him so badly.” She gasped again, a keening cry escaping her, as if she couldn’t contain her grief. “And the worst thing is, I miss Paul too. My soul aches for them both.”
Of course it did.
Her first mate had strengthened her, but he’d never achieved the balance an omega needed. That was why I’d sent her the second mate. To soften her Paul’s rough edges, to bring an equilibrium she’d been lacking, and to be the light in the dark.
I’d just never foreseen the dark swallowing the light.
That was my fault.
It was my sacred duty to attach mates to one another. To bring them together.
To shape their futures for the best of the community.
Yet I’d failed.
I blew out a breath, which had the wind dancing around the circle where the child lay sobbing.
“I know you’re punishing me,” she whispered. “I should be dead by now.”
That was no word of a lie.
Both her mates had passed, and normally, that would sever her life. Yet live she did. But it wasn’t for a punishment.
She had a purpose. Her children served a greater role in this world than she could ever imagine.
“I’m not punishing you. I’m making sure your child is strong enough to live without you.”
“Another punishment,” she rasped, evidently not listening to me. “He has no mate. You didn’t give him one because of me, because of what I did.”
I had, but that wasn’t for her to know.
Staring at her, watching her as I watched over all my children, I thought about her distress, about all the mistakes I’d made, the ones that led to the errors she’d wrought.
To err is human, they said. To forgive, divine.
But who forgave the divine?
My eyes burned with tears, and I could feel the storm clouds growing heavier around me, swelling with rain that was on the brink of falling. But neither rain nor tears would cleanse us of our mutual foolishness.
When a shard of sunlight breached the clouds, piercing the circle in which I stood and had been standing for thousands of years, it was a moment of revelation.
We could both have our time again, and in doing so, she could serve her children as she’d never been able to in this life.
“What would you do to right the wrongs you’ve made, Merinda?”
She gulped. “Anything.”
“Do you truly mean that?”
Her eyes were bright red, her cheeks puffy as she scrubbed at them. But not unlike that ray of light which she was now pooled in, hope danced around her like the wind did the circle. “I mean it. With all my being.”
“You won’t always like what you must do, what might happen—”
“Anything, Mother. Anything.”
I thought about it, thought about how we could right our wrongs, then I whispered, “This is what you must do, child…”
Weirdly enough, it was the whimper I heard first. So soft, that it should have escaped my attention. So gentle that, over the noise of the carnival, I should never have been able to hear it, and yet hear it I did.
I tilted my head to the side as I looked at Austin, wondering if he’d heard it too. If a man’s ears could be cocked like that of a wolf’s, then his were alert. Just as I knew mine would be.
We stared at one another, squinting and narrow-eyed, as we tried to place where the sound was located.
Unfortunately for us, we were standing beside a hotdog stand. The scent of beef and pork sausages, as well as relish, mustard, and other condiments, scorched our olfactory senses while also messing with our others, because there was a long line and we had been waiting in it for a while.
Beside us, there were three kinds of rides, most of them with kids squawking at something, and on the opposite side, there was one of those old-fashioned shooting ranges with water pistols that you had to aim at moving targets. The water rushed