It was so strange being back home, being able to look out the window of the castle all the way out to the sea. It had seemed like a lifetime ago, but now things were in her brother’s hands and he had fixed the damage caused by their father and Chad, even Gwin and Vesuvio had returned to visit and the kingdom had come to trust them. She knew she should feel at peace, but a part of her was restless and she didn’t know why. “My princess looks troubled.” Lorena started at the voice, a blush tinting her cheeks as she turned to face Alonzo.
“You shouldn’t sneak up on people like that.” She replied.
“You would think after so much time with me, you would know I’m always around.”
“Perhaps.” She looked him over. He was dressed in a pair of brown breeches and a white shirt that was open at the top. His hair fell around his face in a wild, windswept mess and he wasn’t wearing boots. He never wore boots and had told her they were too uncomfortable. Even looking like a man, he was still all wolf. “Were you climbing up the side of the castle again?”
“How did you know?”
He chuckled. “Always so perceptive my princess.”
She turned a deeper shade of red. “Stop calling me that.”
“But it makes you adorably embarrassed.” He smiled warmly at her and held out his hand. “Want to go on a walk with me, you look restless.”
“That’s what happens when you spend too much time with a wolf in the woods, you become wild.”
“Not as wild as you wolf man.” Alonzo laughed as they left the castle. He really had fallen hard for her and even after all this time, he couldn’t bring himself to tell her she was his mate. He worried things would get awkward if he did.
Lorena felt better the second she was outside. She simply wasn’t made for the indoors any longer and wondered how Alonzo did it for such a long time back when she thought he was just a wolf. She glanced over at him, unable to help herself. Anytime she thought back on that time she had to admire the man that was now beside her. Though he was lonely when he stumbled upon her it was still a sacrifice to do what he did, to pretend to be only a wolf and scare her dad into never harming her again. He smiled at her, enjoying her gaze. She blushed “sorry”
“sorry for looking at me? Please, never be”
“what do you want to do after our walk?”
“Lets not get ahead of ourselves princess. We’ll see, maybe something on our walk will seem fun to do”
Her cheeks reddened again and he laughed as he walked happily beside her. She knew inside his tail was wagging. They received a few looks as they walked through town, most of them curious and questioning and she wondered what that could possibly be all about. Alonzo could hear a few whispered questions, one pertaining to Lorena’s relationship with him. Were they a couple or was she available? He knew there were plenty of single men, all hardworking and often eager to marry, especially if their parents insisted. He smiled and waved at them, but inside his wolf bristled at the idea of Lorena marrying another.
“Alonzo, let’s go over there.” Lorena’s voice pulled him away from his eavesdropping and he smiled lovingly at her.
“Where my princess?”
“There.” She pointed to the lake just outside of town. “It looks like they’re having some sort of competition, I want to watch. If you don’t mind, I mean.”
“You know I never do.” He scooped her up, causing her to giggle and her blush to deepen.
“Silly wolf, I have feet.”
“Come now, it’s much faster this way.”
“If you insist.”
She relaxed into his arms happily. Though she always reminded him she could walk on her own she enjoyed when he’d do this. She felt so cared for, especially since he always held her so gently. He quickly took her over so she wouldn’t miss anything then carefully set her on her feet. He would have loved to hold her longer but there wasn’t a reason to now. She stayed close, her body remaining close to his so he could still feel that closeness he craved with Lorena. It turned out to be a series of competitions on the water. It was racing and then tricks then who could hold their breath longer and then even a fighting competition for those who could easily fight under water. Each one seemed to wrap Lorena’s attention.
It was when the competitions were ending that a pitch black and dark red, overly large mare could be seen descending from the sky above them. It had gorgeous wings and it’s hooves seemed to trail red light. The mare had a rider that looked like an animal himself as he gripped the reigns. The people gasped in wonder as Alonzo instinctively moved in front of Lorena, he needed to know if this creature and his beautiful, winged mare were good before he let them near her. He didn’t know if it was his constant worry over his mate or what but he felt like they were coming to the two of them rather than simply coming down to land. It was a gut feeling.
The people moved out of the way as the horse drew closer and gave it and its rider space when its hooves touched down. Up close they could see that the rider was half lion, half man, reminding Alonzo what some werewolves looked like when they shifted into a half state. He inhaled, gathering that it was in fact male. His eyes fell on Alonzo and then shifted over to Lorena. Alonzo felt a growl rumble in his chest as he moved so she could not be seen. “Who are you?” Alonzo asked.
Those eyes moved back to Alonzo. “The girl.”
“What about her?”
“I’ve come to offer her a proposal.”
Alonzo glared. “What kind?”
The lion grinned. “I wish to speak to her.”
“You speak to me or no one.”
He chuckled. “Are you her dog?”
“Yes, her guard dog, now answer my question.”
“Very well.” He dropped down on one knee. “I come with a proposal of marriage for the princess.”
Alonzo growled louder and Lorena grabbed his arm. “Easy, it’s okay, Alonzo.” She moved out from behind him and faced the lion. “I am sorry, but I cannot say agree to such a thing. You hardly know me, sir and I am already attached to another.” Alonzo was surprised. He had never smelled another man on her. He felt his jealousy rising and quickly pushed it back down. This was no time for childish outbursts.
“then may I get to know you? Please, all I ask is for a little time to win you over. If you just give me even a few days I promise to bow out with grace”
“why do you want me so much?”
“I’ve heard wonderful things about you and if I’m being honest, you’re very beautiful”
“I guess it would be ridiculous of me when I’m not actually taken to refuse you even some time with me but I assure you, I wont be swayed” he stood, nodding “I understand princess but I still want to try” Alonzo’s wolf whined. His mate was attached to someone and not only that, there would be a man actively pursuing her. This was going to be extremely hard to go through emotionally and he worried about outing his own feelings for her out of jealousy. If he got too out of hand it would be obvious how he felt.
“It’s okay now, Alonzo, there’s no need to worry.”
Alonzo huffed. “We should head home then and introduce you’re guest.”
Lorena was surprised at how upset Alonzo sounded. She wondered if she had said something wrong. “Alonzo.”
“Come, Lorena.” He lifted her and turned his back on the other man. “Follow if you wish, but I will be keeping an eye on you.”
“May I ask your name?” Lorena asked the stranger as they walked.
“That’s a pretty name, it’s nice to meet you then. I hope you will keep to your word. The one I have promised myself to is precious to me and I don’t want to see either of you harmed.”
“I swear on my life.”
Alonzo kept his attention on the road, afraid if he looked at her she would see his sadness. Who was this other person? He should have been able to smell something. She talked as if she spent time with him and she always told him everything. Lorena and Otniel chatted all the way back and Alonzo was relieved when the man was taken by one of the maids to a room of his own. He felt guilty since Lorena seemed to get along with him, but his wolf whined and begged to claim her. “Alonzo, are you alright?” Lorena asked when he lowered her feet to the floor.
“Of course, why wouldn’t I be?”
“Well, you used my name instead of calling me princess.”
“But I thought you disliked when I called you princess.”
“It’s embarrassing, but sweet. I like it when you say my name as well, but…” she sighed. “I’m reading to much into it right?”
“Everything’s fine, I promise. Though I do wish you had told me of this other man. How am I supposed to protect you if you sneak out to see him.” He was trying to get an answer without giving away too much.
She gave him a confused look. “Why would I sneak out?”
“You mean, he comes here.”
“Well yeah, of course he does.” She blushed. “We should let my brother know we have company.”
She was surprised he could be that unaware of her feelings. It had seemed to her like maybe he was attracted to her too. They had had so many conversations that lead her to feel like they might end up together . She changed the subject because she didn’t know how to continue talking about who she was in love with since now she wasn’t so sure he wanted to be with her too. It didn’t change the fact she’d choose him over any other being but it made her more nervous about things between them. They walked together to find her brother Buck, stumbling upon him in the library with his wife and child. “Hey Lorena” Nancy was the first to say.
“Hey guys, um, there’s a guest in the castle…he wants to marry me and I agreed to let him spend some time here” They both looked completely shocked since anybody could see Lorena and Alonzo loved eachother “okay sister, thanks for letting me knew” Buck said, trying not to sound confused by it all. “what’s their name?” Nancy asked and Lorena answered ” Otniel, he’s half lion half man”
“well make sure you tell me if he makes you uncomfortable, I’ll have him kicked out” Buck said and Lorena answered “thank you” Alonzo and Lorena decided to leave to let Buck spend more alone time with his wife and little one. She knew now that he was king he would be busy a lot.
Otniel was waiting for them at the bottom of the steps and Alonzo stopped himself from whining again. “Princess, I am happy that I didn’t miss you.”
“Please, call me Lorena.”
“Very well. I was wondering if perhaps you would like to give me a tour of this wonderful castle. From what I have seen, the craftsmanship is amazing.”
“Would you like me accompany you?” Alonzo asked, trying not to sound desperate.
“Perhaps just he and I should go this time, Alonzo. I know you’ll hear me if I call for you and we’re in the castle so I think it’s safe.”
“I would never dream of causing you trouble.” Otniel said. “If it would make you more comfortable for him to come with us then please say so.”
“She’s right, the castle is the safest place she could be with a stranger.” He gave Lorena his warmest smile. “I am only a shout away, princess.
She looked him in the eyes a brief time, seeing sadness swimming in those crystal blue eyes. Now she felt worse, she hurt his feelings by telling him to stay behind. She decided tonight she’d try to figure out something special for him. Alonzo was the last person on earth she wanted to hurt so she had to so something to make his eyes happy again. She walked away with Otniel, beginning their tour. Otniel could tell something was bothering her so he said “your friend really could have come”
“Oh, it’s fine”
“You are not fine”
“I’m sorry if I seem off, Alonzo is acting weird”
“Maybe he wants you”
“He hasn’t said anything”
“Men don’t always”
“that’s not what you wanted to talk about right now though…I’m being a horrible host..”
“I just wanted something to do with you so we cna talk about whatever you wish”
“and you want to talk to me about another guy?”
“maybe not nessisarily but if we’re going to be together a good mate talks out whatever their mate needs to talk out. You look upset so I want you to talk about it and to try and help you”
“You’re really sweet Otniel. If I don’t decide to be with you can we still be friends?”
“You mean it?”
“Oh yes, I’m no sore loser.”
“I’m happy to hear it, you’re really very kind.” She sighed. “The one I told you about, he’s really very sweet and funny, I’ve known him for awhile.”
“Sort of.” She gave a small laugh. “I really am terrible, telling you all this. It’s rude. Just know he’s an incredible person and I wouldn’t change him for the world.”
“I hope he wouldn’t change you either.”
“Not at all, if anything he encourages me to be me.”
“Good, if that ever changes, I would hope you would say something.”
“So how about you? What kind of place do you come from?”
“I was born in a land of tall grass and hot summers. When the rain comes through it brings back the rivers, it’s so loud and beautiful as the water rushes by.”
“That sounds interesting.”
“It’s a wild place.”
“I don’t mind wild, I lived in the woods for awhile.”
“I heard there was problem with your kingdom.”
“It was pretty bad, but I learned so much out there. I learned how to hunt and fish, I climbed trees and foraged for food, it was amazing. I get restless sometimes because I’m so used to it, but I really am glad to be home.”
“at least you made the best of it and all is right again” They resumed talking about the castle and a few childhood memories she had in the rooms. There wasn’t much to tell since she didn’t have very many fond memories before leaving here. Her father had made life a living hell and Chad made things worse for the brief time she shared a castle with him . The whole kingdom had a sickness in it that she was relieved her brother and his wife were fixing. It felt good knowing her children, when she had some, were going to live in a better world. She felt lucky her brother decided to become a better man instead of imitating what he saw in their father and the rulers before him.
She next took him outside, first to the stables and showed him where his horse would be staying. She was glad to see that it seemed to be getting along with the ones already there. It looked fierce, but seemed quite well behaved. Next she took him around to the garden which included a greenhouse. “This is one of my favorite places.”
“My brother makes sure that it’s well maintained and we have both exotic flowers and produce growing in the greenhouse.”
Alonzo caught sight of them from the balcony he stood on, this time letting the whine out. He hated this and wanted to climb down and go to her right that second and tell that lion to leave. He knew he was being unfair, the man was nice and seemed sincere in his affection for Lorena. “Spying?” Buck’s voice startled him and he cursed himself for not being more aware.
“No.” He didn’t even bother looking at Buck.
“Really? Because it looks like you’re spying.” Buck looked down at his sister and Otniel. “He seems nice enough, I’m sure he’d make a great husband.” Alonzo growled and Buck chuckled. “Now that’s what I wanted.” He slapped Alonzo on the back. “You should stop being such a stubborn hound and tell her.”
It was obvious her brother knew his feelings so he didn’t even attempt to deny them “how am I to tell her though”
“Using your words, just tell her”
“what if it makes her uncomfortable with me?”
“Look, I’m her brother, I know her pretty well, she shares your feelings. One of you just has to admit to them”
“are you sure? Please….don’t make me a fool in front of her…I can’t lose her….we have to at least be friends so only tell me to tell her if you are absolutely sure Buck”
“I’m absolutely sure she loves you too Alonzo”
“But I can’t just tell her now, that would be unfair to him. She might get upset he came all this way only to get one day with her.”
“You really are a lovesick puppy aren’t you.”
“Oh shut up, I’m sure you were the same way.” He sighed. ‘Why is this so hard?”
“Love is confusing, but you’ll learn to deal with it. So give her a couple of days, Otniel seems like the honorable sort and even from here you can tell her body language is friendly, but not intimate.”
“I know. So the one she said she promised herself to, was really me. I’m such an idiot. I let my wolf get the best of me. How embarrassing. If I could I would kick my own ass.”
“You two are like a couple of awkward teenagers. Just be honest with her. I thought wolves were supposed to be good at this kind of thing. Claiming mates and all that.”
“we’re good at knowing when we’ve found who is perfect to spend our lives with but it’s not as easy for us as some books make it seem. Then again, I’ve just never been as smooth as some other wolves I’ve known”
“well you are perfect for my sister. Not that any of my sisters need someone to take care of them but it’s comforting knowing the lengths you’d go to protect her. You kept her safe as a child in the castle and then you kept her safe in the forest until she could return home. I can never thank you enough”
“I enjoyed every second with her, it was no real sacrifice” Buck chuckled again “you better tell her the second Otniel is gone you love sick fool”
“Thank you very much for showing me around.” Otniel said as they made their way back inside.
“It was no problem, I was happy to do it. I’m going to go find Alonzo and then we can eat, I’m sure you’re hungry.”
“I’ll wait for you in the dining room.”
Lorena headed upstairs, running into Alonzo as she turned a corner. He was all muscle and didn’t even budge and if he had not grabbed her she would have fallen down. “Are you alright?” He asked as he swept her hair behind her ear.
“You didn’t get hurt?”
“No, I mean you feel like a bag of bricks, but it wasn’t hard enough that it hurt.” She straightened her dress. “Would you like to come down and eat with Otniel and I?”
“I’d love to.” The sadness had disappeared, but she noticed he was a bit nervous. She didn’t want to push him for answers right now and took his hand, pulling him back downstairs.
He happily followed, enjoying the fact she was holding his hand. He hoped that soon after Otniel left physical contact would be much more frequent. He could barely believe she loved him too. The thought of her wanting to be his mate was almost too good to be true which was why he was so nervous about talking to her. She kept his hand until they were about to enter the dinning room, only letting it go since she thought it would be rude to walk in holding Alonzo’s hand. She had told Otniel she wanted to be with someone else but it wouldn’t be right to rub who in his face.
“That was fast.” Otniel said as Lorena took the seat next to him.
“I was already heading this way, we bumped into each other.” Alonzo said as he dropped into the seat on the other side of Lorena.
“Literally.” Lorena added with a little laugh.
Alonzo crossed his arms and looked off in the other direction. He wanted to be nice to Otniel and he had to calm the wolf. If he didn’t he might say or do something he would regret and having Lorena disappointed in him would hurt more than any wound. “So, I hope you two had fun.” He said, relieved that he sounded normal.
“We did, Lorena is such a gracious host.” Otniel replied. “I’ve never seen so many different flowers.”
“I hope I didn’t overwhelm you.” Lorena said.
“Not at all.”
Alonzo forced himself to relax and face them. He shouldn’t be rude. “Did you show him the fruit trees? We should have peaches on about now.”
“I did, he even tried one.”
“It almost didn’t stop at one.” Otniel looked embarrassed which had Lorena laughing and Alonzo grinning in amusement. He wasn’t so bad. Even the wolf could see that.
Otniel grew on Alonzo a little more over their meal, especially since he could see up close Lorena obviously didn’t have romantic feelings for the lion. He could even see when she’d look over at him the caring and adoration in her eyes. He felt like a complete idiot for not noticing how she felt sooner. He was normally so perceptive so how had he been so blind when it came to her. After dinner Otniel retired to his room and Lorena asked Alonzo on another walk since Otniel was tired regardless. “thanks for being so nice over dinner Alonzo. I could tell he made you tense when he first landed in front of us”
“I was being a jerk”
You’re just protective over me, you can’t help it.”
“That’s true, but it sometimes makes me think the worst before actually getting to know someone. It’s probably my biggest flaw.”
“You’re a werewolf, I understand. You work on instinct so it’s only natural.”
The air felt nice as they walked and they both breathed it in then smiled. “I definitely rubbed off on you.”
“It’s good though, living in the woods with you made me so much stronger. I feel tough, like I can do anything.”
She hooked her arm in his and he felt his heart dance, his wolf overjoyed with the contact. He really wanted to tell her and kiss her. He fought down the urge and enjoyed this moment with her. Later, he told himself, there’s no reason to spring it on her now. They walked all the way to the bakery where he bought a cake to share with her family and Otniel then went down to the lake and looked out over the placid water. It was so peaceful and calming.
“I’m glad we could still spend some time together this evening. I’m so used to ending my days with you on a walk”
“Me too, I bet that cake is going to be amazing.”
“Yeah, we should share it after lunch tomorrow” They sat by the lake talking for hours, only leaving when they did because Lorena needed rest to hangout with her suitor tomorrow. “could I carry you back? It’s the least I can do for keeping you out so late princess?” he said princess so affectionately it made her heart skip a beat. “that would be nice” she picked up the box the cake was in then allowed him to sweep her off her feet. ‘hopefully we can walk again tomorrow night” she said as she relaxed into his arms “If you aren’t too tired when he goes to bed of course we will”
He carried her all the way to her bedroom where he gently set her on her feet and took the cake “goodnight” Alonzo said sweetly before kissing her forehead. She blushed and he walked away quickly, afraid how he felt might spill out of him. He also didn’t want her to see how much he was blushing. That wasn’t the first time he had kissed her head but everything made him more nervous now that he was so close to confessing his feelings.
Alonzo was surprised when the next day Otniel invited him along with he and Lorena after breakfast. He had been ready to leave them alone, but the lion seemed to want to genuinely spend time with both of them. “You look so confused wolf, but if you are important to Lorena then you are also important to me, no matter what she chooses.”
“Thank you.” It was the only thing he could say. He realized more and more how childish his jealousy had been. He had spent years with Lorena and he would have more years with her still, it was only right she spend time with who she wished.
Lorena smiled as she walked between them, enjoying their chatter. They had each other laughing as they told traded stories about their lives. Alonzo’s story about his first time shifting and Otniel reminiscing about the first time he had rode his horse had her laughing so hard she was crying. It was the way they described things, even if she had heard Alonzo’s story before, it still cracked her up imagining him blushing and embarrassed.
By the day it came time for Otniel to leave they were all close friends “so you’re sure you wont have me as a mate?”
“I’m sure but I’m happy that we’re friends. Thank you so much for coming all this way, I may never have met you otherwise.” Otniel smiled “I am glad we’re friends as well princess Lorena. You are a wonderful woman and the man who has won your heart is incredibly lucky. May I return next month to spend another week here with you?”
“Of course you can”
“then I will see the two of you then” Otniel got onto his mares back and let her carry him off into the sky. Nerves washed over Alonzo again. They were alone, there was no more excuses. It was time to talk to Lorena about his feelings for her.
He took her hand in his hand she looked up at him, her smile bright and loving. “Lorena, could we stay out for a bit longer? I need to talk to you.”
“Why do you look so worried?”
“I’m nervous.” He took a deep, calming breath. “It’s just that being with you makes me incredibly happy. When we met I never thought it would lead to such a wonderful life, especially after everything that happened. I’m glad it did, that I could watch over you and keep you safe. I…” he sighed, it shouldn’t be this hard, not with her. “I really love you Lorena, so much more than I can fully express with words alone. You touch this wild part of me and it cries out to you, longs for you.”
“I hope I’m making myself clear, I…”
Lorena pressed her lips against his, surprising him to the point that he grabbed her shoulders and pushed her back a bit. She was blushing and embarrassed, but a smile pulled at her lips. “I love you too.”
His heart nearly beat out of his chest as he pulled her tightly against him, his nose pushing into her hair so he could breathe her in. “Lorena, my sweet princess, my mate.”
It felt so good to hear him call her that “what prompted you finally telling me? Otniel made you that jealous?”
“Buck had a talk with me”
“I’ll have to thank my brother then” Alonzo kissed her head, holding her just a bit tighter. They were both bursting with energy from happiness so they stayed out, running into the woods together to enjoy their first day as mates. They played around, kissing eachother randomly just to enjoy the feeling of it. When night came Alonzo carried her back to the castle for dinner with her family. They couldn’t wait to tell everyone they were a couple.
Buck, Nancy, Gwin and Vesuvio were happy to hear the news and congratulated them. “It’s about time you two said something, I thought I was going to be old and dead before you confessed.” Buck teased.
“Don’t be mean.” Lorena said with a blush.
“It was both cute and excruciating watching you two dance around each other.”
“Well, thank you for saying something.”
“That’s what brothers are for.”
“So, when are you two going to get married?” Gwin asked.
“I’m happy with whatever Lorena chooses. She should have her dream wedding.” Alonzo said with a blissful smile.
Lorena’s heart skipped a beat. “If you don’t mind I would like to wait for Otniel to get back so I can invite him. He was so sweet and kind, I want him to be there. Maybe he’ll meet someone.”
“Anything you wish, princess.”
Though they wouldn’t pick a date until Otniel was here they started discussing details for the wedding with her family. Everybody excitedly pitched ideas at them which Lorena was glad for. Some of the things they suggested sounded amazing and she quickly found Alonzo didn’t care as long as they got married so all the choices were up to her. Things felt perfect to Lorena, it made her glad she held out for Alonzo to ask her to be his. He was perfect and she knew he would be an incredibly mate. He had already shown on so many occasions how much he loved her. Not only that but he had shown that if things got hard he’d stay by her side, not even considering leaving her behind.
~ The End