familiar face arrived at the airport. Gunnar Ludvik pushed through the crowd, his gaze scanning faces for a familiar one. I felt Leif tense next to me. “Father?”
Gunnar broke into a smile that looked remarkably like Leif’s, and he surged forward, arms wide to pull his son into a hug. “My boy!”
Leif left my side to hug Gunnar, and my father looked at me with impatience.
“Come on, daughter.”
I hesitated. My father had clearly called Leif’s family to come and get him, and his reunion with his own father seemed to be quite happy. I wasn’t sure if I should wait for my mate or leave him to his father’s care. I hesitated a moment longer, and then made my choice. “Leif?”
I could feel the heat of my father’s scowl on the back of my head. He wasn’t happy.
But I wasn’t leaving without Leif. Not without knowing he was taken care of. Not without knowing what was going to happen between the two of us. I felt like everything was more confused the more we returned to civilization, and I didn’t know what to do.
Leif pulled away from his father and gave him another pat on the shoulder, then returned to my side. He cupped my face and leaned in to brush a kiss over my mouth. “Your father is going to make things hard on you to punish me,” he murmured, voice so low that only I’d be able to hear it over the hubbub of the airport. “Go with him for now. I’ll come to you later. I promise.”
I faltered, unhappy at the thought of being separated from him. “I…you’re sure?”
“I’m sure,” he said. “Go.”
Miserable, I went.
My father ranted and berated my ‘flighty, irresponsible choices’ the entire car ride home. He thought that by me going with him, I’d chosen family, and now it was safe to berate me and let me know what he thought of my little unapproved ‘excursion.’
I didn’t argue. I didn’t listen, either. I simply stared out the window at the trees that whizzed past as we drove to our remote home in the mountains, thinking about Leif. His father was one of the elders, too. Would they welcome him with open arms when he returned home, or would the initial relief at his return turn just as quickly to scorn as my father’s had? The thought of that made me want to cry, and I couldn’t shake the vague feeling that I’d abandoned him.
Once we were home, my father wanted me to come into the kitchen so he could continue to lecture me about my hasty actions, but I put a hand to my forehead. “I’m not feeling well,” I lied. “I’m actually exhausted. Is it okay if I go to sleep and we continue this later?”
And I put my other hand on my stomach to remind him of the results of my heat.
His face immediately softened a little, and he nodded, then patted me on the shoulder. “Go rest. We’ll talk in the morning.”
“Thank you, Father,” I told him, and escaped to my apartment.
Things were just as I’d left them, my laundry still overflowing my hamper. My sheets were mussed - I was never one for making the bed - and a fine layer of dust covered everything. I tossed down my pack and went to my bed, curling up and pulling the blankets over me. I tried not to feel lost and miserable.
I wanted Leif here with me. Maybe that was selfish, but I didn’t care. I felt lost and unhappy without him at my side. To think I’d thought that bringing him home would fix all my problems. How silly. It seemed I’d created even more problems. Unhappy, I huddled under the blankets and stared at my landline phone, willing it to ring.
I must have fallen asleep, because when I startled awake, it was dark outside. I rubbed my eyes, wondering why I’d woken up, and yawned, glancing around.
A noise came at my window, and I pulled the curtains back.
Leif was there, crouched, trying to open my window from the other side, a frown of concentration on his face.
Happiness soared through me, and I couldn’t resist the pleased squeal that emerged from my throat.