Wolf Outcasted by Avery Song

Prologue: Teatime Within The Realms Of The In-Between

~WILLOW~


Ringing…

That simple yet annoying repetition echoed around me while snow fell from the sky. My body was numb and heavy, and as the seconds passed, I lost all feeling.

All I could focus on was the falling snow and my internal motivation.

No matter how many times my brain tried to push an ounce of regret my way, I merely deflected it. Nothing would convince me that my actions were wrong, that I was a victim in this circumstance. I wasn’t.

I was a winner…and this was how I’d enjoy the moment of victory.

I stared up into the wondrous sky, a surface that emphasized all the possibilities in the universe. It was intriguing to stare at, even when my vision grew blurry with tears of happiness. I’d done so many things to be proud of - even in our world that ensured that we all felt like tiny ants that could be squashed at any second.

Peering into the vast sky held a different power over me, one that humbled me and forced me to acknowledge that we’re only small chess pieces waiting to fulfill our duties upon the chessboard. I’d put up an amazing fight and been taken out mid-battle, but I wasn’t worried about us succeeding.

There’s no doubt in my mind…my Forbidden Fruit will win the rest.

In this scary, big world, they each carried the power to rise to the challenge and conquer in their element. Maybe my real purpose was leading them in the right direction. Reminding them what potential each of them had - even though some had more than others.

We’d entered this battlefield as enemies, and now I was slipping away, praying our Moon Goddess would shield my lovers from the trying times ahead.

It was funny how life worked. But again, I carried no regrets.

My heart stopped faster than I would have expected it - ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump - and then nothing.

I itched to hear the sound one more time: that beating sound of life that drummed against my chest 24/7. The sound held so much significance and was what we all normally took advantage of because we assumed our hearts would always keep beating.

Humans. Shifters. Witches.

At the end of the day, we all carried the same beating heart, and sadly, mine had finally come to a dramatic stop.

I never knew what to expect when death finally came for me. Every other time I’d been close to death, there had been an event that pierced my very soul and left me full of regrets. This time, everything was different - peaceful.

The silence was what I caught onto first. The eerie quietness went on and on like a record playing even after the singer completed that final note. The snowy oasis was the next to fade away, but the curtain of darkness invited plenty of twinkling stars.

Each dot grew stronger in brightness as if to emphasize this newfound world that was growing clearer by the second. But it was the magnificent moon right in the center that took my breath away.

If I had any more breaths to give.

The enchanting sight really left me speechless. The shade of lovely baby pink made my emotions swell in my chest. It was so soft, a tender glow that didn’t hurt the eyes, even with how big and close the moon felt in this wonderful oasis.

My nose picked up on the scent of flowers, and I couldn’t help but close my eyes for a mere moment and inhale deeply. The floral aroma immediately reminded me of Dimitris, and how I took for granted those daily bouquets that expressed his love the best way he knew how.

It was something so simple - so tiny and yet so fucking significant - and now it reminded me of how I was loved differently by him. Loved in a way only he knew how to express without the world realizing his commitment.

As I exhaled, I couldn’t help but realize all the other little things I’d overlooked when it came to my Forbidden men.

The way Neo always kept an “eye” on me, no matter if I was near or far. The way Saint would do his best to crack a joke to make me laugh no matter if the day was shitty or magnificent. The way Jayce secretly made sure I ate something during the day - even resorting to sneaking into the office during my washroom breaks to leave a snack on the table. The way Victor always made sure I had a stash of clothes somewhere for me to use - one set for me and one for if I was William - and that was just a tiny example of all the little things I’d taken for granted.

I was sure there was more I was missing, but the significance began to fade away as looked down to see my feet.

It took my brain a hot minute to acknowledge that I stood in a field of pink roses, which led to me noticing the wonderful black dress that clung to my top half, while the bottom transitioned to a sparkling purple fabric that was layered with a thin material with pink and silver stars.

The front part was short, reaching my knees, which allowed most of my leg tattoos to be visible while the other half was long and dropped from behind. I was barefoot. The feel of the soft soil beneath my feet was comforting, but it was seeing my body without the various wounds I was sure cloaked my flesh that made me wonder what was happening here.

I looked over my shoulder as if to see with my own set of eyes that I didn’t have a pair of black wings - or white. A badass like me probably wouldn’t go to heaven with white wings, but what did I know?

Nothing was at my back, confirming I wasn’t an angel of some sort, but what did catch my eyes was the brilliantly glowing pendant upon my neck. It was a circle that reminded me of some sort of magical talisman or artifact. The glowing piece shimmered with magic energy and changed to various colors, only reminding me of Viktor.

The base color had to be some sort of silver or carry a holographic shine to it, but that was covered by the dazzling gleam of various hues - particularly pink, purple, and blue. The energy itself was intriguing to feel: a protective cloak of power laced with compassion and immense love.

It felt like the power consisted of layers upon layers, and the compassion was the second to last layer, followed by the single layer of love that was shielded from everything. The force of power felt the strongest and yet it was raw and vulnerable, which was why it was so highly protected.

I wouldn’t be able to explain it properly if asked, but that was how I envisioned it. I couldn’t help but lift my hands to feel my pixie-cut hair, forgetting for a moment that I didn’t have my long pink strands like before.

Something told me my hair was probably white and completely absent of my usual pink strands, but I wouldn’t get to see for sure because there was nowhere to view myself.

I guess I should be more concerned about where I am.

That should have been the question of the year because my surroundings felt so mesmerizing that it felt unreal. I was standing in a divine place that embraced the darkness yet blended perfectly with a color scheme that spoke to my very soul.

I bet if the others were here, they would be just as allured as I, but their absence made my chest squeeze in worry as my eyes softened.

I miss my Forbidden.

My hand already clenched the middle of my chest, right above the glowing necklace. It carried a spark of warmth, and I wasn’t certain if that was what I was craving to feel again.

The warmth of my pack, the vivid sensation of our flowing connection. Their presence, their emotions, their wolves that connected to Bria. Fuck…

My vision began to blur as I suddenly grasped my reality: I’m alone.

No pack, no Bria, no Aurelia, no one else I held a connection to.

This was the end of the road for me, and no matter how peaceful it was, the striking loneliness that shot through me like a bullet left me shedding tears.

A part of me felt silly for crying. The memories of what had landed me here were suddenly so far away from my grasp that I couldn’t decipher them. It left a heaviness that fought to consume me, and I did everything I could to not forget the rest of those I loved.

To forget all I’d experienced and achieved before reaching this prime moment.

My tears rolled down my cheeks, and a warm breeze blew by, the strings of heat seemingly aiding in taming the chill that fought to ridicule me. I hugged myself as I closed my eyes shut, quietly sobbing as the overwhelming sadness flooded my senses.

I’m lonely, Moon Goddess. I…don’t want to die alone.

Was this what death had in store for us? Or was this some sort of transition to something new?

More importantly, was there a way for me to get back home?

Home.

My life of forbidden darkness suddenly felt like home. Compared to some of the darkest moments in my life where I lay there alone, without access to a single person I cared or knew of, this felt no different.

It made my chest feel tight, my body tense with uncertainty, and my breath go wild in panic.

Tainted memories I’d surely forced myself to forget tried to lift their ugly heads - metal tables, electric shocks, pain…so much fucking pain, and menacing laughter from a woman who was far too close to home.

I struggled to shut it all out while desperately clawing for the good memories that I realized were fading one by one. It only made me internally frustrated, and that was when more tears escaped my eyes and ran down my flushed cheeks.

I didn’t want to lose them all because the reality was that those memories molded me into who I was there and then. The good and bad contributed to Willow De Luca, and by stealing it away from me, I would be left with…nothing.

No memories, no experiences, no identity.

The most frightening thing of all was the truth in this predicament that would only confirm my ending.

There was no future ahead of me.

Another breeze went by, but the aroma that was caught in its current and flowed into my very nostrils suddenly stole my grief and replaced it with curiosity. Nothing could stop me as I looked for the source of the scent – like one you’d smell as you walked down the quiet hall in the early hours of the morning.

The sweet scent of tea did wonders for one’s body, mind, and soul at the start of the day.

It was a tad funny to acknowledge my reaction to the scent, since I enjoyed coffee far more than tea. The preference reminded me of someone important - someone who was once a lover and would forever be my best friend.

I felt a tad ashamed for suddenly not remembering their name, but maybe this sweet scent would bring me right to them and bring their name to the tip of my tongue.

The new motivation pushed me to begin walking, and each step took more of my dread and replaced it with a dose of tranquility.

By the time I discovered the culprit of the wonderful aroma, my tears had dried and I now stood with a bubbling delight as I stared at the scene before me.

I’m not alone anymore.

A white table that was wrapped in wonderful vines of black and bloomed various purple and pink roses sat in the middle of the grand floral paradise. The top surface was decorated with white silk placemats with stitched embroidery of various colored roses. Placed on top of them were china teacups that looked far too delicate to touch - let alone drink from.

A cup full of steaming hot tea awaited me. An empty chair was pulled out like an invitation, but my eyes couldn’t help but drift over to my left, and I noticed an outstandingly beautiful woman.

She sat there like a delicate doll of perfection. Her eyes were orbs of pastel colors while her hair was rather similar to mine. It was short and off to one side, but the white tips transitioned into various colors that mimicked her piercing eyes, complementing them further.

She was naturally pale in complexion, and her thin frame was cloaked in the finest floral dress I’d ever seen. With one leg crossed over the other and her tiny saucer in her free hand, she worked on sipping her tea while I admired her.

My eyes couldn’t get enough of her enchanting appearance, but I was further tugged in to take in the fine details of the various incantations on her arms and calves. Around her neck was a collar, one that carried a similar silver pendant that I couldn’t quite grasp the details of in my memory. Only instead of it being a circle that reminded me of a full moon, hers was a crescent moon.

As if sensing my attention on its twinkling surface, the crescent moon pendant began to glow in the same illuminating pattern as mine - as if the two objects were having a conversation of their own.

The woman lowered her teacup onto her saucer, and now her attention was solely on me. Her lips of glossy pink curled upward, and wow.

She…looks like someone. Who was he? I can’t remember. Please let me remember.

I fought to not panic as I searched my mind for their name, and suddenly it clicked as the very image of my bodyguard flashed within my mind.

“Viktor,” I whispered and quickly followed with, “You…look like Viktor. Well…I mean, a female version. A really pretty version…and I just fucked up my first impression.”

She laughed like an angel.

“Everyone always said Viktor looked more like me than his father, but alas. I’d never admit it in front of my sweet love or he’d get depressed,” she began happily and gave me a dazzling smile of white teeth. “But yes. You can say I do look like a female version of Viktor. Except I smile way more.”

She set her cup down and placed her hands onto her lap as she continued to grin welcomingly.

“Willow De Luca. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you. I would have preferred meeting you with Viktor, but our Goddess seems to have other plans for all of us.” She gestured to the chair parallel to her. “Please. Have a seat and enjoy some tea while it’s still warm.”

How could I refuse?

I walked over to the very seat and sat down. I didn’t feel nervous, but I couldn’t deny that Viktor’s mother's appearance alone was intimidating. She was just flawless in so many ways that I was left wondering whether she was a goddess or a fae.

Could be an undercover fae goddess. Who knows?

Something told me she was a wolf, or at least those were the vibes I picked up off her extravagant aura, but her magic level was unmeasurable, which again made perfect sense because Viktor was really good at magic.

What was he again? A magician? No. Another word. A…warlock? Yes.

“You look deep in thought, Willow,” she noted. “What are you thinking about?”

“Well…” How do I even begin? “I think my memories are fading. I’m…trying not to worry about it, but I’m scared I’ll forget everything that molded me into…well, me.”

It felt so easy to just come out with what was bothering me, and I felt a tad calmer as her eyes softened and she bobbed her head in understanding.

“That’s reasonable,” she assured me. “This is the In-Between after all. It’s hard to keep all your memories together in one place when you’re literally grasping every memory you’ve experienced since your birth.”

“Since my birth,” I gasped in awe and wondered if I’d get to recall any of those instances. “The In-Between. That’s what this place is called? What a beauty.”

“It is divine, isn’t it? Gives you a glimpse of how peaceful paradise is. I’m rather thankful for your presence. I was getting lonely drinking tea all by myself.”

“Don’t be lonely,” I encouraged and pulled my chair inward, then sat a little straighter. With a smile, I continued, “I’ll gladly keep you company.”

“I’d greatly appreciate it,” she confessed. “I’m waiting for my husband.”

“Viktor’s father. I…apologize for being a bit blunt, but I didn’t know either of you were…” I hadn’t thought my words through and I felt saying “I thought you guys were dead” would be a bit offensive.

My delay made her giggle as she bobbed her head in understanding.

“It’s reasonable for you to believe that my husband and I had perished. Viktor’s field of work is a complicated one, and it’s best for him to act like he has no strings to anyone so that he doesn’t give anyone the advantage of knowing who he cares dearly for,” she explained. “Though, I believe that’s about to change.”

“What do you mean?”

“I guess you can say a certain someone has moved up the ranks of importance,” she admitted as she picked up her cup and went back to sipping her tea. The move encouraged me to do the same, and my lips pressed lightly onto the cool surface before the flowing warmth of the sweet tea flowed into my mouth.

The taste alone was revitalizing, and I couldn’t help but drink some more. The warmth was lovely to feel as the hot liquid went down my throat and seemed to warm up my internal organs. It was like we were sitting in a winter paradise and enjoying a cup of tea instead of the rose oasis surrounding us.

“This is delicious.”

“I agree,” she replied. “It should replenish a bit of your energy while you wait.”

“What am I waiting for?” I inquired. “I mean, you’re waiting for your husband. I’m not waiting for anyone.”

“Actually, you are,” she revealed. “It depends on a few factors, but I’m rather confident that someone will come for you.”

“Why?” The single word escaped me before I could think it through.

“Well, for one, you’re loved by many people. I don’t think they’re ready to let you go,” she began and took a sip of her tea while her words simmered in my mind.

I’m loved. Many people care enough about me to not let me go?

Repeating her words in my head made me feel a little crazy because I was struggling to remember many things. Viktor was the easiest to remember because his face was so similar to that of the woman opposite me, but even with his mother’s company, I couldn’t remember everything I would have liked to recall to help me understand what she meant.

What she was really implying.

"Your journey isn’t destined to end here, Willow.”

“It’s not?” I decided to offer back because I lacked enough knowledge to understand why I was even here. Did I do something wrong? Did I accidentally trip or get caught up in something out of my control? The true riddle of this conversation was trying to decipher who I once was prior to reaching this place of serenity.

“Far from it,” she assured me as she laid her cup down once more to give me her full attention. As her smile dimmed, her soothing eyes were filled with striking wisdom. Sometimes I could just look at a person and know they carried so much knowledge and experience about our vast universe, and this moment reflected exactly that.

“You have so much potential to unlock, Willow,” she emphasized. “I won’t deny the fact that grasping such potential means unlocking doors you don’t wish to open.”

A lump formed in my throat as I stared back at her, and the intensity of our gaze grew with every second that passed.

“What if some doors are meant to be kept closed?” I whispered as my eyes closed. “Forever.”

“Some doors may never open again,” she agreed. “But that’s usually because you’ve already overcome their challenge. There are plenty that are left untouched, begging to be discovered and opened. Some may reveal rooms of gold. Others could be rooms of snakes, emotional turmoil, or an abundance of happiness. Anything could be awaiting you behind every unlocked door, Willow. However, you’ll never know what you’re about to face if you don’t open them.”

“I’m too scared to do that.”

My eyes opened again, and they were emotionless as I stared back into her prism eyes of wisdom. “When I opened too many doors as a child, where did that get me?”

For a split second, those memories came and then were gone, but my lip trembled as I whispered, “Emotionally damaged. Pushed off a cliff. Greeted by Death and forced to endure months of recovery. Tortured by people who hid in the shadows of the darkness. My screams only brought them joy while they struggled to collar me like a fucking dog. All my curiosity did was lead me straight into a hall full of suffering. Why would I put myself through that again?”

“Why, indeed,” she pondered to herself as she closed her eyes for a brief moment. “Have you ever thought those bad experiences were meant to be endured solely for a hidden purpose?”

“A hidden purpose?” I didn’t understand.

“When you experience something bad on your own, it’s hard to face. It’s even harder to conquer. The weight one must carry to fight against the dramatic experience that leaves open wounds and lingering scars is sometimes too hard to carry, but as a child, we see the future we wish to reach and push forward. No matter how bad the trauma is,” she explained. “As adults, we fear re-experiencing what scared us the first time. Not solely because of the pain it marked upon us physically, emotionally, or mentally, but because despite experiencing it in the past, pain is pain. It hurts, wounds, destroys, and breaks us until we’re nothing but broken pieces of glass scattered across a floor. Then we’re left with two options: to leave ourselves to be nothing but shattered glass or to pick up the pieces and create something new.”

Something…new…

“It’s scary revisiting your past. Frightening to confront those who brought nothing but agony to your life. Those people and instances wait for that striking moment to rear their ugly heads and remind us of our history, but you’re in the driver’s seat, Willow. You get to choose how these situations affect you. They expect you to crumble under the pressure you carried alone long ago, but isn’t it easier to confront your demons with a pack that has your back?”

She had a point.

“How you remind me of Vincenzo. He was just as apprehensive as you were long ago, but if he hadn’t opened the door and faced the trauma of his past, he would have never had the guts to be your bodyguard.”

Vincenzo…

“Really?” That surprised me because the few facts I remembered of Viktor were that he was a perfectionist, confident in his element of protecting whom he was assigned to, and he never fucked up.

“Really,” she repeated the word. “He has to open another door to be able to change your fate.”

“Do you think he will?” I curiously asked.

“I do.” There was no doubt in her voice. “It won’t be long, actually.”

“Why would he do all that for me?” I knew why, somewhere within the depths of my soul, but my ears craved to hear the truth.

To confirm what I hoped could be returned.

“Vincenzo loves you, Willow,” she emphasized as her eyes softened and her smile returned. “My son has loved you for a very long time. He fought every possible strand of restraint, but alas. He has no choice but to accept the truth. He’s fallen in love with you, and I can safely guess you’re smitten for him as well.”

“I believe so.” I couldn’t be 100% sure but it felt that way. Like he carried a piece of my heart along with a few others that I cherished dearly. “If only I could remember all we’ve been through.”

“You will,” she assured me. “The real question is, are you ready to continue this journey?”

I held off from answering immediately, but my resolve was already set in stone. Despite my lack of memory or the trauma I was fighting desperately to ignore for all eternity, I couldn’t brush away the urge to keep going.

There was a flame that was still burning on, no matter the number of attempts made to extinguish its light.

“I have to keep going,” I quietly admitted. “There’s so much left to do…even if it’s overwhelming for me to think about it.”

“Sometimes you just have to shut up all those thoughts that seek to find the reason and go with your gut,” she encouraged. “When there are moments where you lose your way, remember those around you and don’t hesitate to rely on them. They may not see the signs all the time, but time and experience will help them learn from their mistakes and be the shoulders you need to lean on.”

“Are you okay with me being with Vik…eer…Vincenzo?” It felt weird to say his full name.

“You have my blessing, Willow,” she assured me. “Tell him that too, and if he bothers you, I’ll have to come down and slap his head so he regains his common sense.”

That actually made me giggle before I felt a sudden tugging motion. It was faint but captured me like a hook on a fishing line, and though I sought to finish my conversation with Viktor’s mother, I couldn’t.

I need to go in that direction.

“I guess it’s time,” I heard her say, but I rose up and began to steadily walk away. My body stopped at the touch of arms behind me, and for a moment, it felt like I was being hugged from behind.

Something hooked around my neck - the chain thin and almost weightless. The burning sensation on my chest suddenly grew stronger, as if another energy was flowing into the main piece of magical jewelry that pressed against my chest.

“As a Master of the Forbidden Elements, I pass on my power to you, Willow Alundra Phoenix.” The use of my real name tugged my interest, but it was short-lived as the force that wrapped me in its web begged for me to get closer.

To close the distance between us.

Energy rushed through me in waves, to the point that it felt like I was a charged battery and the energy was desperate to buzz through our designated equipment.

“You will be tested, Willow. Things will not be easy. But trust in your Endangered men and your Master. Trust in the pack you’ve formed, and I assure you, domination will be your portion to obtain and conquer. You will be prosperous. May our Goddess of the Moon shield you from death from this day onward. May my power assist you, my knowledge guide you, and my son continue to protect you.”

With one last squeeze, I was let go, and all my attention was on the path before me while I felt as if the presence behind me began to fade away.

Like the rest of the world.

The gust of wind breezed past me, the petals of pink rushing into the air and brushing my flesh. I walked through it all, my body blazing with the urge to be connected to another, and before I realized it, there was the source of my need.

A being of darkness.

There was no way of seeing their face. Their taller figure triggered some sort of familiarity in the depths of my consciousness, but once again, I couldn’t grasp the identity of this essence of darkness. However, I knew one thing was for sure.

I did not fear them.

They stood there like I was but a ghost, but frankly, it was as if they were observing the glowing light of pastel colors oozing out of me. We were the complete opposite - him being Yin, while I knew my core power was Yang.

Together we’d balance each other out - soothe the storms of fury brewing within us the moment we came together as one.

The world continued to disintegrate around us, and the starry sky began to crack away while the moon’s glowing rays grew stronger and created a stream of light that shone on just us.

The gusts of wind grew stronger, wrapping around us like a brewing tornado. They carried the fragile petals of pink that soon began to turn into black.

Our prolonged stance was only igniting chaos, but we remained in our places as if we’d become statues and couldn’t dare take the final steps to bring us together. I knew this wasn’t the moment for me to take the lead, so I remained in my place, even as the full moon began to shatter.

For a brief moment, I wondered if this was it, if the two of us would drift and fade away like the rest of this world, but then he executed the move.

He took three steps forward.

When we faced each other now, it was almost painful to remain still, but I didn’t have to wait long, for those hands of inky shadows reached out to lay upon my flesh, and just like that, his lips slammed into mine, and it felt like I’d finally got a breath of life.

Our worlds crashed and tumbled.

Our bodies molded and became one.

Our minds connected in a way that was just magical.

Our lips further pressed together in relief.

“Willow.” There was the familiar voice, and I prepared for the inevitable.

“Come back to me.”

That was all my soul needed to hear.

So I did.

I’m coming back home.