Chapter 43 - Broken Trust
Seeing that Talia was not responding and that Damon didn't react, Cassie was emboldened.
"Answer me!", Cassie hissed at Talia and spoke to Damon without removing her gaze from Talia. "Is this how your Omegas are acting? You really need a Luna to teach them some manners. Sneaking in the dark and stealing food, and then they even refuse to respond…"
"That's enough, Cassie!", Maya said sternly from the door.
Maya's heart cracked when she saw Talia's submissive stance. It's not that Cassie had any aura, but Talia was a broken soul who needed supportive environment.
Maya walked to Talia and asked softly, "Are you OK?"
Talia nodded faintly, but Maya knew that Talia was lying.
Maya narrowed her eyes at Damon and spoke through the mind-link. 'Is this why you brought her here? I thought you promised her protection and not another type of hell.'
"Come, let's get out of here…", Maya said to Talia while wrapping her arm around Talia's shoulders.
"We are not done here", Cassie said stiffly, hoping that Damon will back her up.
"What do you want, Cassie?", Maya snapped. "Do I need to remind you that you are a guest? You have no right to boss around or bully members of our pack. If they did something you don't approve of, you can report it. Do not act like a judge and executioner. If you have any problems with this, you are welcome to challenge me to a match. In case you win, I will gladly give you my position as the Beta of the Dark Howlers pack. And if you don't have the guts to face me, then stay out of my way."
Damon watched as Maya led Talia out and rage bubbled inside him that was immediately extinguished by the feeling of guilt because he was angry at himself. This was his fault.
Damon was surprised to see Talia in the kitchen, and he told himself to stay out of it because he shouldn't expose that Talia is important. After all, Cassie can flap her mouth, but Damon would never let her really harm Talia.
Talia's defeated expression created an agonizing hole in his chest.
He could see her disappointment and the moment when that little trust she had in him vanished.
The pain was unbearable.
'Talia is upset because of me.', Damon said to his wolf.
'You stood and did nothing while that she-wolf disparaged our mate, and you broke the promise of giving her food because our mate left without eating anything. Again. And let's not forget that the same nasty she-wolf is attached to your left.', his wolf said with disapproval before retracting to the back of Damon's mind.
'Maya, can you make sure that Talia gets something to eat?', Damon asked through the mind link.
'Oh, so now you care about Talia?', Maya snapped at him. 'If you cared a minute ago, Talia would pick her food and not be chased out like a thief!'
'Don't talk to me like that!', Damon growled.
'Oh, I apologize, Alpha Damon. Where are my manners?', Maya responded sarcastically. 'I suggest that you stay away from Talia. Stick to Cassie, that's what you are good at, and leave this poor girl alone. She suffered enough. As your Beta, I will take the responsibility of arranging a different accommodation for Talia.'
'No!', Damon shouted into the mind-link, but his message hit a wall which told him that Maya shut him out.
"Don't pay attention to Cassie…", Maya told Talia when they exited into the garden. "Cassie talks big, but she is no one. She wouldn't dare to harm you."
Talia didn't respond.
If Cassie is no one, why didn't Alpha Damon say something?
Why didn't he clarify that Talia lives here?
Why did he act like he doesn't know who she is?
"I was not stealing.", Talia said after some time. "The lights were off, and I assumed that everyone was sleeping. I didn't need lights, so I didn't turn them on."
"Our Omegas don't linger in the packhouse.", Maya explained. "They come once a week to clean and do laundry. They help with food preparations when we are hosting a party, and you might find one or two of them in the evening hours, helping Steph with dishes, and they turn off the lights when they leave because we don't have visitors after dinner hours."
Talia thought how that was different. In the Red Moon pack, they had Omegas around until midnight, and the first ones would start their duties at dawn.
That's why Talia assumed it was very late and no one was awake.
If she knew, she would turn on the lights, and maybe that would allow her to avoid this all-too-familiar uncomfortable situation.
"You were in the kitchen.", Maya said. "Are you hungry?"
"No.", Talia denied it.
It's not that she was not hungry, but she had a good meal that morning, and that's more than what she usually had. She was used to skipping meals and she didn't want to go back to that kitchen and risk meeting Cassie or anyone else.
Talia remembered that Stephanie said how Cassie wants to be the Luna, and the way Cassie clung onto Damon's arm, it looked like she has good chances of accomplishing it.
Talia decided that if Cassie becomes the Luna of the Dark Howlers pack, Talia will leave. There is no way that a woman who immediately accuses a person of sneaking and stealing could be a good Luna. Talia already saw one which is selfish and heartless, and she didn't want to see another one.
On the other hand, maybe she should just leave without waiting to hear how the matter between Cassie and Damon will conclude, because an Alpha who can watch while another is being wrongly accused and say nothing about it, is not a righteous Alpha.
Somehow, Talia thought that Alpha Damon was different.
"Do you want to go inside?", Maya asked Talia.
Talia wanted to go into the forest, but she feared that if she says that to Maya, she will prevent her from going. After all, Alpha Damon told Talia that she can't go beyond the garden without notifying him. But then… he said that no one will bully her either.
"Feel free to go back.", Talia said with a small smile. "I'm sure that Beta Caden is waiting for you. I will stay here a bit. I will be fine."
"OK. Let's go shopping for clothes tomorrow afternoon.", Maya said and continued without giving Talia time to respond, "Talia, think about what you want. The packhouse is usually quiet and we don't have many guests, but if you stay here, you will attract attention. I'm not saying this to sway you one way or another, but I want you to be aware of your surroundings. I can arrange for you to stay with the Omegas, that will help you blend in. Or if you prefer on your own, we have apartments."
Talia was unsure what to say.
She didn't want to stay in the packhouse. Yes, the room was nice, and the bed was warm, and the towels were fluffy, but the scary Alpha only brought trouble with him, and based on tonight's episode, it seems that whatever protection he had for her, it ran out. But she was anxious at the thought of living with Omegas because those were her bullies from the past, and she never lived on her own so that was a completely foreign concept.
Maya saw that Talia was on the verge of panic, so she quickly said, "There is no need to decide now. I advise you to stay here at least until your bruises heal. But think about it. OK? There are options for you. No one will force you to stay here or anywhere else, I will make sure of that."
Talia relaxed a bit. "Thanks."
"My room is on the second floor. When you climb the stairs, take right. It's the last room on the left.", Maya said and pointed at the last three windows on the second floor. The light was on. "If you need anything, anytime. Come and find me."
With that, Maya left Talia in the garden.
Talia was surrounded by silence that was broken by the occasional rustling of leaves under the breeze.
It was a familiar feeling, yet somehow, she felt empty… like she lost something. She lost hope.
Talia exhaled softly and shook her head.
It's her fault.
Since she accepted Alpha Damon's offer, she allowed herself to hope that things will get better, and this was not better.
It was the same but wrapped in a different container.
Just like many times before, Talia was alone in the darkness, hungry, bullied, and wearing clothes that used to belong to someone else.
The kind face in the Red Moon pack was Olivia, and here is Maya, and maybe Stephanie also. But just like Olivia, Maya and Stephanie will leave her at the end because they have their lives and it's not their job to take care of Talia.
Talia sucked in a sharp breath. There was no point in dwelling on what happened, other than to acknowledge that people are the same regardless of the pack, and unless she takes charge of her life, someone will always treat her like a doormat.
Talia peeled her eyes from the three lit-up windows on the second floor and turned toward the forest that was shrouded in the darkness.
Steeling her resolve, Talia started walking.
No matter what the future brings, she knew that she will need her herbs.
Talia relaxed the moment she entered the protection the trees provided.
She didn't fear the darkness or the creatures of the forest, knowing that the biggest monsters are people themselves, werewolves included.
Step by step, Talia made her way deeper into the forest and she carefully placed collected plants in the few sheets of paper towels which she took from the bathroom and concealed under the elastic of her leggings.
Bunchberry, fringecup, moonflower, alumroot… they were all there, offering to Talia their leaves and petals like they knew she was coming.