Strength To Let Go by Alina Popescu
Release Date: 7 July, 2015
After being abandoned by his mates, Shiki Kirishima, beta of the Dragons of the Fang werewolf tribe, returns to his home in Tokyo.
Crippled by grief, Shiki decides to end it all by going into the territory of the Siberian Killers tribe and challenging them to a battle to the death.
Ganzorig, beta of the Siberian Killers, however, sees the potentially disastrous consequences of having Shiki die in battle.
Instead, he saves him.
Having suffered loss himself, Ganz takes it upon himself to help Shiki deal with his pain.
Blake, Shiki’s best friend since childhood, is as determined to show him there is life after a wolf’s ultimate loss.
Could there also be something ‘more’ for them after friendship?
To view the Book Trailer, click HERE
IT TOOK me a minute to open my eyes. My eyelashes were stuck together in a messy tangle of dried tears. I groaned and rubbed them furiously, trying to ease the sting. I blinked a few times, until the garish glow of sunlight reached my pupils and made me cringe. My eyes hurt and I swore, turning my back to the annoying source of light. I reached out to pull either Kayden or Kieran closer and was greeted by the cold emptiness on their side of the bed.
Yes, that was right, I had gone to bed alone, knowing I was going to wake up in the same sorry state, forever. Yay me! Great going…. I forced my eyes open again, the light of day and the pangs of loss and hurt making my vision blurry with tears that I promptly fought back. I had exhausted my stash of sake, then finished all of Kieran’s absinthe. Not like he’d be back here to drink it anytime soon. He and Kayden had made their merry way back to the Fae Realm, leaving me behind. Sayonara, Shiki!
Well, they hadn’t actually said that, they only ever spoke to me in Japanese to whisper words of love. However they’d said it, the message had been clear: I was without my mates. I had lost my dark prince and my warrior. There was no turning back, I had no say in it, and I could keep the castle if I wanted to. Sure, ’cause that’s something I’d do!
I pushed myself up, sitting in the middle of our huge bed and slumping against the sea of pillows adorning our headboard. I sighed and ran both hands through my now very messy hair, trying to wrap my mind around what had happened. Yesterday I was happily married to the loves of my life and my mates. Mated wolf… now that was a concept I would have laughed at a little over six months ago. Then Kieran and Kayden happened, and I’d given them everything in a mere heartbeat. Yesterday I was Ryuu’s adoptive father and I had Kimmie’s lineage to figure out, find the relatives of the lost pup or add a daughter to our perfect family. It had seemed perfect, hadn’t it? The joke was on me now.
I still could not figure out where I’d gone wrong. Granted, I had no relationship experience. Maybe that was it. I’d spent the first three decades of my life focused on my training before anything else. I was one of the twin sons of the Kirishima family, after all. Shishou, my twin, was supposed to be our alpha and I was supposed to be his general, leading the soldiers and all military campaigns of the Dragons of the Fang tribe. I’d only had flings, I’d fucked men left and right, and a couple of women when someone truly amazing had come my way. It was no wonder I’d screwed up my first ever relationship.
But how? That simple question had been plaguing me since the previous night, as I poured alcohol down my throat, my neurons snapping with electric connections in a race to solve the puzzle. There had been little to no signs. Yes, Kieran got into his dark moods at times. Yes, Kayden no longer sharing the same body with Kieran and us becoming a three-way thing had been hard. But we had survived all that. It had been months since that happened. What had I done wrong? What was I missing, how hadn’t I been enough for them? I wished they’d told me, that way I could have…. Ah, who was I kidding? Not like I could change. Werewolves, we knew all that. One cannot be anything other than who they are. It was all there in their actions, and most of all, their scent. Emotions, pheromones, lust, hunger, even thoughts, it was all reflected in the scent, and that one little marker could never deceive.
“Right, time to get the fuck out of here,” I mumbled, stumbling out of bed and making my way on groggy feet to the shower. I let the hot water hit me with full force until I completely lost track of time and myself. Having a martial arts background instilled in me by a traditionalist sensei who valued the ability to meditate and focus did help at times. I could direct all of my concentration to the sound and needle-like sting of the water, until those sounds and sensations enveloped me, shutting down everything else.
I couldn’t hide away like that forever. I reluctantly got out and went through the motions of my morning routine. I even styled my jet black hair, which was now once again back to my natural color. I strolled out of the en suite naked, not that I had bothered much with that aspect before. Right now, I almost wished I’d run into them and the sight of my body would make them change their minds. Even if I knew there was no chance in hell of that happening, I still felt the disappointment wash over me when I returned to the hollow room.
I put on a pair of skinny jeans and a black T-shirt that stretched across my chest and bulging upper arm muscles, then fumbled about, trying to find a pair of combat boots and a leather jacket. I stuffed my laptop, some of my toiletries, and a few mementos in a backpack and then stood in front of the walk-in closet, wondering what to take and what to leave behind. A fresh waft of their scents made my nostrils flare as I touched their clothes. I whimpered and brushed away fresh tears, deciding to leave everything behind. It was too hard and I knew my dark prince, he’d have his employees purge the place for him. He’d never go through the pain of sorting out our clothes, separating them. Then again, seeing how they’d left me, I was thinking it wouldn’t quite have the same effect as it was having for me.
I walked from room to room, remembering how we’d fucked in all of them, against each and every piece of furniture. I went through sweet moments and conversations, the rare fights and the deafening silence when they’d leave without things being right between us. It hadn’t been all rainbows and butterflies, but it had been perfect to me just the same. It had been everything I wanted and needed and I would have given my life to protect it. Seems I was alone in that sentiment though.
A wolf that had lost his mates…. A sorry being, cursed to roam the earth, never happy, never complete, longing for his lost mates. I shuddered, remembering my mother’s hollowed eyes when my father had left her in a fit of stupid rage. How she could not eat, sleep, or function properly. She’d left us, my brother, my little sister and me, to go find him. She had managed to find him quickly enough and they’d kissed and made up, but then they got killed on their way back to us. I envied her that fate. At least I wasn’t making my children watch as I left. They were way too young to understand and I’d give Kieran and Kayden that: they’d left me while the children were safe with my brother and his family in the U.K.
“Well, time to say goodbye to Ireland and the castle,” I whispered, my small voice still echoing in the large hallway at the main entrance. “My first real home other than my Sensei’s house in Okinawa.”
I closed my eyes, willing the magic to happen, and when I opened them again I was in my apartment in Tokyo. The flashing here and there was cool and all, but it also meant something else. The fae blood my mates had fed me had forever changed me. I was half-fae now, with some of the strongest powers of the species running through me. My husbands would always be part of me.
My dark prince and my warrior had not spent a lot of time here. A few days at best, just because I wanted to show them where I’d lived before them. When we came to visit, we usually stayed at the Alpha mansion since there was more space and it kept my family happy. Yet the room still smelled of them and a sob escaped me at the realization. It just sucked, plain and simple. There was nowhere I could run to where I wouldn’t be overwhelmed by their presence, by the memories of it all. I stripped and flashed to the Alpha mansion’s garden. It opened into a few acres of forest where we could run free when we really needed to. I was way too far gone to even think of going anywhere else.
I fell to my knees shouting at the skies and the change took me. I pawed at the ground, getting reacquainted with my wolf. For some reason, I hadn’t shifted to this form as often during my time with Kieran and Kayden. I only did so when Kieran, after being forever altered by my blood, needed to change into his wolf form. We’d run wild on the property surrounding our castle, Kayden riding behind us, giving chase on his black steed to catch up to us.
It felt good to have the light wind blowing through my fur, to be this close to the ground and sense the small game as it fled from my path. I shook my whole body, then lifted my head, letting out a long howl. There was no better way to express all the anguish, all the pain, and all the anger my heart was burning with. From hundreds of miles away, other wolves howled back, mirroring the searing pain of my call. Yeah, yeah, my tribe was there for me, so was my family. It did not amount to much though. Nothing could help.
I started to run, faster than I had in ages. I was tracing wide circles around the area I could use, pushing my body harder and harder. I kept at it for almost an hour, until every muscle in my large wolf body was shaking. A typical werewolf, even the strongest of us, couldn’t hold such a crazy pace for more than half the time I had. Then again, I was way pumped up on fae blood, everything was different for me.
After sniffing the air for a few seconds, I gave chase again, tracking a hare I’d picked up on. Within minutes, I was biting down, pulling large chunks of bloody meat from the small, crumpled mold in my paws. Once my stomach was full, I went back to running in circles and did not stop until I collapsed on the ground, breathless and thirsty. I was exhausted, enough that my brain shut down and I could just pass out for a bit.
It was dark when I woke up. Not surprising seeing as it had already been afternoon in Tokyo when I’d flashed there. What was surprising was that I’d been able to spend hours sleeping. I shifted and promptly delivered my ass to my apartment, not wanting any of the wolves at the Alpha mansion to even think they should come out and find me. I did not want to talk to anyone, neither did I want to answer any questions.
Once I got back, all the reasons I’d chosen to leave my apartment rushed toward me, bringing fresh waves of pain to the forefront. It wasn’t as if the hurt ever left me. It was a constant buzzing that I could barely breathe through, but when faced with fresh triggers, sharp claws would reach for my chest, dive right in and start squeezing. I’d beg the gods for it to stop, but I knew it wouldn’t happen. I was a wolf who’d lost his mates, there was no rest, no peace, no happiness left in the world for me.
I got my clothes back on and stormed out of my apartment building. I couldn’t stay inside and I thought that a long, tiring walk through my city of birth might do the trick. I headed to Akihabara, convinced nothing could do a better job of keeping me distracted than geeks, cosplayers, and all other manga lovers. I knew of this maid café which was pretty well hidden and safe from most tourists and I planned on going there after my walk.
I took the longest way possible, although that particular neighborhood was pretty close to my apartment. Bright neon lights assaulted my eyes from every direction imaginable and I sighed. This area of Tokyo was exactly as I remembered it. Full of people walking aimlessly, most of them tourists or cosplayers, the latter either die-hards who did it because it was their passion, or those hired by the stores. It was always great to see my favorite anime characters come to life before me.
I roamed the bookstores, lingering in the manga sections. Unlike my other visits, I stayed clear of the yaoi section. I really did not need to see any gay couple getting their happy ending, even if it was just a comic book story. Luckily, I was safe here. Not much male on male PDA out of Ni-chome, so I wouldn’t have to deal with too vivid a memory of how we used to be with each other. Wolves are tactile by definition. In our animal form, we rub against each other, lick each other’s muzzles, run together, pounce and tackle each other. That translates into our human form behavior and my mates had always indulged me.
The next place I stopped at was a video game arcade. I chose a first-person shooter and emptied my guns into the enemies coming at me for a full hour, seeing their bodies explode as blood stained my vision. It did help a little, taming the violence that was slowly creeping through my soul. I did indeed want someone to pay. I wanted to punch and bite and crush bones. Unfortunately, I had no target, no one I could take it out on to feel avenged. I was angry at Kieran and Kayden for having the heart to leave me, but that was nothing compared to the blind fury directed at myself. I had failed. I hadn’t been enough, I hadn’t managed to become a good mate and husband. I had failed at keeping them interested in me. I’d had the most perfect males in the universe for a little over six months, I had sworn my undying love in front of all worlds, humans, werewolves, fae, the Gods ruling over us. But I hadn’t managed to keep them happy, to give them what they wanted. So they’d stopped wanting me.
With my eyes stinging from being focused on the monitor for too long and my head a mess, I stepped out of the arcade and wandered around a few times until I retraced my way through the maze of side streets and back entrances to reach the maid café I was hunting. Smiling, subdued girls wearing maid costumes greeted me at the entrance, bowing deeply and modulating their sing-song voices to win my favors. One of them recognized me though and mumbled something about bringing down the charm a notch.
“Kirishima-sama, your favorite table is ready for you,” she said, walking in front of me to what was indeed my favorite spot in the café. It was almost always empty because it was so isolated. I chatted with her for a bit, she said they’d missed my patronage and other pleasant nothings. I knew her though, and outside of this job, she was the biggest tomboy I’d ever met. She was also an incredible martial artist who used to go to the same dojo I did when I was in Tokyo. The girl leaned in close and whispered in my ear, “You owe me, senpai. I challenged you to kumite last time you came to the dojo. Or are you afraid a girl can take you down?”
I laughed so hard my belly hurt. I honestly did not think I had it in me to laugh like that, what with everything going to hell around me, but this pretty girl wearing doll-like make-up and a maid uniform telling me I owed her a match on the dojo mat was just too funny to resist. “Fair enough, Makoto-san. I’ll let Sensei know ahead of time if I come to the dojo. Don’t fret, you’ll have a chance to settle your score with me.”
A few minutes later, she was back with my usual. Strong coffee, a bottle of water, and a generous portion of mochi. I only ever came here to indulge in devouring sweet, divine, I-can’t-believe-I-don’t-have-diabetes-yet amounts of mochi. I polished my plate in no time, washing it all down with most of my water, then pulled the coffee closer and sipped it slowly, watching the interactions in the café. The lovely young maids buzzing around the tables, smiling and paying compliments to the customers, almost exclusively men, each one drooling all over the girls. It was fun to watch, especially earlier in the afternoon when high school boys would come in to spend most of their allowance just to ogle the maids.
I had never been the type to go looking for simulated adoration. There were butler cafes, the male versions of the maid cafes, and there were always host clubs with gay hosts, but that was never something I’d gotten into. All my life, I’d had that undeserved and sometimes very fake adoration from members of my tribe. It was genuine for almost all werewolves in Japan, I was the second son of their Alpha and the future general after all. The Chinese clans, on the other hand, those were sweet and cunning and always fake, shouting their praise from the top of the mountains while viciously plotting my family’s demise. All the other countries under our dominion with their respective clans? They couldn’t care less. They only made their occasional demands to get something in return for doing their duty. Dragons of the Fang standard setup.
After a second cup of coffee and more people-watching, I settled my bill and left a very generous tip for my future opponent. I stepped outside again, finding my way to the heart of Akihabara. The glow of all the colorful lights seemed a bit warmer and a small smile curved my lips. I took step after step, looking left and right and making mental notes of all the stuff I would need to get to catch up on my favorite shows and manga series.
I wasn’t really looking where I was going, and I bumped into someone. They got pushed way back, while I moved slightly. It happened to a werewolf, you were used to being pounced on and knew how to hold your own, relying on nothing more than muscle memory. The apologies, very formal, went out of my mouth before I actually saw who it was. When I did, I froze. I didn’t know him, but he was a cosplayer dressed up as Luka Crosszeria, a manga and anime character. A demon who was actually a hero. Tall, dark, menacing, and totally devoted to his lover. Kieran and I had had plenty of conversations about him, mostly me begging for him to try dressing up like him. My dark prince and Luka always seemed to remind me of the other.
Unable to move or say anything else, I watched as he said it was all fine and walked away, smiling at the little incident. I stood there, in the middle of the busy street, with people swarming around me, trapped in memories I did not want to relive. I shook my head and turned on my heel, getting out of the crowds as fast as I could and rushing to get home.
When I got to my apartment, I wasn’t feeling any better. I was restless and hurting and angry as fuck and their mixed scents in my place weren’t doing me any favors. I fumbled with the backpack I had dropped on the floor of my living room, trying to find my phone. I was greeted by a dozen or more messages from Vicks, one of my twin’s mates. Since she had mated my brother she had this weird connection to me too and could feel whenever I was experiencing strong emotions for an extended period. I assumed everything that had happened since yesterday would qualify for that. I sent a quick “I’ll be fine” type of reply to stop her from harassing me and went through my contacts.
Even if I hadn’t called that particular number in a couple of months, it was still at the top of my favorites list. He was my best friend since childhood, so it made sense I’d call him more than anyone else. It just hit me then that I’d been so lost in my own life, I barely had time to catch up with him or my family unless something critical was going on. I pressed the call button and plastered the phone to my ear, pacing around the room as it rang a few times.
“Come on, Blake, fucking pick up!” I hung up and tried again. I really needed to talk to my best friend right now. It rang twice and went straight to voicemail. Hearing Blake’s voice brought tears to my eyes and something snapped inside of me.
“Blake, I wish you’d have picked up the phone.” I laughed softly, shaking my head. “It’s funny, I think this is the first time I call you and you don’t pick up. Either way… thanks for being my friend, chibi. I… I don’t….” I lowered the hand that was holding my phone and let my head fall back, taking a few deep breaths. “Blakey, tell everyone I love them and… yeah, those who know me, really know me, will understand. Sayonara, chibi-tan.”
I hung up and let the rage take over. I turned around at impossible speed and threw the phone with a loud roar. It hit the wall and shattered into a million pieces. I was crying. I knew because I could feel the heaves and tears, but the crushing pain was battling with the anger taking over my mind. I had lost my soul and my reason to live when I’d lost Kieran and Kayden. What was left of me was nothing more than the warrior inside. A true samurai would not waste away, waiting for death to claim him at the end of a miserable life. He’d die in battle, an honorable death his final legacy.
My twin, Shishou, my co-beta, Ren, my sister, even Blake… they’d get it, they’d explain it properly to my children. They probably won’t understand, just like I hadn’t when my parents had left us. I prayed that unlike their father, they would never get to a point in life where they’d understand this decision of mine. It meant they’d go through a world of pain and that was the last thing I wanted for Ryuu and Kimmie.
I took off everything but my jeans. No point in having anything else on. Werewolf rules were sometimes mind-boggling. You could shift into your wolf and back, and you always kept one item of clothing. The picks were random and you might be left in nothing but your underwear. Or keep a tight top and nothing else to cover your lower body. It was wise to choose your own clothes for the occasion. I then promptly flashed to the weapons room in the Alpha mansion, right in front of the wall display of my father’s katana. I kneeled before it, my legs spread, and then bowed deeply. Getting up, I closed the small distance between me and my objective and removed the katana. I glanced at the wakizashi he always used to wear with his katana. Double sword, traditional samurai sign. I decided I’d use them both, just as he had in his final battle. I unsheathed the two blades and adjusted my grip. With a final bow, I flashed out.
When I took form at my destination, a small shiver coursed through my body. It was pretty cold out here. Well, northern mountains in Mongolia weren’t known for their excessive heat in the middle of autumn.
I had chosen Siberian Killer territory, the fastest way to pick a fight with other werewolves. The one rule they had was any shifter that stepped foot on their territory would be killed. Here I was, standing tall, all focused, muscles bulging under the strain and excitement of an impending battle, taunting whoever was nearby.
While the Siberian Killers had control of most of the former Soviet Union and some Middle Eastern regions, it was the Mongolian wolves that ruled them all. I was pretty much attacking their royalty. Siberian Killers only recognized power. To show off their power, the Mongolians were going to hit me with everything they had, just to prove to their tribe they could rule over them.
To view the Book Trailer, click HERE