"Has his father said anything more about Carmen?" I ask outright, afraid to have these conversations with her as they always leave me feeling worse, but she's the only person I have had to talk to, and I know she's on my side in this.
"Only that Colton needs to think of the future of his people. Honestly, I don't even know why Juan is rooting for Carmen, she wasn't good enough a month ago, when he was constantly telling him he needed to get serious a find a better mate. I don't get it." Meadow shrugs, rolling on her side to perch herself up on one elbow, picking out some peeking daisies and twirls them between those talons she calls nails.
"Wait, what? I thought Juan was invested in her as the best femme for Luna? He's sure as hell fighting her corner hard enough!" I blanche, my head spinning to her fully as rage ignites inside of me, pushing self-pity down.
"Nah, you got that all wrong. Juan has never warmed to her, he only seemed to take any kind of interest in their relationship the second the fates brought you to Cole as his companera. Up until then, he was one of the reasons Cole hadn't yet settled and marked her. Always whispering in his ear that he wasn't ready, that he's too young and had time, that he should sew some wild oats and live a little. He only started with this marking shit when he knew Cole had his sights set on you."
"So, his dislike of me contradicts even that. Screwing with Colton's choice even before me. I swear, I wish I knew why he was so against me. It can't just be because of the home and losing my family." I exhale grabbing at the grass in exasperation and yanking out some more stems before watching them blow from through my fingers on the wind. Set free, roots severed, to find their own path, wherever the wind chose to blow them, and it stirs something in my head.
"The man is all about honor and power, it's totally about you being one of the unwanted. It's like a black mark on his bloodline to accept the fates bonded one so unworthy to his only son. He's obsessed. I don't think he's all there, you know, since the wars, a little loco if you ask me." She points at her temple and rotates in a circle, leaning up further to gaze at me with crossed eyes, jesting that he's crazy, but it doesn't bring any lightness to the conversation.
"I hate him. Even if he is mentally unwell. He's the reason nothing in my life has been good for a long time. He's the one who called the packs to unite and go to war. He's the reason my mother left me to follow his call when they asked for warriors to protect our lands, even though he wasn't our alpha. My father tried to stop her… he knew they had little chance of returning. He wasn't a warrior, none of my people were. They should have stayed behind and protected the ones here, not left it to the children like Colton to take on a man's job." There's no point on dragging over the failings of the past, but I can't help it. The wars were a shambles for our people, even if we did end up coming out on top. The packs had no tactics or pulling together until it was almost too late. So many who should never have gone left our weakest vulnerable to be watched over by young wolves or newly turned. We were lucky to survive attacks on our own homelands at all.
"Juan isn't the man he used to be. Cole didn't just lose his madre in those wars, his father came back a changed man. The battles, they got inside his head. He wasn't exactly soft before, but he only got worse. I think it's why Colton clings on so hard to winning his approval, clawing to stay connected to the only parent he has left. His father's single handedly raised him these past ten years, molded him into a man. Cole's loyal to a fault; he may seem tough sometimes, but he has his madre's warm heart and inability to see the worst in people. It's his biggest strength, and yet, his worst flaw." Meadow and I stare intensely at one another, somber moods reflected, before I break contact and gaze off into the clouds to try and find some peace. My head a mess with all of this, my heart aching badly like it's done for days now.
"Do you think Juan turned this way, because of the Luna too?" I so desperately want to understand why someone who was once held high and respected among his own pack is now feared and questioned. Why his own hide in corners to disapprove of his tactics, where the loyal would never question. That's not the sign of a healthy united pack. That's the sign of a failing alpha, clinging onto his power. A sinking ship and it doesn't bode well for what Colton will inherit.
"I don't know. All I know is, he's not the uncle I knew as a girl and I don't recognize him anymore. Cole tries to pretend he's still in there, maybe he really sees it, and looks for the best in him. I think he's scared of being cast away like his madre was and forgotten by all who love him if he pushes it. His father likes to throw it out there that Colton has her weak genes, and it's probably why he tries so hard to do what Juan want of him, to prove him wrong."
"Colton isn't weak…. he's confused. Even I can see that. What do you think Juan would do if he defied him and marked me on the full moon? Do you think Juan would send him away, send us away?" I have to know if there's hope of changing his mind, that maybe Colton will still come through for me. Even if his behavior is telling me that he's already pushed all indecision aside and chosen a path to take. I need to cling onto a tiny little ray that there's still time to sway him.
"I didn't, until Cole told me he believes his father would find a way to take you from him if he defied his decision. Juan hasn't said it outright, but he's implied it. Cole's worried you would be the one taken in the night the way his madre was and kept from him with no way of finding you again. God knows he hasn't stopped trying to find her, but there's no trace and those who know, they don't speak about it. He's no idea which of the elders helped and the Shaman was no part. He's also baffled as to where she is and has been helping to trace her."