The day Cage left River Run.
He pictured the tears welling in Katalina’s eyes and rolling down her face when she’d realized he was leaving for good. The image haunted him as he ran from a pack that had once been his home.
He’d nearly crumbled when she’d cried, but the hot, churning anger in his gut made him break Katalina’s heart. Because he’d almost snapped. He’d been so close to lashing out and taking down anyone between him and that damn Dark Shadow alpha. Be it his brother, or Katalina herself.
Cage was losing himself. Day by day his anger grew stronger, and the hold on his humanity slipped.
Making her cry tore at his heart, and leaving his home, his family, was the hardest thing he’d ever had to do. But it was necessary for his survival. Cage was lost. The one constant in his life had been his pack, his home, but the world had shifted on him—knocked his feet from under him and left him yearning for a life he couldn’t have.
Who was he in this new world where blood didn’t spill daily, where the wolves he’d been trained to kill, stood by their side as allies and mates?
Trees whipped past his face, tearing his skin, snagging on his clothes, but Cage didn’t stop. He was outrunning a reality he couldn’t face and a pack that wouldn’t understand the inevitable path he was heading towards.
This is the only way.
The only way Katalina could be truly happy. The only way the alliance would last.
I’m sorry… Katalina’s voice chased him as he left familiar land and raced into the unknown. He didn’t want to hear her whisper those words again. He didn’t want to see the turmoil and guilt in her eyes anymore.
“This is the only way. She’ll be happy. They’ll all be happy,” he shouted, his fists closing tightly.
He had no plan, no direction to take. Cage allowed his wolf to the surface, holding on just enough to stay in human form. Allowing the world to drop away, he welcomed the blissful silence of the hunter at his core. As long as he kept running, they wouldn’t find him, and he’d not have to face the pack he’d left.
His lungs burned, he’d run so far. With muscles like jelly, Cage had finally exhausted himself enough that the constant swirl of thoughts through his mind had calmed. No one had come close to catching him. He hadn’t expected them to; no one matched him in the pack, except for Jackson. But Cage had a feeling Jackson had let him go. He was his alpha; would have felt Cage’s slow creep toward the point of no return. Cage had no doubts Jackson would find him one day, but Cage had no intention of making it easy for him. He was a natural-born tracker and knew how to hide his trail.
Slowing his pace, Cage dragged much-needed oxygen into his lungs. Letting out a deep breath, his tension eased a little. But he’d only been walking a few minutes when he picked up the one scent he’d not expected to follow him. Cage’s absence would surely make Bass’s life easier, and yet there he was, tracking Cage. For a second he tensed to run, but curiosity got the better of him.
“I should have known it’d be you to find me. Though I can’t understand why?” Cage leaned casually against a tree as Bass appeared, yet the second he saw him, the rage inside him relit. A rage that had taken miles of running to douse.
“I slipped off while River Run argued over their best tactic. No one knows I’m here,” Bass replied, expression neutral, tone relaxed.
“Not even, Kat?”
“Katalina is devastated. She didn’t notice my departure.”
Idiot! She notices everything. “I wouldn’t be so sure. She notices everything when it comes to you.”
“Do not punish her, Cage. Return to your home.”
Laughing bitterly, Cage stiffened, his hands balling into fists behind his back. “This isn’t about her, or anyone else for that matter. I’m leaving for myself.”
“I don’t understand,” Bass replied.
There was genuine perplexity in his tone, but it only enraged Cage further. Straightening, Cage asked, “You wouldn’t. I never understood what Katalina saw in you. Rigid, controlled. Tell me, do you ever take off your mask?”
Bass’s lips twitched to smile as Cage pictured punching the mask from his face.
“I could force you to return,” Bass suggested, as if they were talking about the weather.
Cage snarled in response, bracing to fight. Part of him wanted to fight Bass, go toe to toe and finally see who was the strongest, but still there was that voice that reminded him giving in to those desires would only hurt Katalina. It reminded him why he was leaving, why no one could stop him. “I won’t go easily, Sebastian. I’m losing my mind there. She’s not mine, I know that, but I can’t help how I feel. Maybe Kat’s right. Maybe I do love the idea of her, but it changes nothing. With each day, my rage grows. If I stay, I’ll lose control. I’ll lose myself.”
Cage didn’t wear a mask like Bass. He’d never been skilled at keeping his emotions from his face, so he knew his desperation must have been written in every feature. Yet, he wasn’t expecting Bass’s next words.
“Where will you go?” Bass asked him quietly.
“I’m not sure. Keep running until my feet can’t anymore.”
“I’ll let you go and not tell a soul, even Kat, if you promise me one thing.”
Cage laughed; it was just like Bass to demand something. Arrogant ass. “What’s that?”
“When you find what you’re looking for, come home.”
Bass began his retreat.
“What happens if I find my home?”
“Then bring her, too.”
“Please don’t say goodbye forever… Come home when you find her.” Cage shook his head, dislodging Katalina’s last words from his mind. They were all so sure he was looking for someone. Didn’t they understand he was running, not searching?