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Wolfish Aches

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P R O L O G U E

 

 

He was to return on one of the wintry days of snowdrift and ice. The snowfall was enchanting to witness in the early morning. Daybreaks were late in the winter. It was as though the night disdained the renunciation of its darkness for the light of dawn. When the light and clear white sky were finally allowed to draw breath, the outside world, as cold and unforgiving as it was, was so beautiful. The snowy mornings of winter were simply magnificent.

Each of the falling snowflake resembled a pirouetting ballerina, dancing to the symphony orchestrated by the soft, howling winds of winter. Some of them stuck against the glass of the window and melted into a drop of water due to the warmth cast by a nearby hearth. A bluster would soon melt the whiteness away, leaving nothing but a blistering cold behind.

Until then, thick cloaks of snow would continue to blanket every inch of the world outside. The soil between the trees, the single narrow dirt road that divided the winter woods in two, the sturdy roof of the old manor, the barren branches of the trees from which icicles hung from. Everything was almost white for as far as one’s vision could stretch from within the safe, warm walls of the manor.

“Sehun,” he heard his mother call in a displeased tone. “Come away from the window.”

Sehun did as he was told and pulled away from the window through which he was admiring the height of winter. It was so easy to appreciate the most brutal season of all when he was indoors with burning hearths to keep him warm.

He looked at his mother, who was fixing her hair that was tied up in a bun. She cursed under her breath because she had misplaced a hairpin and could not find it. She was not always so exasperated and anxious. Nor did she often speak to him in such a stern voice. But today was not like any other day.

The manor had been quiet for weeks now, following the death of their Master. He had not been very old when he succumbed to the heinous sickness that had hounded him for years. Some days, the only noise to be heard around the manor was the crackling sounds of the burning wood in the fireplace.

For the first time, since the Master’s death, the four servants had been bustling about before the sun had even come up this morning. Sehun was dragged out of his bed to help his mother in the kitchen. She had prepared all sorts of food. Sehun doubted that three people would have the appetite to eat them all. Well, if they did not, he supposed he would get to enjoy the leftovers later. So, he did not complain much.

“Now,” his mother said. “Have you brought the fresh linens to the bedrooms?”

Sehun nodded his head. “Yes, Mom. I have.” He sighed. He looked to the other three servants who were still making sure that there was not a single speck of dust on the furniture.

If it were not already clear now, Sehun did not share their excitement in welcoming the new Master of the manor. And two new Young Masters. In fact, he had not been very fond of the old one either. He supposed the feeling was mutual. All shifters looked down on the non-shifters. The shifters, Alphas. The non-shifters, Omegas.

Nevertheless, Sehun had not had much of an option. He had lived in this manor since he was a child. With his mother, who had been a cook and a servant for the Kim family for a very long time, ever since his father had abandoned them on a cold night. He grew up in this manor as a servant’s son. At first, he helped his mother out in the kitchen. He was the ‘kitchen boy’. Soon, he was given the title of an ‘errand boy’. Which was apt, he supposed. All that he did around here was run everyone’s errands for them and do the most boring, menial tasks no one else was willing to do.

He had never ventured too far away from the manor and the forest. He was not sure that he wanted to. Somehow, this had become his home. He was not sure he was ready to serve someone new in his home.

“I see a car coming,” gasped Monty, one of the other servants. He was almost as old as Sehun’s mother was. He had a wife and two children. Like Sehun and his mother, he too was a non-shifter and so was his family. The other two servants, Han and Nadia, were also non-shifters.

It was pretty pathetic when one was born in the bloodline of a werewolf and turned out to be a non-shifter. They were as common and hopeless as humans were to the shifters.

 “Look sharp, Sehun,” his mother said, grabbing his shirt so that she could straighten the creases on it. “We would want to make a good impression.”

Sehun did not care about making a good impression. In fact, he wanted to let the man who would be living here from today know that he despised him staying here and had very good reasons to do so.

But he pursed his lips and sidled next to his mother uncomfortably with his hands in the pockets of his pants. He wished that the old man had not left the manor and all the properties in it to his son. It made no sense to do it, anyways. The man had died alone in his bed, and his son was nowhere to be seen. He was just too late. But that was not even the real reason Sehun fretted the late Master’s son’s return.

He tried to keep his thoughts straight. He should not be thinking about the things that infuriated him at a time like this.

He heard a car pull up in the driveway, the tyres struggling against the pads of snow. Han was standing by the door, ready to open it as soon as the doorbell would ring.

Oddly enough, Sehun felt his heart hammer against his chest. It had been so long since he had seen the Master’s son. Ten years.

A decade was a long time. He had changed a lot in those years, he thought. Personally, at least. He was still an errand boy, though. He wondered how much the Master’s son might have changed. Not that he cared. He could not care less, he thought to himself. Nothing about the man invoked his interest. None whatsoever.

“Stand up straight,” his mother told him at his side. Sehun sighed and slouched even more. The doorbell rang then. “Oh, here we go, everyone. Remember to smile.”

Why should they smile? Their previous Master did not care if they smiled or not. All that that was expected of them was their obedience. They were to his orders and bow to him, just the way the nature wanted them to. The non-shifters bowed to the shifters, submitted to them, debased themselves for their stronger, more powerful breed of their kind. It was not always due to vocal commands.

Most of the time, in fact, the submission of the non-shifters came from within. It was inherent. Most non-shifters became subjects of servitude and entertainment. Shifters rarely took non-shifters for a mate. Omegas were considered to be weak and pathetic. That did not mean non-shifters did not seek out shifters as mates. To them, submission was inherent, after all. They sought to be dominated, subjugated, and protected by the more virile and sexually potent shifters. Many of them would either be left behind with a pup or two in their bellies while their shifter mate took another shifter for a mate, or they would spend the rest of the life, pining for a mate. Only a few Omegas managed to find a lifelong Alpha mate.

It was unfair. But that was the way the cutthroat world of the werewolves functioned. Most of the wolves mated for life when they found the right one. Both the shifters and the non-shifters. After that, they took no other mate. But until they found the right mate, they tended to be a little careless with whom they frolicked around with.

Sehun tried to maintain a disinterested expression as Han opened the door. The strong wolfish scent surged in at once, carried by the flux of wintry wind along with flurries of snow. Sehun felt his chest clench. It was a familiar scent, still so potent, still so affecting. His stomach turned to knots as he raised his gaze and looked at the man standing in the doorway.

“Master Kai,” Han greeted, bowing his head nervously.

As much as Sehun had wanted to maintain a certain stoniness in his face, he found himself withering as he stared at the man like a starved wolf, surveying him thoroughly from head to toe in the short few seconds he got.

Kim Kai. He was more, he was better than everything Sehun had imagined him to be. He was no longer the lanky, spindly boy on the brink of adulthood that used to run around the manor and the forest surrounding it. He was a man now. Tall, tan, his wiry figure packed with lean muscles that were noticeable even beneath the heavy black coat he was dressed in. All of his features were more defined now. They were sharper. His dark hair still looked soft and silky, however. He just styled it differently now. Everything about him was more sophisticated. He was handsome. So handsome. And he simply took Sehun’s breath away.

And then Sehun’s gaze turned to the two babies in the man’s arms. One of them was dressed in a bear onesie, the other in a wolf onesie. They had mittens and baby caps on. Both of them were sucking on pacifiers as they gawked at everything and everyone with their big, curious, awe-filled eyes. At first glance, they seemed like these fascinating creatures that were so fragile and vulnerable. But the way Kai held them ensured that they were offered the best protection in the world. And it was as though they knew it. For as long as they were in Kai’s arms, nothing could harm them.

“Come on in,” Sehun’s mother urged him, lurching forward. Han shut the door as Kai stepped into the manor. “May we take them from your hands?”

“Thanks,” Kai said in a voice Sehun no longer recognized. Something fluttered in his stomach then. He watched his mother and Nadia tear the babies from Kai’s arms. They did not seem all too happy to be taken away from their father, but they did not cry. They only looked curious, just the way wolf pups would be when acquainted with new scents.

Sehun returned his attention to Kai, who removed his snow-ridden coat and handed it to Monty.

“It is a blizzard out there,” remarked Kai in a friendly tone and with a surprisingly kind smile as he dusted off the specks of snow from his hair and black shirt.

“Y-Yes, I suppose it is, Master Kai,” said Monty, stepping away to hang the coat on the rack.

“How have you been, Monty?” inquired Kai.

“You… remember me?”

Kai blinked and then arched an eyebrow at the man. “Why would I not remember you?” he said with a soft chuckle and turned to Sehun’s mother. “I remember you too, Sena.”

“Oh,” his mother let out, her cheeks flushing red. “You left about ten years ago. We did not know how much of us you would remember. We are just servants after all.”

Kai smiled and looked at the other two servants. “I am not sure I know your names, though.”

“It’s Han,” said the man.

“And Nadia,” said Nadia.

Kai nodded and finally turned to Sehun. He paused for a few seconds and looked fixedly at Sehun, unblinking and unbreathing. Then clearing his throat, he asked, “What about you?”

Sehun felt his heart dropped to his stomach at once. He wanted the ground to swallow him up whole right there and then in that moment. Part of him fought the urge to turn on his heel and go hide somewhere no one would ever be able to find him again.

Kai did not remember him.

Well, why would he? He had no reason to notice the errand boy back when they were just kids. Why would he know who Sehun was now ten years later?

“This is my son,” said Sehun’s mother. “Sehun. He is the errand boy.”

“I see,” Kai said and stared at Sehun’s eyes for a moment too long. He did not avert his attention until Sehun dropped his gaze, unable to take the wolf’s stare any longer. If he had thought that this would be easy, he was going to be proven very wrong.

“The children’s nursery is ready,” said Monty. “We can put the babies down for a rest.”

“That would not be necessary. They slept plenty during the ride here,” said Kai. “We are all very hungry, though.”

“Of course!” Sehun’s mother exclaimed excitedly. “There is a lot of food prepared for you. We will ready some warm milk for the babies at once.”

The baby in Nadia’s arms spat its pacifier out to the floor and coughed a couple of times before it broke into a loud cry. The noise was deafening. Its cries echoed through the halls of the manor that had been too quiet for so long. While the one baby cried, the other stared at its sibling with ballooned eyes, almost looking like it was confused as to why its sibling was throwing a fit all of a sudden.

“I did not do anything,” said Nadia with a worried frown.

Sighing, Kai took the baby from her hands and rested it against a side of his chest. “There, there,” he muttered, patting the baby’s back. Almost instantly, the child stopped crying, its small but chubby hands gripping its father’s shirt as it laid its head on his shoulder.

“What are their names, Master Kai?” asked Monty.

Kai smiled again then. “This is Archer,” he said, bouncing the baby dressed in the bear onesie. “And that is Wynter.” He looked to the baby in Sehun’s mother’s arms. “They are both boys.”

“We had no idea you were married,” said Sehun’s mother. “When we were told that you would be coming to live here with your two sons, we were quite shocked, Master Kai.”

Kai only smiled in response. It was clear that he did not want to overshare with the servants. But Sehun’s eyes quickly darted to the man’s fingers. There wasn’t a wedding band in sight.

He then looked at the babies hungrily as the others ushered Kai toward the dining room. Up until he saw the babies, he did not think that he had ever wanted to hold any baby in his life. But now, he wanted nothing more than to grab one of those chunky things and hug it tightly. They were both so chubby and atrociously adorable with cheeks as plump as apples. But they did not even spare him a single look as they were carried past him.

It was not the first time Sehun had just faded into the background like an unimportant remainder of a calculation. He was used to it. He was very ordinary in the world of the wolves. But to be dismissed like that by the man he had been in love with all his life and his children knifed his heart more than he was willing to admit.

“Sehun,” his mother called after a moment.

Sehun blinked and almost mechanically turned his head to look at his mother. “Yeah.”

“What are you standing over there like a stone for?” she asked after handing the baby over to Nadia. “Come and help me in the kitchen, will you?”

“Yeah,” Sehun exhaled absentmindedly and started for the kitchen. “Yeah. Okay.”

 

 

C H A P T E R   O N E

 

 

Sehun knew he was staring. Gawking stupidly even. But he could not seem to take his eyes off Kai and the two baby boys on the man’s lap.

“He is very handsome now, isn’t he,” commented Sehun’s mother from where she stood in the kitchen, peering at Kai, who was seated at the table in the dining room next door through one of the kitchen windows. Sehun, on the other hand, stood in the doorway of the kitchen with his hands trembling lightly at his sides.

Kai tore a small piece of the baked chicken fillets on his plate and brought it to Archer’s mouth. The baby ate the chicken from Kai’s fingers and chewed slowly. The way his plump cheeks bounced as he chewed made Sehun’s heart skip a beat. On Kai’s other thigh sat Wynter less comfortable as he kept leaning forward, trying to reach for the corncob on the plate.

“Wyn, no,” Kai mumbled for the nth time and pulled the baby’s hand back. Once or twice, Wynter slammed his fist angrily against Kai’s chest before he reached for the plate again. That was when Kai growled quietly at the baby. Almost immediately, Wynter withdrew and looked up at his father with his lower lip jutted out and eyes glistening with tears. It was an apology for his misbehaviour.

“What are you looking at?”

Sehun half-heartedly tore his gaze from Kai and the babies and glanced at his mother, who was looking at him with a cocked brow and a hand on her hip.

“Nothing,” he murmured.

“I know that he is an Alpha, Sehun,” his mother said. “But don’t forget who you are.”

Sehun grimaced, pretending as though he had no idea what the woman was talking about. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Mom.”

His mother caught hold of his arm and yanked him away from where he was standing, dragging him to the furthest corner of the kitchen. “We don’t know much about him. Everything that I remember of him was from when he was a child. It is best that you maintain a certain distance from him. You have to be careful with your feelings. Everything with an Alpha shifter is primal. They will mate for life when they find their true mate. But until then, they will take advantage of Omegas like us. It is our responsibility to make sure that they don’t get the chance. Do you understand?”

Sehun did not want to hear this talk from his mother. She had tried to give him the same talk a few years ago when she thought he was looking for a mate. She would be happy if he settled for a nice non-shifter. But for Sehun, that ship had longed sailed. He already had his heart set out on the one that was most unattainable.

Especially now that the one had clearly already taken a mate and sired two beautiful children from it.

“Here,” sighed his mother after a moment, handing him a basket of garlic bread. “Bring it to the table.”

Sehun swallowed hard and started for the dining table. The babies were still giving Kai a hard time as they jumped on his lap, biting his fingers when he tried to feed them, tugging the buttons of his shirt as if they were some curious, playable toys. The boys were twins. Identical. They barely had any hair on their heads now that their baby caps had been removed.

Kai’s gaze lifted when Sehun approached the table. He said nothing as he placed the basket of bread down on the table and turned around to leave the room.

“You were the boy,” Kai said then.

Sehun halted in his tracks, back turned to the man. His heart was galloping so fast that he was worried that it might jump out of his chest.

“You were… always in the kitchen,” Kai added. “The kitchen boy.”

Sehun had half the mind to turn around and tell the man that it was too bad that it was all that he remembered of him. But the other half told him to stay calm and rational. He had no justifiable reason to stay angry at Kai.

“I’m not the kitchen boy,” he said, turning around to face the other man. Kai looked so disinterested in the conversation that Sehun wished that he had not said anything in reply. He waited, nevertheless, for Kai to say something more as he cleaned his babies’ mouths with a napkin. They did not like it, so they bit and tugged at the napkin between their little teeth. Kai then struggled for a moment to burp both the babies.

“Shall I take them upstairs to their nursery?” Nadia offered from the corner she was standing at. “So that you can finish your meal?”

“That will be great,” said Kai, rising from his seat. “Can you handle them both?”

Nadia quickly looked to Han, who walked into the room. “Han, help me with baby Archer, will you?”

There went Sehun’s chance to hold one of the babies. He stood there with a clenched jaw and balled fists, unjustly furious at the fact that he was not given an opportunity to hold the babies yet when everyone else already had.

“Give them their pacifiers, please,” said Kai. “And are the cribs’ rails high enough?”

“I believe they are, in case they shift,” said Han.

“I think I left Archer’s favourite stuffed animal in the front seat,” Kai told Han. “Will you get him that? He will get fussy if he goes without it for too long.”

“Of course, Master Kim,”

Kai nodded and sank back into his seat so gracefully that he almost looked like royalty. As Nadia and Han bore the babies out of the dining room, Sehun was left alone with Kai.

He watched the man heave a heavy breath before he looked up at Sehun with a slightly raised brow. Sehun felt his cheeks grow warm. All the nights he had spent as a teenager in his room that was no bigger than a cupboard, touching himself to some unspeakable thoughts of Kai, came back to him in a flood of red-hot memories. There were also nights where he cried himself to sleep during his heat because he knew that the mate he wanted would never want him back.

And he had been right. All these years and Kai still only thought of him as the non-shifting, worthless kitchen boy, whose name he had not even bothered to learn.

“I thought you would have gone to a college or something,” Kai said. Sehun turned his face away, embarrassed. “But you are still here.”

Unlike Kai, Sehun was home-schooled. His mother could never have afforded to send him to college. And Sehun was not even sure if he were clever enough for one. Besides, he knew that he had to stay here with his mother. He did not want to abandon her the way his father had, too.

But Kai had gone to some of the most prestigious schools in the area before he went away to one of the best colleges in the state. Wolf or not, he was now a sophisticate. His father would have been proud.

“My bags are still in the car,” Kai then said, returning his attention to his plate. “Go get them and take them up to my room.”

Sehun noticed the way Kai did not say ‘please’, the way he had with the other servants, and the way he used a stern tone to issue the command. Yes, it was a command.

Even though it pained Sehun to bow his head and do as he was told, he yielded to Kai’s authority and wended his way out of the dining room. His throat felt tight and parched. Something in his chest ached. Might have been his heart. Though the previous Master had been just as commanding, his dominance had not affected Sehun the way Kai’s did. It was not just the tone Kai had used. It was the very way he looked at Sehun, the way his scent smelled when he was staring Sehun down. It had happened ten years ago, and it was still the same case. Kai must have known the effect he would have on Omegas. Non-shifting or not. He was asserting his dominance already. He was the Alpha wolf here now. And Sehun was to heed his every word.

He stopped in the doorway of the dining room and glanced back at Kai for a brief moment. The man peered at his wrist watch before his eyes rose to look in Sehun’s way. God, that wolfish gaze made Sehun’s heart pound. Gulping, he turned around and hurried away.

* * *

“He’s so cold to me,” Sehun muttered to himself grouchily as he unloaded the car. Kai had not brought many belongings with him. Three bags. His eyes flitted to the stuffed pink piglet in the front seat. It must belong to Archer. Grabbing it, Sehun gave it a sniff. It smelled like baby Archer. He also caught a whiff of milk. Along with the bags, Sehun wandered back to the manor.

His teeth were chattering, and his ears were clogged with pain by the time he made his way back into the house, lugging the heavy bags with him.

“It’s not like I care,” he grumbled under his breath, putting the bags down so that he could peel the jacket off and hang it on the coat rack. He did not care. It had been many years. He had been madly infatuated with Kai once when he was just a teenager. But now, things were different. Kai was a man and a father. It would be so very pathetic of Sehun to be clinging onto his past desires and grievances. Not to mention that Kai was now the rightful owner of the manor and the estate surrounding it. The vast expanse of woods was his territory. He was a well-educated highbrow. He owned so much, and Sehun owned… Well, Sehun was just a kitchen boy. And a weak non-shifter, who willingly submitted to Alpha wolves like Kai.

He tried to recall when it had all begun. His little crush on Kai might have developed when he was only a child. He used to stand behind a wall and peer at the scrawny boy, who sat at his desk and did his homework diligently. Kai must have at least noticed Sehun’s scent, but even if he had, he never acknowledged Sehun’s presence. Not even when Sehun tried a few times to play with Kai in the woods during the summery days. Kai pretended as though Sehun was not even there as he shifted into a grey wolf and bolted through the trees, leaving Sehun, who could not keep up with the wolf on his little legs, behind.

Kai was fourteen when Sehun was eight. It was understandable why Kai did not want to play with a non-shifting little boy from the kitchen, whose mother was a servant. Still, Sehun marvelled at the boy and silently worshipped him, hoping that one day, Kai would want to play with him.

But the day never came, and Sehun was soon starting to grow up, developing more serious feelings towards the wolf boy. He no longer only stole shy glances from Kai. He tried to be more obvious with his advances. During some of the hot days, he wore shorts so that Kai would notice his pink knees. He never talked to Kai before, though. He did not know how to approach the boy. So, he waited until the day Kai would talk to him first.

That day never came either. Kai had a lot of other friends. They were shifters like him. Most days, they ran together in the forest, while Sehun sat on the windowsill of the manor’s kitchen and watched them forlornly. He spent many nights sulking about the fact that he was not a shifter. Perhaps at least if he were, Kai would have noticed him.

When he got a little older, he began to fantasize about first kisses. Not a single day passed by without him thinking about his first kiss. His heart would race madly whenever he thought about it. He wondered if Kai had already had his first kiss. The possibility of him having had one made Sehun so sad. But the idea of Kai still waiting for his first kiss excited Sehun.

He constantly thought of a way to make Kai notice him. He had never succeeded, though. And ten years later, he still had not.

It was painful. To want someone who never looked at him for longer than two seconds. After Kai had left, he never came home, not even to visit his ailing father. Over the years, Sehun thought that he had gotten over his crush. But as soon as he heard that Kai would be returning, all those feelings and wants came rushing back to him. He would soldier on, he thought. Besides, he would not die from a simple infatuation. But now, he was not so sure. The instant he saw Kai, all grown up and more handsome than he had ever been, and the two children he had fathered and clearly loved so dearly, Sehun’s heart wavered.

“What are you doing?”

Sehun snapped out of his muddled thoughts and looked at Monty, who was walking toward him. “Uh…” He glanced down at the bags. “I was just taking these up.”

“I will take them up,” said Monty, picking up the bags. He then looked at the plushie Sehun was clutching in his hand. It was tiny and adorable. “What is that?”

Sehun blinked at the soft toy in his hand and sighed. “It’s… the baby’s. I was going to bring it to him.”

Monty snatched it from his hand. Sehun’s heart sank disappointedly. “I will do that as well. Why don’t you go help your mother in the kitchen?”

Sehun had never been so annoyed. Why did they not trust him with the babies? It was not like he was going to eat them.

“Go,” said Monty before he proceeded up the stairs.

Where was Kai’s mate, Sehun wondered as he meandered back to the kitchen without passing through the dining room. Why hadn’t he or she come along with them?

Even though he had lived in the same house as the late Master for almost all his life, he did not know much about the man or his son. They led an incredibly private life, especially among the non-shifters. An Alpha’s business was not of any Omega’s affair. But Kai’s mate must have been a female Alpha. Male Alphas were not able to carry offspring. Male Omegas, however, could if they were knotted by Alphas, during their heat cycle. And for the very reason, Omegas were the most vulnerable of them all. Countless Alphas took them during their heat cycles and left them behind with a swollen belly, not willing to take an Omega for a mate. This was the reason for most of the abandoned and orphaned pups. Sehun was one of them. He was lucky that his mother did not just orphan him altogether. Instead, she worked hard to look after him and to raise him. Sehun supposed that the concern she had expressed earlier was understandable and reasonable. She did not want him to end up like she had, abandoned by an Alpha with a baby in her arms.

Sehun must learn to control his desires for Kai if they were to live under the same roof from now on. Not that Kai would make it difficult for him, anyway. The man still treated him like nothing more than another inanimate object or wall in his house.

* * *

“It does feel different, doesn’t it?” said Nadia when they sat down in the servants’ quarters in the basement to eat later in the evening. “To have… them here.”

“He has not said a word about the Master,” commented Han, wiping his greasy fingers on a napkin. “Is that not weird? He acts as if his father did not just die. He did not even show up at the service.”

“Quit your gossip-mongering,” Monty chided before he took a sip of his warm tea. “You two were not here when Master Kai used to live here. So, you cannot know the nature of their relationship.”

“It must have been strained,” said Nadia. “His son did not even visit once.”

“That is none of our business,” replied Monty.

Sehun quietly munched on the baked baby carrots, listening to the conversation at the table without any input of his own.

“The kids are beautiful, though,” said Sehun’s mother. “Perfect little pups.”

“Does anyone know… where his mate is?” asked Han. Sehun was suddenly more attentive.

“We haven’t heard anything about that,” replied Sehun’s mother. “Master Kai is very mysterious, isn’t he?”

“Again, that is none of our business,” said Monty. “We must take great care of the children now. I will not tolerate any mishaps when it comes to them. Which is why I want no one to get near them unnecessarily. They must bond with their father. We do not need them imprinting on one of you accidentally in the absence of Master Kai’s mate.”

He pinned Sehun with a sharp glower then.

“Do you understand, Sehun?” he asked.

Sehun blinked at him, and so did his mother. “Why do you hound him?” said the woman. “My son is not some tramp from the roadside for someone else’s children to imprint on. He is very capable of siring his own children.”

“That is not what I meant,” sighed Monty. “It’s just that… Sehun is in his prime… fertile years. It would be very easy for wide, dewy-eyed babies to imprint on him.”

Sehun should have been horrified by that, but he found himself wincing at the way his chest warmed and turned all fuzzy at the idea of the wee babies bonding with him in the most natural way.

“It’s very unlikely to happen, Monty,” he told the man, anyway. “Don’t worry.”

“Still,” said Monty. “I want you to keep your distance from them. Do I make myself clear?”

Sehun wanted to protest. But then the others at the table, including his mother, seemed to agree with Monty. Clenching his jaw, he nodded and looked away. Besides, it was not as though he believed that Kai’s sons would imprint on him. Even naïve babies would not trust a simple non-shifter.

“Perhaps you should get to bed early,” his mother said at length, stroking his back. Sehun was glad to excuse himself from the table and retire to his small room in the servants’ quarters. He turned the single lightbulb on and wandered over to his bed before plumping down on the edge of it.

It had been a very strange day. Having Kai back here was not at all what Sehun had initially thought it would be. No. It was much worse. All these years later and he was still pining for Kai. Pathetic. So pathetic. Especially when the man he desired wanted nothing to do with an errand boy, who was not very intelligent, strong or important. Sehun was not sure how he could live here with Kai. He wondered if Kai planned on living here forever. If he were, then Sehun did not think that he could go on, longing for the man for the rest of his life. He would not be able to bear it.

But where would he go if he could not stay here anymore? Somewhere. Anywhere would be better than to live in such close proximity with someone he could not have.

* * *

He managed to avoid Kai and the babies for the next two days. He kept himself occupied outside the manor, shovelling the dense layer of snow that had cloaked the driveway. And when it got too cold, he busied himself with cleaning the hearths in the manor whenever the other servants were not sending him to run other errands. In the evenings, he curled himself up in a blanket in his cold room and read a favourite book. It was not all bad. But Kai’s scent was starting to fill every hallway, every room of the manor. It was nearly impossible for Sehun to keep his mind away from Kai.

Then there were the babies, whose cries often reached to every corner of the house. Sehun was not sure why he had the urge, which he struggled to fight, to run upstairs and comfort the babies at once. Sehun learned the next day that Kai spent all of his time with his sons and almost never left their side. Monty called it ‘a very protective parenting style’ and said that Kai was worrying too much. Babies, especially, wolf pups, were wired to be sturdier than one would think. But then again, this was Kai’s first time being a father. He could not afford to mess anything up.

“I think he is being a wonderful father to the twins,” commented Nadia when they sat down for breakfast the following morning. “I went to check in on the babies last night, but they weren’t in their cribs. They slept with Master Kai.”

The image of the babies sleeping with their father, feeling safer than ever, made Sehun smile to himself.

“Master Archer is a bit of a crybaby,” said Han. “But Master Wynter loves picking fights with his brother.”

Sehun’s heart clenched. He wished that he were also able to witness the babies’ antics and get to know them the way the others had.

“Are they,” Sehun spoke then. “going to stay here… hereon?”

The others were surprised by Sehun’s sudden curiosity. “I think so,” said his mother as she rose from her seat.

“Like… forever?”

“For as long as they want,” said Monty then. “We are servants. We will not meddle with their decisions.”

Sehun sighed. He did not want to meddle either, but he could not help it.

“Sehun, I need you to fetch the linens and some new bedspreads for the guest rooms in the east wing,” said Nadia.

“All right.” Sehun stood up and started for the storage room on the second floor at once.

The morning was calm. Last night’s snowstorm had swept in mounts of snow outside. Sehun figured it would at least keep him distracted for the rest of the day. Just as soon as he got the bedspreads Nadia had asked him to fetch.

He whistled a merry tune while he retrieved the bedspreads and linens from the storage room. He momentarily stopped before the mirror in the hallway to give his reflection a once-over. His hair was a nest today. Holding the sheets in one arm, he quickly ran his fingers through his mussed hair to neaten it. Then he looked at his face. He thought he had a pleasant face. Other people thought so, too. At least the few people he knew in his life did. He had a supple, milky-white skin, which was an agreeable contrast to his dark hair and eyes. His cheekbones looked good when he smiled. He had a small mouth, he believed, but a set of full, plump, rosy lips. He was mostly skin and bones otherwise.

It was not enough to get Kai’s attention, however. He would never be good enough for Kai. He sighed and let his hair fall over his eyes as he turned away from the mirror. Instead of heading toward the staircase, he found himself ambling along the hallway, following the scent that made his head spin and lungs hurt in the best way possible. He welcomed the giddy excitement that rushed through his bloodstreams. Babies. He smelled babies.

And somewhere in that scent, he also smelled Kai. He took in deep, full breaths.

His heartbeat quickened as he approached the nursery, whose door was slightly left ajar. And through the gap, Sehun heard whiny noises, which sounded like a string of nonsensical syllables jumbled up together.

It was the babies.

Coming to a stop, Sehun slowly pushed the door open and peeped in, his heart racing in excitement. The nursery was simple but functional. Along with the cribs, there was a sideboard, a TV and a couch. His eyes darted to the white furniture in the room first before he looked to the baby mobiles hanging above the cribs. Then he dropped his gaze to the two babies, who were each standing up in their respective cribs, clinging to the rails, facing each other. They looked upset as they spat balderdashes at one another, clearly having a fight. If they had just been tall enough, they might have climbed out of the crib and fought on the floor.

All that Sehun heard was, “Ba-da-da-da-da-wa-da-da-nya-da-da,” being thrown back and forth between the furious babies.

Sehun exhaled a breath, and it was all that it took for the babies to turn their attention to him. They froze for a moment, both blinking their wide eyes at Sehun. Then slowly, they sank back into the cribs and sat down without taking their eyes off Sehun.

Sehun tried to stay calm and not do anything stupid to scare them off. So, he placed the pile of sheets down on the sideboard and cautiously advanced a few steps toward the cribs. The babies continued to watch him curiously.

“Hi,” he whispered to them.

One of them made a cooing sound and looked to the floor, sticking an arm through the gaps between the rails. He pointed at the pacifier he must have dropped during his heated argument with his brother. He looked at Sehun again with a pair of watery eyes and his lower lip jutted out.

Crouching down, Sehun picked up the yellow pacifier and turned to the crib. He did not know if it were Archer or Wynter. But then he recalled their first meeting where baby Wynter had a yellow pacifier and Archer had a blue one. So, this must be baby Wynter. Sehun quickly hurried to the washroom in the nursery and gave the pacifier a thorough rinse before he wended his way back to Wynter’s crib. The baby looked at him as though he felt cheated and betrayed because Sehun had run off with his pacifier. But his worries were instantly placated when Sehun leaned over the rails and held the pacifier out to him. Instead of taking it back with his hands, Wynter took it with his mouth and started sucking on it. Sehun smiled, heart fuller than it had ever been. Wynter continued to stare at him, sucking hard on his binky.

When Sehun turned around to look at the other baby, he found Archer to be gawking at him, too. As he approached the crib, the baby was quick to put his arms up, demanding Sehun to lift him into his arms.

As much as Sehun wanted to hold the baby, he knew that he should not. Especially not when the babies’ father would not want him anywhere near his children. Even so, Sehun was overwhelmed by the need to pick the babies up and sniff them, rub them all over him so that he would also smell like them. It sounded atrociously inappropriate, but he knew instantly that he would do anything for these pups. It felt like the rest of the world had shut down around him. All of his senses were focused on only the babies.

He reached into the crib and grabbed the stuffed piglet before handing it to Archer. The baby was promptly distracted by the toy, and so, he put his arms down and began to play with the plushie.

“I’m Sehun,” he told them, grinning like a lovesick pup. “And I am not allowed to hold you.” He sighed.

He then looked to the open door that led into the master bedroom, which was joined to the nursery. His heart began to beat even faster. He heard the sound of a running shower. Kai must be in the bathroom.

Withdrawing half-heartedly from the babies, Sehun wandered into Kai’s bedroom. Unlike the nursery that was designed to be simplistic and bright, the master bedroom leaned more toward a dark, Victorian style. The mahogany furniture was a pleasant complement to the faint crème-coloured walls of the room. Sehun never came in here. It used to belong to the old Master. As private as the man had been, he never liked anyone stepping into his personal spaces unnecessarily. It felt wrong to wander into the room without any permission, but he could not help it.

Everything smelled of Kai. The bed, the shirts strewn over it, the entire air in the room. Sehun looked at the pillows on the bed and fought the urge to pick them up and bury his face in them. Just the way he felt about the babies in the next room.

He stopped and looked at the closed door of the bathroom. The shower was still running. Letting out a shaky breath, Sehun averted his gaze to the photo frames on the sideboard and the bedside tables. They were pictures of the babies and two small wolf pups with white fur. In one of the pictures, they were both yawning at the same time, sitting on a fluffy carpet on the floor. Sehun found himself grinning at them as his heart fluttered. In most of the pictures, Kai was there, too.

What would it be like to be a part of a pack this beautiful, he wondered. Would he one day get a family like this, too? Or was he just seeking something unattainable?

He must have been too distracted by the photos that he did not notice that the water in the bathroom was no longer running until the scent began to fill his senses in stronger waves. He froze right where he was standing for a moment, blood drumming in his ears, every muscle in his body seemed to have gone into a state of fear and shock. He did not need to turn around to know that he was no longer the only one in the room.

Clenching his eyes, he held his breath, as though he were worried that even his breathing might cost him his life. Or worse, his reputation. Not that he had a very good one to begin with. It took him a while to muster the courage to turn around and face the other man.

He wondered if it were too late to run away now. Kai stood there, just a couple of feet away from the bathroom door, with a skimpy towel tied around his waist. The rest of his body was covered in rivulets of water, his bronzy skin shimmering, and damp hair pushed back from his face. Sehun was acutely aware of his eyes that were raking Kai’s mostly-naked body, which was sinewed with lean muscles. Sehun started from the toned chest and went all the way down to the trail of hairs that ran from his navel and disappeared past the towel around his waist. He also took note of the deep waistlines that formed a very prominent V as the towel sagged at his hips.

Blood filled Sehun’s cheeks and crimsoned them visibly. He raised his embarrassed eyes and met the Alpha’s curious gaze and slightly arched brows. He almost looked… amused.

Sehun wanted to apologize for intruding and hurry out of there as fast as his feet could take him. Instead, he stood there, stock-still and panicky, unable to take his eyes off the man. He despairingly hoped that Kai could not smell the desperation on him.

He waited for the man to say something, so that he could snap out of his trance and get the hell out of there. But all that Kai did was stare back at him, too. It was as though he were trying to figure out a puzzle. Sehun did not think of himself as a puzzle of any sort. He was as simple as an Omega could get. He was nothing special, nothing extraordinary. There was nothing about him that stood out. Definitely nothing to make Kai scrutinize so deeply, at least.

Eventually, something shifted in the Alpha’s expression. Was it smugness or complacency, Sehun could not tell. But Kai suddenly looked relaxed and composed, though the look of amusement remained in his gaze. He took a step forward.

Sehun knew that this was his last chance to flee. He could not turn a single hair, however. His breathing quickened significantly, but at least he was breathing again. Kai was walking towards him, running a hand through his wet hair to push it back when a few strands clumped together fell over his face.

He was just… breath-taking. Sehun had never hated himself more for being so… inadequate compared to Kai. Even as a child, Kai had this incredible charisma and aura that turned Sehun’s knees to jelly.

And right now, with every step, he was edging closer to Sehun. He was so close at reach. All that Sehun would have to do to touch him was to extend an arm. He tried to keep his eyes from wandering and ragged breathing from giving away his panicked nerves. And then Kai came too close.

Sehun finally managed to move his feet and withdraw. He retreated slowly, gawking at Kai with shock, until his back crashed against the sideboard. His chest heaved lightly as he swallowed the lump in his throat. Kai did not stop until he was less than an inch away from Sehun. He still looked amused somehow.

Sehun flinched a little when he raised his hands to the sideboard. He pinned them on either side of Sehun, gripping lightly onto the edge of the sideboard. He stood so close that Sehun could feel the warmth of Kai’s breath on his face. The composure and coolness Kai displayed were alarming. His smug mien did not help Sehun calm his nerves one bit. In fact, it only exacerbated his panic. He had nowhere to run now. What was Kai doing?!

Sehun was close, so close to falling to his knees and start begging the man to take him. He wanted to blurt out all the desires that had been pent up within him for years. Fucking hell. Why did Kai have to come back? And why did Sehun still have to harbour all these feelings for the man even years later? It was just heartbreakingly sad and pathetic.

Kai was either waiting for something or he was simply trying to converse with Sehun’s soul through his eyes. Either way, he did nothing as he stared into Sehun’s eyes, eyebrows slowly drawing together. Sehun thought that he had to look away now or Kai was going to be able to read through him and discover all the filthy desires he nursed.

“Wh-What are you… doing?” he managed to ask in a trembling breath at length, arms shaking at his sides.

Kai began to scowl, now glowering painstakingly at Sehun. His gaze momentarily dropped to Sehun’s parted lips, and Sehun felt his heart skip another nervous beat then.

Kai leaned even closer with a slight snarl on his lip. In a very low growl, he then said, “Who said you could be in here? Get out.”

Sehun thought he might just cough out his heart, which hurt more than it would have when stabbed. He certainly was not expecting for Kai to say anything nice—Sehun was trespassing after all, and Alphas were extremely uncompromising when it came to their territories and personal space—but he also did not expect to be told to get out so harshly. And it was not just by anyone. It was by Kai, the one person whose attention Sehun had sought so dearly all those years. But he had clearly offended the man now. He wanted to do nothing more than to get out of there and curl up into a ball in some corner of the manor and cry.

Sehun had not been reprimanded severely many times in his life. His mother would chide him here and there, but this was the first time a man had looked straight into his eyes and told him to stay away in annoyance and exasperation. A sob quickly started clawing its way up Sehun’s throat. Although he had tried to convince himself that nothing about Kai was his business now, he was clearly hurt by the way Kai had repeatedly dismissed him since the day he came back.

“I-I’m… sorry,” he said in a cracked voice, lowering his gaze so that the tears in his eyes would not be too obvious. He wanted to leave, but Kai still had not withdrawn from him. His arms were still blocking Sehun from moving even an inch. “I… didn’t mean… to…”

“I would not call it wise for you to be wandering around my room or my pups’.” The way he said it. God, it numbed Sehun’s body. There was a predatorial husk in his voice. He was annoyed, but not really angry. 

Sehun nodded shakily. “I’m sorry… S-Sir.”

Kai was still not pulling away. Instead, he continued to stare at Sehun. “Omegas,” he then let out, eyes falling to Sehun’s neck now. Unless Sehun was way in over his head, he definitely saw a spark of hunger in Kai’s eyes then. “So naïve. So… pitiful.”

It was then when Sehun realized he was being toyed with. Kai was not threatening him. He was… teasing him. He was entertained by the way Sehun was trembling. He was trying to scare Sehun into subjugation and was finding it thoroughly amusing. Jerk. What an utter, complete, unforgivable jerk!

Sehun’s hands flew up almost unconsciously and shoved Kai back by the chest. Staggering back a couple of steps, Kai blinked at him with wide, surprised eyes. Sehun did not wait for anything more as he bolted out of the bedroom, choking on a sob. Kai was no longer a boy. He was a man. A terribly cruel man.

Sehun did not stop until he reached his room. Jumping onto his bed, he hugged his knees to his chest. “Why am I so pathetic?!” he growled at himself. “He’s an Alpha! I’m an Omega. Of course, he takes me for a joke!”

And he was only a worthless errand boy. And Kai was his Master now. God, he was so stupid. He thought that he did not care about Kai or his past feelings. But he did. Oh, fuck, he did. And that was why this was going to be a lot more difficult than he thought.

 

 

C H A P T E R   T W O

 

 

“Sehun,” his mother called when she caught Sehun walking past the kitchen in the evening once the darkness had fallen some days later. “Why don’t you come here for a moment?”

Sehun smelled sweet chili tea, warm milk, and chewy cookies when he walked into the kitchen. “What is it?” he asked, leaning against the kitchen island. “I was just about to get more firewood from the shed.”

“That can wait,” said his mother, turning to him with a tray. “I need you to take this up to the drawing room.”

Sighing, Sehun accepted the tray and started for the drawing room in the west wing. But then with a sudden jerk, he stopped and looked back at his mother.

“Why?” he asked, frowning. “Who’s… in the drawing room?”

The woman arched an eyebrow at him with her hands on her hips. “Simon and Garfunkel. Who do you think?”

Sehun looked at her with a pained expression. “No. I cannot take it. Besides, didn’t all of you tell me to stay away from… them?”

“Everyone else is busy, and I only ask of you to bring the tray up and come back. You do not have to hang around and entertain them with Pop Goes the Weasel.”

Sehun groaned. “He doesn’t like me,” he hissed in a whisper. “He wants me nowhere near him or his babies either. He hates me, Mom. He always has.”

His mother stared at him funnily now. “What is this rubbish about?” she asked.

Sehun pursed his lips for a moment and glanced away sadly. “He never noticed me… even when I was a kid. Now, it’s just… much worse. I’m sure he’s noticed me, but… he really doesn’t take me seriously. None of you do.”

“That’s not true,” his mother rasped, walking over to him. “I take you seriously, sweetheart.”

Sehun almost rolled his eyes. “Gee. Thanks, Mom. That’s… real comforting.”

His mother heaved a sigh. “Look. If Master Kai is ignoring you, that’s probably for the best. Trust me. You do not want a shifter’s attention.”

It was all that Sehun had ever wanted. And he hated himself for it, especially because it was not something that he could help.

“But what do you intend to do?” his mother then asked. “Avoid him for the rest of your life?”

Sehun felt frustrated, realizing that she was right. Then he was even more miserable just thinking of the fact that his mother believed that he was going to spend the rest of his life in this place.

“Come on now,” she muttered, brushing Sehun’s hair with her fingers before she started ushering Sehun out of the kitchen. “Get up there.”

With a pout, Sehun huffed, “What if… he does not want me there?”

“He will answer to me if he makes a fuss about you bringing him tea and biscuits.”

Sehun exhaled heavily and started for the drawing room once more. When he looked down at the tray, he found two feeding bottles of milk, a stack of warm, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and a cup of tea. He wondered what Kai was doing at the drawing room with his two kids.

But as he neared the room, he heard the mellow melody of a piano echoing down the hallway. It shocked him at first. No one had played the piano or any kind of music in the manor for years. The late master had spent all his spare time hunting when he was still healthy.

With every step he advanced, his trepidation grew. The last time he had encountered Kai, the man was making a fool out of him for being a virgin, mate-less, noticeably desperate Omega, and Sehun had reacted by shoving the man back and running away from him. After that, he had made sure to steer clear of the man. But his mother was right. They both lived here now, and Sehun could not avoid him forever. He would just have to learn to live with the fact that the man he loved and lusted after wanted nothing to do with him and took him for a joke.

And that thought eased his nervousness as anger began to fill his chest. He was not sure if he were angry at Kai for being an asshole like his old man, who never did give a damn about the non-shifters, or if he were angry at himself for being so inadequate that he could not even expect someone like Kai to take him for a mate.

When he reached the drawing room, his eyes quickly scanned the big room for Kai. His eyes first fell on the two babies who were seated on the carpeted floor in the middle of the drawing room. They were surrounded by all sorts of toys and were furiously sucking on their pacifiers as they fought for the little stuffed piglet, which belonged to Master Archer. Wynter wanted to play with it too, but Archer was not giving it up. So, they tugged at the poor piglet with their tiny, chubby hands.

Then Sehun’s gaze lifted to Kai, who was sitting at the piano, playing a song Sehun had never heard before. He was clad in a black sweatshirt and a pair of fade blue jeans. He sported a different silver watch on his left wrist. His hair was neatly swept to a side, and Sehun sighed quietly at the urge to run his fingers through the Alpha’s soft hair.

He was promptly reminded of the days he used to hide by the door, peering over the doorjamb to watch Kai while the boy was at his piano lessons. Clearly, Kai had become adept at it now. His fingers moved so gracefully over the keys, Sehun was jealous of them. He could not even hold a fork right. Kai was truly a sophisticate, even for a wolf. He grew up well. Not that Sehun had expected him to turn out to be anything less, anyway.

He only looked away when one of the babies squealed loudly and angrily after spitting his pacifier out. It was Archer, who had just gotten hit on the head by baby Wynter, who still had his hands fisted. Then almost immediately, Archer broke into a cry.

Sehun did not know what stupid instinct overcame him in that instant, but he quickly placed the tray down on a side table and hurried to the baby to pick him up. In the midst of the baby’s cries, Sehun did not notice that the music of the piano had stopped until he was only a foot away from the babies and was almost crouching down to pick Archer up.

He froze for a moment as the baby continued to cry and glanced to the piano. Kai was looking at him now, stoically.

Sehun frowned nervously and looked down at the baby again. He should pick the baby up. He should. He wanted to. God, so badly. And the baby was looking up at him, too. His pink cheeks streaked with tears, his arms raised so that Sehun could lift him. He waited for Sehun to hold him. The baby’s heart was breaking, and Sehun hated that he could not do anything about it.

Archer slowly crawled up to his feet and started wobbling toward Sehun. That was when Kai picked him up from the floor and wrapped him in his arms.

Sehun sighed tiredly.

“There, there,” Kai muttered, patting Archer’s back. The baby pointed a finger down at his brother and cooed, “Nya! Dhadha! Moaaah!”

Kai then glared down at Wynter, who was gawking up at his father with ballooned eyes, the pacifier was idle in his mouth now. He was afraid of a scolding, no doubt. Sehun wondered if Kai would berate a little baby for hitting his brother. That seemed too much. Wynter was a child after all. And they were wolf pups. This was what pups did with their siblings. They roughhoused.

“Don’t hurt each other,” Kai then told Wynter as Archer stopped crying. Putting the baby back down on the floor, he grabbed the piglet and pressed it into Archer’s hands. The baby hugged it tightly and turned his back to Wynter, as though to keep the toy out of the other baby’s sight.

Wynter eventually got bored and turned his attention to the other toys. Kai returned to the piano.

Sehun stood there, like a tree. Master Wynter was looking at him now. Though he could already walk, he crawled over to Sehun and sat down by Sehun’s feet. He then glanced around him for a moment, as though he were searching something. Then looking up again, he pulled the pacifier out of his mouth and held it up to Sehun. He wanted Sehun to have it.

An offering. In return, he expected Sehun to lift him up and hold him. Wolves, especially baby wolves, craved physical intimacy and bonding with members of their pack. But when there was a lack of that, they imprinted on others, so that they could be given the intimacy they need. Now, while Sehun doubted that the babies had imprinted on him, he knew that the absence of Kai’s mate, the one who had borne the babies, must have left the babies hungry for more attachment.

“Where is their… mother?” Sehun asked, arriving at the conclusion that Kai would not have taken an Omega to bear his children. And Alpha males could not conceive. So, it had to be a female Alpha.

Kai neither stopped playing the piano nor answered him. Sehun expected just as much.

Exhaling heavily, he turned and walked away from Wynter, who dropped his arms back to his sides and frowned sadly. But he quickly recovered from his disappointment and crawled back to his brother, who was still mad at him. Wynter collected some of the toys from the floor and placed them in Archer’s lap, as a way of apologizing for his behaviour earlier. Archer was more soft-hearted than Sehun had thought him to be because he immediately forgave his brother and even put the stuffed piglet down on the floor between them so that they both could play with it.

Sehun wanted to see them play together in their wolf forms. He was certain that it would be the most adorable thing he’d ever witness. Without even knowing it or acknowledging it, he was starting to love these pups as if they were his own pack.

Picking the tray up again, he ambled over to the piano and settled it on top of it so that Kai would know that he was here on an errand, and not because he was nosy.

“My mother asked me to bring you this,” he told Kai.

“Tell her I said thanks,” Kai said, in a voice so monotonous that it hurt Sehun’s ears.

Sehun licked his lips. He should leave before Kai could humiliate him any further. But he did not want to. He was here, in a room, with Kai and the babies. He felt like he belonged here. With them. It was how he had always felt with Kai. Like he belonged with Kai and to Kai. How could a feeling so strong, a need so strong be this one-sided? Did Kai… absolutely feel nothing?

“What are you hanging around for? A tip?” Kai then asked without lifting his gaze as he continued to play.

Sehun swallowed hard before saying, “What… are you… playing?”

Something shifted in Kai’s face, though he still did not look up. Sehun was certain that Kai would not answer him, but then the man said, “Gaspard de la Nuit.”

Sehun’s heart did a thing then. Did it flutter? Skip a beat perhaps? Threatened to jump out of his chest? He was not sure. But it was good.

“I don’t know that one,” he murmured.

Kai scoffed and nearly smirked. “You know a lot about piano music?”

Sehun scowled. “I don’t…”

“I didn’t think so.”

“Well, if I too had a rich parent, I would have learned how to play this thing and ridicule my servant while I’m at it. But I don’t. And you don’t have to rub that in my face.”

Kai’s fingers froze on the piano keys then, and he finally craned his head up to look at Sehun, who was standing awkwardly at a side of the piano. His gaze was different now. Sehun had seen annoyance, amusement, curiosity, sharpness in it. But today, he saw something akin to compassion and guilt in Kai’s gaze that met his own.

“I did not… mean that,” muttered Kai.

God, this man was actually having a conversation with him. Sehun wondered if the world was ending. He rubbed the back of his neck and looked away for a moment. It was the first time Kai had ever spoken to him like this. Sehun did not want the conversation to die so soon.

“In any case,” he let out anxiously. “You play really well.”

Kai was staring at his fingers on the piano keys now. He seemed to be contemplating something. “My Dad never noticed,” he replied at length.

Sehun blinked. “Oh… I did, though.” He shrugged.

Kai looked up at him once more with a cocked brow. “What?”

Sehun hoped that he was not blushing, but he could definitely feel his cheeks grow warm. “I used to watch you practise,” he admitted. “When I was a kid.”

“I know,” Kai said.

Sehun stared at him quietly for a moment. “You did?”

“Yeah. Your scent,” he said. “is very… strong. I could tell when you are even forty feet away.”

Sehun did not know if Kai was calling him stinky or something. He did not want to find out. “I’m sorry about that.”

“I remember you following me around everywhere I go,” Kai snorted, rising from the piano bench before he helped himself to the tea. After taking a sip, he put the teacup down and grabbed the cookies. He then wandered over to the babies and handed them each one cookie.

“Oh,” Sehun exhaled. “Sorry.”

Archer and Wynter gaped at the cookies, almost awestruck, as they held them. They took small, shy bites of the cookies, which looked huge in their little hands. They were soft and chewy, so Sehun knew their teeth could bite through it.

“There’s milk, too,” Sehun pointed out. “For them. Not for you. I… think.”

Kai straightened up and turned to him with that sharp gaze that always turned Sehun’s knees to water. “They seem to like you.”

Sehun was paralyzed for a minute. Every muscle in his body seized up as he stared at Kai unblinkingly. Then with a lump in his throat, he squeaked out, “Th-They… d-do?”

“They are never this… comfortable around others,” Kai sighed, rubbing his forehead as if this was causing him worry. Sehun frowned.

“I’m sorry.”

“Why do you keep apologizing?” Kai asked, sounding exasperated now.

“I don’t know,” Sehun mumbled and looked away, rubbing his right arm with his left hand. “You never… answered my question. Where is their mother?”

Kai slid his hands into the pockets of his jeans and surveyed Sehun from head to toe. “Why do you ask?”

Sehun shrugged again. “Well, she should be here with them. They just seem… lonely.”

“I’m here for them.”

“Yeah, but it’s not the same.”

“Do enlighten me on how you, a non-shifting Omega, who still hasn’t taken a mate or had a single pup of his own, think that you know more about what they need?”

Sehun should have left earlier while he still had the chance. Instead, he had given Kai the perfect segue to humiliate him more. Then before he knew it, he was giving Kai more reasons to humiliate him. God, why could he not just keep his mouth shut?!

“Just because I-I-I… haven’t… mated… with… anyone… it does not mean… I’m a…” he trailed off, voice breaking.

“Clueless vestal?” Kai supplied.

Sehun balled his hands into fists. Then with a defeated sigh, he unclenched his hands and said, “You’re right. I am clueless and pathetic. No one wants me. That’s the truth. That’s the reason why I still haven’t…”

Holy hell, why was he even entertaining Kai with his grievances? Was it what Kai wanted? To make a joke out of him once again? Probably. No. Definitely.

“You know what,” Sehun then spat, gritting his teeth. “You are a jerk. That’s what you are.”

Kai did not seem to be surprised by that accusation. He calmly crossed his arms over his chest and watched Sehun start for the door.

“You have always been a jerk to me,” Sehun said furiously. “You are nothing but a selfish, arrogant prick, who doesn’t care about anyone else. Especially not servant boys like me. But I bet I’m an amusement to you. I must have always been, huh. Well, good for you, Master.

With that, he stormed out of the drawing room. He knew there would be consequences to his little outburst. He just could not care about it right now.

* * *

“Why are you not eating?” his mother asked later that evening once they had sat down at the table for dinner. Sehun was poking the food on his plate around with a fork, unable to muster an appetite after that debacle earlier. He probably should not have called Kai a jerk to his face. He knew this would not bode well for him or maybe even his mother. That was not fair. His mother should not be punished for what he had done.

“Guys,” Han rasped as he burst into the servants’ quarters and hurriedly took his seat at the table. He had an excited look about him. “You will not believe what I have just found out.”

Monty looked disinterested in the gossips as always, so he continued to enjoy his meal in silence. But Nadia, Sehun and his mother were intrigued by what had Han so jumpy.

“What have you found out?” inquired Nadia.

“It’s about Master Kai’s children,” said Han almost breathlessly. Sehun’s head perked up at once. What could it possibly be about Kai? Monty wiped his mouth with a napkin and pinned Han with a dark look.

“What is that you have found?” the old man asked.

Han sat up straighter and said, “The babies are orphans.”

Sehun wanted to throw a jug of water at the man’s head. “Where did you get that idea from?” he spat at Han, glowering ferociously. His mother raised a curious brow at him. “I mean… that’s atrocious.”

“No, really!” said Han. “I heard it from the other wolves. The late master’s shifter pals. Kai never got married or had a mate. At least not one that gave birth to the babies. He found them in the woods one day, abandoned and left to die.”

Sehun’s ears rang for a moment while Nadia and his mother gasped behind their hands. Shock rolled across the table, leaving everyone aghast. Sehun’s blood was so cold that it barely flowed in his veins.

“He adopted the pups and is now raising them as his own,” Han said next, proud of the information he had gathered from his networks. “Isn’t that fantastic?”

Sehun could not move in his seat. His fingers turned numb. If what Han was saying was true, then Sehun was in the wrong for calling Kai selfish and more. His heart withered darkly.

“That is awful to hear,” said Nadia. “He was born in such a regal bloodline, and he adopted two runts who were abandoned by non-shifter?”

“Mind your words, woman,” growled Monty, slamming his hands on the table. Nadia jumped in her seat and stared at the old man with horrified eyes.

“I didn’t mean to…” she sighed and pursed her lips.

“I think it is a very noble thing to do,” commented Sehun’s mother. “I suspected that there was something strange about that pack. Something that did not quite… fit together. But it is beautiful what Master Kai is doing. Perhaps I had misjudged his character after all. Perhaps he is better than those who came before him.”

“Still,” grumbled Nadia. “He should not be bringing nameless runts into his pack and let them carry his family name. His father never would have approved.”

“His father disapproved of many things,” said Monty. “The reason why Master Kai had been reluctant to return home. But he is here now. And you will remember well that he is our Master now. Whether or not he wants to raise those pups is up to him.”

Nadia did not seem pleased, but she said nothing more.

Sehun, on the other hand, hung his head and clenched his eyes. Guilt was quickly spreading through his conscience, telling him that he was a terrible person to have judged Kai the way he had earlier.

Maybe Han had gotten the wrong information. It was so common for rumours to walk around influential people like Kai. That did not mean they were true.

“May I be excused,” Sehun muttered and rose from his seat. He then started for the staircase. Though he was well aware of the fact that he was told many times to stay away from Kai and the fact that nothing good ever happened in any of their meetings, he still needed to set some things straight, or he would never be able to get any sleep.

Kai’s bedroom door was not shut. Standing in the doorway, Sehun peered into the room and looked for Kai. The room was quite dark as only one bedside lamp was turned on. But he quickly spotted Kai on the bed, back leaned against the headboard, a book in his hands. The babies were in their room.

Sehun raised a fist to knock on the open door. Kai did not look up from his book even as Sehun knocked for the second time.

“Is there something you want?” the man asked in a steady, cool tone.

Sehun gnawed at his lower lip for a moment, asking himself if he should go in or not. Then at length, he asked, “Can I… come in?”

Kai finally tore his gaze away from the pages of his book and fixed it on Sehun.

“Sir,” Sehun added, swallowing the lump in his throat.

The longer Kai stayed silent, the more agitated Sehun became. He wondered if it had been a bad idea after all to come here. But then a minute later, Kai said, “Come in.”

Stepping inside, Sehun drew in a deep breath. “I just… I wanted to apologize for… what I said earlier.”

Kai returned his gaze to his book. He did not respond for a few seconds, leaving Sehun in a dreadful state of despair. “You have apologized for many things today. Be more specific, errand boy.”

Sehun bit the inside of his cheek. “I mean, for what I said about… you… being selfish and arrogant and… for saying that you don’t care about anyone.”

“Well, perhaps I am all that,” Kai muttered, turning a page in his book. Sehun held his hands together at his front and kept his head low.

“I don’t really know you,” Sehun added after a moment. “Not for the lack of trying.” He sighed. “But I don’t know you, and I should not have said those things.”

Kai scoffed derisively then. Sehun was hurt by that. His apology was sincere, but once again, Kai was taking him for a joke. “Fine.” He went back to his book.

Sehun was so tired of this game Kai was playing with him. Or maybe he was not playing any game, and it was Sehun who was overthinking everything. Either way, he was exhausted.

So, he left Kai be.

He tossed and turned in his bed sleeplessly that night, anyway. He could not stop thinking about what Han had told them about Kai and the pups. There was no right way to make a family, Sehun supposed. But the idea of Kai being able to love two orphaned pups as his own warmed Sehun’s heart. Perhaps he was not the conceited, bigoted Alpha Sehun had thought him to be.

That must mean he ignored Sehun and treated him with scorn simply because he did not like him.

* * *

The snow from last night had melted upon the touch of the morning sunrays. The day was the warmest it had been in the last couple of weeks. Nadia said that she would like to go to the market on foot so that she could enjoy the fine, warm morning weather. Han said that he wanted to spend all afternoon fixing the fence in the garden. Sehun’s mother told them that she planned on plucking some snowberries so that she could make a pie later. Monty said that they could do whatever they wanted once they were done with their chores inside the manor.

Sehun accompanied Nadia to the farmer’s market first. It was not all that far from the manor. Though the ice on the roads had thawed, the air was still colder than it had deceivingly seemed from the inside. Nevertheless, the sun was shining for once, and the walk was relaxing.

Nadia did not stop ranting on about how abhorrent she believed it was for Kai to betray his ancestors and bring in outsiders into his pack. Sehun made no remark for that he did not know what to think of all of this. Sure, Kai had once again proven him wrong by turning out to be a better man than Sehun had thought him to be. But he was also confused about many things. The babies had no one but Kai. It would be easier for them to imprint on someone else as they did not have a mother. Why hadn’t Kai taken a mate, then? It would certainly be easier on the pups.

Then as though Nadia had heard his thoughts, she said, “No one would want to be his mate, you know.”

Sehun arched an eyebrow at her. “What? Why not?”

“Alpha females are very… possessive. Do you really think they would be able to accept those runts as their own? They would want Master Kai to be the father of their litter. They would never accept someone else’s pups as their pack.”

“That seems harsh,” Sehun said, scowling. “Maybe you are wrong.”

“Oh, these are facts, Sehun.” She rolled her eyes. “I’m a non-shifter, and even I can’t imagine having those runts in my pack as my children.”

“Will you stop calling them runts,” Sehun spat. “It isn’t… their fault.”

Sehun saw himself in those babies now. He too could have been orphaned and abandoned in the woods after his father had left his mother.

Nadia sighed. “I know. This is Master Kai’s fault.”

“He was just being a nice person,” Sehun argued. “What would you have done? Left them to be eaten by bears?”

“Yes. They are not my responsibility. This is how purebred bloodlines get tainted.”

Sehun halted in his tracks, his face wilting. He stared at Nadia as she walked ahead of him. That was also the reason why Alphas like Kai would never take Omegas like Sehun for a mate. And even if he did, he would never want to sire a child from someone as worthless as Sehun.

When they reached the manor, Sehun set the baskets of vegetables in the kitchen before he wandered outside to help Han with the fence.

“That’s a funny hat,” Han commented, grimacing at the fuzzy ball that was hanging on the top of Sehun’s winter hat.

Sehun made a face. “I like it,” he murmured, rubbing his cold hands together. It was a hand-me-down Sehun’s mother had gotten him a few years ago. Actually, most of the things he owned was a hand-me-down.

“It looks like something a twelve-year-old girl would wear.”

“Like your training bra, Han?”

The man’s expression hardened. “Just give me a hand with this, will you?”

As they lifted the wooden planks together, the backdoor swung open all of a sudden. Sehun nearly dropped the planks as he saw two white wolf pups burst out through the backdoor, galloping on their small, wobbly paws. They did not stop as they bolted past the fence and raced one another into the woods, crying out squeaky howls in excitement.

The planks slipped from Sehun’s grips anyway as he staggered back with a start when the massive grey wolf gushed out and pounced after the pups, snarling and barking, commanding them to stay on track and obey him.

The pups came to an abrupt halt before they turned back to look at the bigger wolf that was running after them. Kai. And the boys. Oh, God.

Sehun ran to the fence and leaned over it, gawking the small pack of wolves breathlessly. He could not stop smiling and panting for air. It had been a while since he had seen actual wolves run through these woods. And to see Kai in his fully-grown wolf form and the babies in their stronger, fluffier bodies!!! Oh, dear lord, Sehun’s heart was going to explode from all this excitement. He wanted to join them. He wanted to press his own paws into the cold dirt and run the forest with them.

As soon as Kai had caught up with the boisterous, naughty pups, he let out a ferocious growl and bent down to latch his mouth around the scruff of one of the pups’ neck. The pup whined, though Kai did not bite it hard enough to break its skin. He was simply teaching the pup obedience. He then turned to the other pup and did the same.

The babies must have shifted. Wolf pups, in the earliest stage of transformation, were very volatile. They shifted sporadically and unpredictably until they reached a certain age of maturity, when they could control their transformation. This was why pups needed their birth parent to bond with, so that their instincts matched with that of their parent. But Kai was not their birth parent, hence he could only try and be there when the pups shifted.

Sehun could not tell which one of the pups was Archer or Wynter. They both looked incredibly identical. Usually, one could tell them apart by their pacifiers. But now, it was impossible. They both donned the same coat that was as white as snow. They were so tiny, though. So tiny that they were barely any bigger than Kai’s one paw.

Kai nudged them to walk with his nose. They walked at a slow pace first. The pups clearly had a better balance when they were running because they constantly kept tripping over the loam and roots. Every time one of them tripped and fell, Kai would bite onto the back of their necks and pull them back up onto their paws. As they disappeared into the trees, Sehun sighed heavily and slumped his shoulders.

“That was… quite the rush,” said Han, more shocked than awestruck as Sehun was. “Did you look at how fat those two pups are? They are like tiny polar bears.”

Sehun scowled. “They’re perfect,” he spat and shoved past Han to get back inside.

For the rest of the day, he kept going outside and when he was inside, he constantly kept looking out the windows. The butterflies in his stomach would not go away. His heart would not stop racing. His body grew hotter by the second. He was jittery and jumpy, and his hands were trembling. His knees felt so weak that they made it impossible for him to walk without struggle.

Kai and the pups did not return until late in the evening. Sehun unfortunately was in the middle of an errand when they came back to the manor. Kai later told Monty that he would not be having dinner at home tonight and that the babies were already fed.

“Oh, really, Sir,” said Monty. “That is nice.”

“Yes,” Kai said, almost chuckling with amusement. “They hunted their first squirrel today. Well, tried to, at least.”

He told Monty that they were worn out, so they should be left to sleep for the rest of the night. Sehun stood by the staircase and stared at Kai while holding his breath. He felt like he might pass out. He could barely stand.

No one asked where Kai was going, but he looked so good. Whatever woodland and dead squirrel scent he had brought home with him earlier had been washed away now. He was clothed in a navy-blue shirt, which made him look more dashing than usual. Sehun found himself reeling even more. The overwhelming heat of his body had been worsening all day. He should probably sit down or something.

As Kai grabbed the car keys and pulled on his coat, he glanced to where Sehun was standing, leaning heavily against the banister. He quickly turned and started for his room when he saw Kai’s eyes narrow. He did not need Kai looking at him like that when he was going into the first wave of another heat period.

It could not have come at a worse time.

 

 

C H A P T E R   T H R E E

 

 

Sehun groaned into his pillow when he heard the door creak open a little. He wanted nothing more than to be left alone right now. He never knew how to deal with his heat cycle. It came once every couple of months and lasted for about three days. And those three days were literal hell.

Sometimes, he wanted to bang his head against a wall to knock himself out. But that probably worked better in the movies. Heat. The bane of a mate-less, lonely non-shifter’s existence.

It was worse tonight, worse than it had ever been all those years. And it was only the first night. Sehun suspected that the increased need to be penetrated, taken, knotted, and ruined was due to the presence of the man he desired.

He should just stay in his room until the heat passed. He did not think he could even look at Kai without breaking into a sobbing, begging mess. And that would definitely hurt whatever pride he had had left. Not that there was much to begin with.

“Sweetheart,” his mother called as she peered into the room and looked for Sehun in the dark. “Are you all right? You skipped dinner.”

Sehun tried to maintain a calm voice when he spoke. His mother did not need to know of the embarrassing state he was in. But she would come to know. Eventually. Sehun never told her, but she always brought him cold pumpkin soup, berries cobbler, and other foods that Sehun loved when he was going through his heat.

“I’m fine,” he said. “Just… tired.”

“Oh,” his mother let out. “All right, then. Get some sleep.”

Thankfully, she let him be. As soon as she had shut the door, Sehun flipped onto his back and stared at the ceiling. He could not take it. His body was bathed in sweat. His mind was a mushed muddle. Even breathing was a hard labour. Every inch of his skin burned like his blood was set on fire. The air was dusted with Kai’s scent. But it was not enough. Sehun needed more.

He sat up and scrubbed his face with his hot palms. He could not get the image of Kai and the pups out of his head either, and it made the heat all the worse. Kai had been right. Sehun had never mated and had never had pups of his own. He wanted one. Two. Three even. God, he wanted pups of his own. He wanted Archer and Wynter. He wanted to give them all the affection they deserve. He wanted to run with them in the forest. But he could not. They were not his pups. They were Kai’s, and Kai would not want Sehun doting on his pups.

Damn it. Perhaps it was about time that Sehun moved on from Kai and looked for another mate. If nothing else, having a mate would at least help with his heat cycles.

Maybe he should just go for a nice non-shifter who would want someone like him, like his mother kept suggesting. But that person would never be… Kai.

Han and Monty were old enough to not to go through heat periods. They already had mates of their own. And children. Nadia might still be experiencing it, but she was a woman, and Sehun knew it was different for female Omegas. And his mother was… his mother. There was not really anyone he wanted to go to for help. He was not sure if anyone would be able to help him, anyway.

Much later in the night, he rose from the bed and wended his way out of his room. His strides were shaky as he wandered through the dark hallways of the manor. When he glanced out of one of the windows, he noticed that Kai still had not returned. Perhaps he would not for the rest of the night as it was so late already. What was he doing, Sehun wondered. Where was he? Whom was he with?

The thoughts of Kai thronged and pained his head. His feet carried him up the stairs. He was not even sure of where he was heading. All that he knew was that he needed some serious comfort. He did not know if he would actually call what he sought during his heat cycles “comfort”. It might as well be the completely opposite of comfort. He wanted to be torn open. He hungered to be filled, ruined, and left crying, begging for more. And when it was all done and said, he longed to be held tenderly while his body recovered. His heart would be full, he thought. He wanted to feel it all. To feel what it would be like to have mated with someone.

He supposed it was what all Omegas pined for.

The lower part of his body throbbed strangely as he arrived at Kai’s bedroom. He should not be here. He ought to turn around and go back to his own room. But he found himself teetering into the bedroom, whose air was thick with Kai’s intoxicating scent. In the dark, he stumbled and staggered toward the bed, which smelled the most like Kai. Sehun’s knees felt weaker than ever, his lungs hurt with every breath. When he glanced to the nursery, he found the door shut close. The babies were sound asleep. So, he tried not to make any noise.

Upon reaching a side of the bed, Sehun frowned at it. He should not be doing this. This was all shades of wrong. Once again, he could not help himself however. It was never this difficult to resist the animalistic lust for an Alpha before, but then again, Kai had not been around for the last ten years.

He slowly sat down on an edge of the bed and carefully drew his hands over the sheets. This was not enough. Sehun needed more. Leaning down, he pressed his face against the mattress and sniffed the sheets. They smelled like Kai. Sehun immediately thought of the last time he had been in this room, trapped between the sideboard and Kai’s warm, half-naked body that had smelled of soap and water. He recalled the way Kai had gazed into his eyes and at his lips. He remembered the cocky, teasing expression the man had worn.

Sehun brought his fingers to his lips and lightly brushed them. His breathing quickened and so did his heartbeat. He slowly slid a finger into his mouth and started sucking on it, eyes clenched, tongue swirling around the finger, smearing it with spit. He then turned to lie on his back, his other hand gliding down his body and slipping into his sweatpants. He clutched at his crotch so hard that it nearly hurt. He pictured Kai holding him there. He wondered how rough Kai would be with him when he was holding him down. God, if even the mere thought of it all aroused him so much, what sort of a wreck he might be in if he ever felt Kai’s touch?

With one hand slithering between his thighs and the other drawing the shirt up, stroking the planes of his stomach, a soft moan broke from his throat. His nipples were tender than usual when he touched them, brushing them with his fingertips. A trembling breath escaped from his lips when his other hand slid a finger down the cleft of his ass and teased the puckered rim of muscle.

It was not the first time Sehun had tried to nurse his heat by himself. But usually, he did it as a last resort to appease his painful arousal. Tonight, however, he experienced a pleasure like no other as he touched himself, surrounded by everything that reminded him of Kai.

The bed was warm and soft. Sehun was simply melting into it as he rubbed his nipple and the cleft of his ass with his fingers. Then withdrawing the hand from his sweatpants, he shifted his weight on the bed so that he could pull his legs up and settle his feet on the bed. He promptly slid his pants down before tossing them aside. He could no longer hold himself back. He needed this. So bad.

With his shirt raised up to his chest and pants discarded, Sehun planted his heels firmly into the mattress, knees pulled up, legs spread open, and brought his fingers back to his mouth to give them a suck. He then prodded one of them into the tight opening. His back arched off the bed, a gravelly moan betraying his lips. The further he slid the finger into him, the better it felt. His breaths came out all ragged and laboured. He sucked onto more fingers and latched them around his nipple, rubbing it as he thrust another finger into him.

It felt mind-numbingly stunning. His body convulsed every time his fingers would brush against a bundle of nerves. He clenched harder and fingered himself at a faster pace. Sweat beads began to form on his exposed, scorching hot skin. He thought of himself being fucked on this very mattress, wrists pinned down, another weight crushing his body, teeth sinking into a side of his neck, breaking the skin there.

Tears and sweat rolled down his face while he slathered more spit onto his opening before shoving his fingers back in. Then pulling his hand away from his nipple, he wrapped it around his cock and clutched at it hard, head tossed back against the mattress. He needed to feel more. He needed so much more.

It took him a moment to notice the change in the room’s atmosphere. The scent was stronger than it had been a few minutes ago. Sehun’s eyes cracked open and darted to the figure standing in the doorway.

His heart stopped beating for a moment as he gaped at Kai, who was watching him silently from where he stood, his expression as cold as ice. His narrow eyes were unblinking, fixated gravely on Sehun.

Panting for more air, eyes half-lidded once again, Sehun dropped his head back and continued to finger his insides, stroking the walls firm but gently. He looked at Kai again and kept his lazy gaze steady on the man. Sehun was not even sure if Kai were actually there, or if he were just seeing things. Either way, he could not stop himself right now. He could not care less about the consequences.

And then Kai wrapped a hand around the doorknob before shutting the bedroom door. Sehun no longer paid any heed to the last silvers of rationality in his mind. He also did not know what Kai was going to do as the man started walking toward the bed in surprisingly calm strides. On his way, he took the watch off his wrist and placed it on the sideboard. Then he unbuttoned the shirt cuffs and began to roll the sleeves up to his elbows before he slowly unfastened the top two buttons of his shirt.

Sehun pulled his fingers out of him and looked at Kai desperately. Kai stopped at the bedside table and scanned the state Sehun was in. A hot, wet, flushed, whimpering mess. He heaved a deep breath and sighed at Sehun. He almost looked like he might call Sehun ‘pitiful’ from the way he was staring Sehun down. But he did not mock Sehun. He did not smirk or say anything condescending. He almost looked tired.

Perhaps it was the heat that took all of Sehun’s shame away, along with his common sense. He knew that what he was doing seemed beyond atrocious. But there was really nothing else that he would rather do. He was too far gone at this point. Every nerve pained him. Every muscle ached. If he did not know any better, he would have thought that he was dying. But at the same time, everything just felt so good.

Kai was right there, calmly watching him writhe and wither. He was intimidating. Sehun had never found him more intimidating and arousing as he did in that moment. He wanted to know what was running in Kai’s head as he watched Sehun touch himself, begging in his whimpers.

And then Sehun watched Kai go down to his knees on the floor. If only his weak body had allowed it, he would have sat up to gawk at the man. But he lay still, fingers slowly rubbing the throbbing opening in circles. Kai continued to watch him, an arm curling around one of Sehun’s thighs. The contact instantly sent shivers down Sehun’s spine. What was Kai doing? Actually, Sehun did not want to know. He would be okay with whatever that Kai wanted to do. Maybe he would drive a knife through his heart and put him out of his misery at last. Sehun would be totally fine with that, too.

But then Kai hooked his other arm around Sehun’s thigh as well and yanked him forward until his ass was on the edge of the bed. Sehun raised his head a little to look at Kai between his legs. The man’s steely gaze met Sehun’s.

“Go on,” Kai said in a commanding whisper.

Sehun’s heart jumped to his throat. Upon the order, he slid a finger back into him and fucked himself, breaking into a string of moans while Kai’s hands gently stroked his thighs, his eyes fixed on Sehun’s. Eventually, he broke their locked gazes and looked down to Sehun’s fingers that were slithering in and out of him. Kai licked his lips and bit one of them sultrily.

Sehun could feel the man’s breath on his ass. And it was killing him. Kai was teasing him again. He would probably snort at Sehun in amusement once this was all over.

But then Kai spat on the opening and the fingers it was wrapped around. Sehun fingered himself harder, using the spit as a lubricant while his chest heaving laboriously. He frozen when Kai took hold of his wrist before he pulled the fingers out and brought them to his own lips.

Sehun’s eyes bulged out as they watched Kai take those fingers into his mouth. It was all too overwhelming. Sehun was almost certain that this was a dream. A very filthy dream. But would he be able to feel how warm Kai’s mouth was as it sucked his dirty fingers in a dream? Holding onto the wrist, Kai sucked the fingers clean before his eyes looked up at Sehun’s once more.

Sehun did not look away. He did not think he could anything but watch the delicious obscenity that was unravelling before him. Part of him was excited, however, to find out what was to come next.

Kai released the wrist and brought the hand back to the back of Sehun’s thigh. He caressed it up and down, as though he enjoyed the softness. It felt fantastic. As much as Sehun loved how gentle Kai’s touches were, he wished that Kai would give him more. Not that he dared to ask for more. He did not want to ruin any of this, so he kept silent.

Kai licked his lips once more, eyes leering at the pink orifice between Sehun’s ass cheeks. That was when Sehun also noticed the way Kai’s own breathing had shallowed. He was aroused. Kai was… aroused.

Sehun let out a whispery moan, begging softly as he brought his hands to his nipples and rubbed them until they pebbled in his touch. The more he moaned and played with his nipples, the more Kai’s expression hardened along with at least one other thing of his.

“Fuck,” Kai hissed through his grit teeth then and leaned in. Sehun gasped as his toes curled into the sheets when he felt Kai’s lips brush against his ass cleft. Dropping his head back, he groaned as the tip of Kai’s tongue darted out and stroked the opening. A jolt surged down Sehun’s body, blood viciously stirring in his nether regions, and he abruptly brought one of his feet to Kai’s shoulder, almost stomping on it.

Growling, Kai grabbed the back of Sehun’s knees and pulled them apart before he threw one of them over his own shoulder. Sehun brought a hand to his mouth and bit onto the back of it to muffle any cries as rivulets of tears trickled down the corners of his eyes. Kai licked along the cleft a few times before crashed his mouth against the opening and sucked on it. Holy hell, his tongue did wonders. Sehun knew it then that no dream could be this good. This had to be real. Kai was really doing this to him, with him.

Bathed in sweat, Sehun refrained himself from jerking against Kai’s mouth that was wrapped his orifice, tongue lapping at it, wetting it with warm saliva.

“Yes,” Sehun gasped, body arching and curling, spreading open at the command of Kai’s tongue. How could something so dirty feel so amazing? Sehun was close to turning into a puddle on the bed.

Then something even better happened.

Kai pulled back and wiped his mouth with a hand before pressing a thumb between the ass cheeks, spreading the spit all over the opening. Sehun’s eyes rolled back when he nudged the tip of the thumb in and spat onto the orifice once more. Then almost immediately pulling it out, Kai smashed his mouth against Sehun’s ass again and ate him out hungrily.

Sehun tugged at his sweater, moaning deliriously. He gasped lightly when Kai sank his teeth into a side of his ass, nipping it gently before he tongued the opening again. The sound of Sehun’s whimpers, Kai’s rough breathing, and his tongue slapping against Sehun’s skin filled the room.

It was enough for now. Sehun was not going to ask Kai of anything more, even though he wanted it. This was so much more than what he had expected from the night. His body began to slowly cool down, and he was now able to enjoy the pleasure Kai was giving him. His moans were softer now, sleepier. He shuddered every time Kai would prod his tongue into the opening. But he was more relaxed than he was a few moments ago.

When Kai finally pulled back, he took a good look at Sehun, who was looking back at him with the back of his hand lightly resting against his forehead. He was a wreck, he knew that. But something told him that Kai was enjoying the view. Kai leaned in one last time and licked along Sehun’s ass cleft before he started to rise to his feet. Much to Sehun’s surprise, he quickly bent forward to place a soft kiss on Sehun’s belly.

If only Sehun had not been so exhausted, he would have caught Kai by the arm and asked him for what he really wanted from him. But he knew it was too much to ask of Kai, anyway. Whatever that had prompted or encouraged Kai to do this, he could not be mad enough to take Sehun for a mate.

As Kai straightened up and started walking away, Sehun curled up into the sheets and tried not to shiver too much. He wanted to be held now. He wanted Kai to come to the bed he was lying in and put his arms around his spent body.

But he only quietly watched Kai move in the dark while unbuttoning the rest of his shirt. As he took it off, back turned to Sehun, he said, “Sleep here tonight.”

Sehun was happy to hear that. But he could not smile. Once again, he was confused. The aftershock of what they had just done was more baffling than anything. Kai had given him the pleasure, the comfort he had needed tonight. And he was not making fun of him. Not yet at least. Maybe he would wait until the morning for that.

Sehun drew the sweater he was wearing down to his thighs and shifted so that he could rest his head on one of the pillows. He heard Kai step into the bathroom and shut the door behind him. Soon, the shower was running. Sehun hugged the covers to his chest and worriedly stared into the darkness. He could still feel the heat of Kai’s mouth on his skin. He was still wet from Kai’s saliva.

He tried to stay awake until Kai was out of the shower. He wondered if the man would come to bed and lie with him. Sehun’s heart fluttered at the idea. Maybe at least then, Kai would hold him.

But he was unable to refuse the sleep that eventually came to claim him. He could not fight it. As he drifted off, he dearly hoped that this was not just a dream, but at the same time, he was worried of what all of this could mean tomorrow if it had been real.

* * *

Sehun woke up to the sound of chirping birds for the first time in months. Winter must be nearing its end. He turned onto his back with a husky moan and cracked an eye open to squint at the sunlight that squeezed in through the slits of the drapes. For a moment, he blinked confusedly at the drapes, realizing that his little room had no window let alone drapes. His bed was also not this soft and big. His sheets were not this warm. And his room, unfortunately, did not smell like an Alpha.

He sat upright with a jolt and glanced around him. He was in Kai’s bedroom. Then as he shoved the covers aside, he realized that he was also not wearing any pants. He swallowed hard as the memories of last night’s events returned to him in full force and grabbed him by the throat.

Shit.

How much of it had actually happened? He hurriedly scrambled off the bed and looked for his pants. He could not find them. Shit, shit, shit.

 As he searched more for them, he stopped before the full-length mirror and gave his reflection a look. Holy shit. To call him a mess would be an understatement. He tried not to let any images of Kai from last night distract him as he yanked the hem of the sweatshirt down to his thighs. He then quickly hurtled toward the door. He would be lucky if he could get to his room without being noticed by at least one of the other servants.

On his way to the door, however, he came to an abrupt halt when he found the babies’ nursery door open. Even in the middle of a terrible crisis, Sehun could not help but take a peek at the babies.

They were awake and were sitting up in their individual cribs. They were not moving, however, as they stared out the window, sucking on their pacifiers. Sehun wondered what had them so entranced. The birds.

Wynter and Archer were watching the birds on the trees outside. Every time they chirped, the babies looked even more intrigued. They were wolves. Of course, they liked the birds. Or more like the taste of birds.

Baby Wynter looked like he might just shift right this instant and break through the window to catch one of them.

Sehun tore his gaze from them eventually and settled it on Kai, who was asleep on the couch in the baby’s nursery. He barely fitted in it with one leg dangling over the edge and the other over he armrest. He had not come to share the bed with Sehun last night after all.

Sehun’s heart broke a little at the thought. If even falling asleep with Sehun in the same bed was a detestable idea to Kai, then why did he fuck Sehun with his tongue like that last night? A dash of resentment shot through Sehun in that moment.

He looked away from Kai and back to the babies again when Archer started jumping on his bum, pointing excitedly to the birds at the window. Sehun quietly pulled away from the door and started for his room.

He somehow managed to make it without running into Monty, Nadia, Han or his mother. He spent the next couple of hours recalling everything that had happened last night. The fact that Kai gave Sehun what he had wanted when he found the Omega on his bed, writhing and squirming, instead of making a scene out of it left Sehun completely puzzled. He thought of the way Kai’s mouth had pleasured him last night. Bloody hell.

Oddly enough, the heat was not as bad as it usually was this morning. Was it because of Kai and what he had done? Was it all that it took to appease the titillated monster that ripped Sehun from the inside during his heat cycles?

Kai’s presence? His touch? His attention?

Sehun still felt hollow, though. Clearly what had happened last night had helped, but it was not enough.

* * *

His mother was surprised to see him when he sauntered into the kitchen around noon. “Darling, are you feeling… all right?”

Sehun tiredly nodded his head. “Yeah. Why do you ask?”

She grinned nervously and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. “I don’t know. Well, you just… seemed a little under the weather yesterday. I was thinking that you might stay in bed today.”

“I’m fine.” Well, he was not exactly fine. But he needed to see Kai. He needed to know what the man made of everything that they had done together the previous night. He did not think he had the guts to confront Kai directly, though. So, he figured that he would look for some signs first.

Kai came down for lunch a while later. Sehun helped his mother bring out some of the dishes to the table. He kept his eyes on Kai as he approached the table, his heart in his throat.

Kai did not look up as he focused on unrolling the napkin. He clearly knew that Sehun was right in front of him, though. When he finally lifted his head, he looked straight to Sehun’s mother and smiled.

“How was your outing last night, Master Kai?” inquired Sehun’s mother, sounding more polite than she usually was. “I hope you had a good time.”

“I did,” said Kai. “I had a very good time last night.” That was when he looked at Sehun, and he was not smiling anymore. Sehun wanted to put his head in the water jug he was holding.

“That is great to hear,” said Sehun’s mother.

Kai was no longer looking at Sehun anymore as he picked up the fork and knife. “I managed to get quite drunk on exquisite wines, though.”

Sehun’s eyes widened then. Was Kai drunk last night? He certainly did not seem or smell like it. But then again, it was the last thing Sehun could have focused on with everything else that was happening to him.

“Actually,” Kai then said. “I have invited the friend I was out with to a dinner in my home.”

Sehun’s mother instantly lit up like a Christmas tree. “Ooh! That is exciting!” she exclaimed. “When is this friend paying us a visit then, Sir?”

“She will be coming tomorrow evening,” he said. “So, I expect a tasty dinner to be ready for her. And I can trust no one better than you.”

His smile and compliments were melting Sehun’s mother. She was practically jumping like a kid with a popsicle on a summer day. “Is this woman a special friend, Sir?” she asked, grinning. “I ask not to pry, but to make something extra special if she is special.”

Kai chuckled softly. Sehun could not believe what he was hearing. “Yes, she might be. So, do as you please.”

“Oh! Thank the lord! We haven’t had guests in the longest time. Sehun, I need you to go to the market and get some clementine. I should roast a duck tomorrow.”

“And ask Monty to bring out the best wine we have,” said Kai.

“Of course! Of course.” As she hurried back to the kitchen, Sehun stood there, gripping the jug with more force than necessary. So, Kai was out on a date last night with some woman.

Spec-fucking-tacular.

 He stared at Kai while the man cut into the pork cutlets on his plate. He was no longer paying Sehun any heed, but the way he was constantly avoiding Sehun’s gaze suggested that he was deliberately tormenting Sehun.

“You were… on a… date last night?” Sehun found himself asking, stuttering the words out like a fool.

Kai did not respond. He pretended like he did not even hear what Sehun had said.

Sehun tried to compose himself. He did not want to cry in front of this bastard. But the heat he was in was making it so difficult to not to break down.

“So, you were just… drunk?” he asked in a much lower voice.

Kai did not answer that question either. Sehun hung his head and stared into the water in the jug. A tear dripped into it and caused a ripple. God, he needed to get out of here now.

Cruel.

He dragged himself out of the dining room and wandered into the kitchen. His mother was still clamouring about what she was going to prepare for tomorrow’s dinner while Sehun poured out the water and wiped his cheeks before he grabbed his jacket and hurried out through the backdoor.

“Where are you going?” his mother asked.

“To get your clementine,” he muttered and walked away, sniffling and choking back on a sob.

* * *

He did not come home until very late in the evening. He had gone to the market, but they were out of clementine. So, he walked around the woods for hours. Well, he got lost a couple of times and barely made any effort to find his way home. But when it finally started raining lightly, he had no choice but to head back to the manor. He was also a little hungry.

He hated that even after all those hours of walking and contemplating, he had yet to arrive at a good solution. Maybe there simply was not one. He needed to stay away from Kai, but he just could not.

“Where were you?!” Nadia roared as soon as he stepped into the kitchen through the backdoor. Sehun blinked at her as she rushed to his side. “We were so worried for you!”

Peeling the damp jacket off, Sehun frowned at her. “I just went for a walk.”

“For eight hours?”

Sehun shrugged. “It was a long walk.”

“Your mother is worried sick.”

“Why?”

“Aren’t you on your heat?”

Sehun stared at her, dumbstruck.

“What do you think happens to Omegas in their heat who go for a long walk in a wolf-infested forest?” she asked, crossing her arms over her chest.

“I can’t believe Mom told you that I’m on my—”

“She even had Kai worried.”

Sehun blinked at that. “What?”

“Yeah. He said that he would go look for you if you’re not back in a couple of hours.”

“He did?”

That did not mean anything. It certainly did not mean Kai cared for him. He must have simply been polite for Sehun’s mother’s sake.

Sehun went looking for his mother. She was in her room, pacing a hole on the floor. “Sehun!” she yapped, half glad, half angry. “God, I was worried something had happened to you.”

She pulled him into a tight embrace and pulled back with a scowl etched to her face. “Sorry,” he muttered. “I just… needed to clear my head.”

Thankfully, his mother did not berate him. She simply sighed and told him to go get a bite. Sehun sat alone at the table in the servants’ quarters and ate silently. He did not have the appetite he thought he had a moment ago. Everything tasted so bland and bitter in his mouth. Giving up on the food eventually, he rose from the table.

He jumped a little with a start when he heard a baby break into a shrill cry somewhere in the manor. His heart began to pound. He wanted to go looking for the weeping baby, but the cries quickly quieted down. Sighing, he started for the kitchen to get some water.

He came to a standstill when he found Han walking back and forth in the hallway with a baby in his arms. It was baby Archer, covered in tears, eyes red and worried.

“What are you doing?” Sehun asked.

“Oh,” Han let out, facing him with a frown. “He started crying all of a sudden and Master Kai asked me to hold him for a while.”

Kai asked Han to hold the baby? Why could Sehun never hold the baby?

As he walked over to Han, Archer looked up at Sehun with his pacifier in his mouth. Immediately, he stretched his arms out toward Sehun.

Sehun stopped, his stomach turning into knots. “Can I… hold him for a second?” he asked Han shyly.

Archer clenched and released his hands a few times at Sehun, as though he wanted to grab something.

“Uh…” Han exhaled, looking conflicted. “I’m not sure? Would Master Kai be okay with that?”

The baby cooed with his hands still held out to Sehun, waiting to be carried.

“Why can’t I hold him?” Sehun asked the man then, scowling. “I work here, too. All of you get to hold the babies and do stuff for them.”

“Yes, but Monty said—”

“I don’t care about what Monty said.”

“Sehun, please.” Han sighed. “I should take him back to his crib.”

Sehun fisted his hands tightly and glowered at Han as he took the baby away. It was not fair. Nothing in Sehun’s life had ever been fair.

As he shakily wended his way to his room, forgetting about the water, he wondered how warm those babies were. Were they soft? Han had looked annoyed when he was calming Archer down. Nadia clearly felt no affection for the pups after finding out that they were not really Kai’s. So, why couldn’t Sehun look after them? He wanted to. Would it be so bad if the pups imprinted on him? He cared for them, didn’t he? He would do anything for them.

But perhaps it would be too difficult for them to separate from him when the time came. When Kai took a mate. When Sehun took his own. Perhaps it was for the best that he stayed away from the pups. But it was a lot easier thought than done.

 

 

C H A P T E R   F O U R

 

 

It was another sleepless night. As the night wore on, Sehun’s body grew increasingly warm until it was difficult to even breathe. Images from the previous night would not stop haunting and teasing him either. He was crying, sweating, swearing into his pillow, wanting Kai to comfort him the way he had last night. It was a lot to wish for, especially after the way Kai had treated him this morning, acting as though nothing had happened between them. And on top of all that, he had the audacity to announce that he was having a ‘special friend’ over for dinner. Sehun would rather have the man mock him and turn him into a joke than to have him completely ignore him and everything that had happened.

Why did he enjoy hurting Sehun like this?

Sehun could not take it any longer. He jolted up from his bed and started marching toward Kai’s room. It was a couple of hours past midnight, so he figured everyone, including Kai, must be asleep. He did not care. He would wake Kai up and demand an explanation.

When he came to the bedroom, he stood before the closed door and wondered if he should knock. He had been quite determined to give Kai a piece of his mind a moment ago. But as soon as he smelled the Alpha’s scent, all fight drained from his body, his knees turning weak and wobbly again. He raised a hand to the door and braced himself as his head spun lightly for a moment. Something told him that Kai was aware of his presence on the other side of the door.

So, he slowly turned the doorknob and slipped into the room. Shutting the door behind him, he glanced to the bed where Kai was reclined on, his half-lidded eyes looking at Sehun with the same drunken coolness Sehun had seen in them last night.

Rubbing his arm with a hand, Sehun lowered his head shyly, thinking of what to do next. He could confront Kai and demand the answers he needed. Or he could walk out right now before he could do something he would regret. Or he could do the thing he was going to regret.

He opted for the third one.

Kai only silently watched him as he moved toward the bed, cheeks burning slightly hotter than the rest of his body. Then he stood at the side of the bed, blushing fiercely, wondering how he could ask Kai to let him on the bed.

In the end, he did not have to. After a couple of minutes, Kai yanked the covers aside and made room for Sehun on his bed. As strange as it all was, Sehun could not hold himself back as he climbed into the bed and settled down beside Kai.

The heat was to be blamed, he supposed. He had never been a very clever boy, not even in school. But he was not stupid enough to be doing something as embarrassing as this on a straight mind. The heat disarranged his sanity. His needs were all very primal and physical now.

Once he was settled, Kai drew the duvet over Sehun. The duvet they now shared. The heat of Kai’s body instantly blanketed around Sehun and comforted him. For now, it was all that he could ask for.

Turning his back to Kai, he lightly pressed a side of his face into the pillow, which did not only smell like Kai but also himself, and closed his eyes. He took up only a small part of the large bed. It was more than enough. Just being able to sleep with Kai in such close proximity was enough for tonight.

He wanted more, of course. But he did not want his greed to be his undoing. Not right now.

His eyes fluttered open when he felt a warm hand snake around a side of his waist under the covers. Sehun held his breath as Kai’s fingers curled around his hip, sliding past the waistband of his sweatpants.

Holy fucking God. What was happening?

His heartbeat began to drum in his ears when Kai’s fingers gently caressed Sehun’s protruding hipbone while lowering the pants a little. Sehun’s head pounded lightly, and he clenched his eyes, burying his face into the pillow, a hand gripping it tight.

Kai was touching him.

His hand was more callused than Sehun had expected it to be. His fingers were rough against Sehun’s skin as they slid lower and curled around joint where his leg met his crotch. Sehun bit into the pillow to stifle a moan.

He felt Kai shift his weight on the bed behind him. He edged closer until his chest was almost pressed against Sehun’s back. His ragged breaths grazed the nape of Sehun’s neck while his knee lightly brushed against the back of Sehun’s thigh.

He pulled his hand out of Sehun’s sweatpants and drew it along Sehun’s waistline before he latched onto a corner of the waist and gave it a hungry squeeze. Sehun whimpered and shuddered at the strong grip. He heard Kai growl under his breath as his fingers dug into Sehun’s soft flesh.

Then with sudden aggression, Kai grabbed onto the waistband of Sehun’s pants at the back and yanked it down. Sehun froze. It was not like he did not like what was happening, but he was just not sure what was exactly happening.

And then Kai slid the hand down to cup a side of Sehun’s ass. As he gripped it, he leaned in and brushed his lips gently against the back of Sehun’s neck. It sent a jolt down Sehun’s spine, all the way down to his tailbone. He could not hold back a moan when Kai nipped a small spot on the neck, biting it a little between his teeth. Quickly, he slid an arm under Sehun’s head and clasped a hand to Sehun’s mouth.

“Shh,” he let out, one hand covering Sehun’s mouth while the other groped his ass. “The boys are finally asleep. Don’t wake them up.”

Sehun wanted to obey him, of course. But he was not sure if he could keep all that quiet when Kai was touching him like this.

He continued to cover Sehun’s mouth with one hand while he brought the other to Sehun’s shoulder. He almost ripped the collar of Sehun’s sweatshirt when he tugged at it to expose the shoulder. Sehun mewled against Kai’s palm as the man smashed his mouth against the shoulder and left a trail of rough kisses on it, his hand sliding back down to grip Sehun’s ass.

It felt fantastic. Everything that Kai was doing to him, even if it did not seem like much, felt outstanding. Sehun felt his chest heave as he fought for breath, rivulets of sweat forming on his skin.

His breathing seized altogether when Kai’s fingers glided down the cleft of his ass. He pressed his face back into the pillow when Kai pulled his hand away from his mouth, his cold fingers rubbing the warm, soft muscle between the cheeks.

“Ah…” Sehun whimpered into the pillow, pushing back against the firm fingers for more friction. “Don’t… stop.”

With a low growl, Kai sank his teeth into Sehun’s shoulder and bruised the skin there. Then briefly pulling back, much to Sehun’s dismay, he spat onto his fingers before rubbing them against the opening again, smearing it with his spit.

Sehun’s body arched forward when Kai slid a finger into him. All sorts of profanities ran through Sehun’s head then, but he was unable to voice even one of them. He gripped on the edge of the mattress and bit back on a moan while Kai fucked him with his finger. He pulled out once or twice to suck the fingers and coat them with more saliva before shoving them back in. They curled around Sehun’s insides, stroking the warm walls at a pace that made Sehun’s eyes roll back in pleasure.

Kai pelted Sehun’s shoulder and neck with kisses and bites while he fingered Sehun almost mercilessly. His rough bites, eager hands, and laboured breathing suggested that he wanted this just as much as Sehun. At the end of the day, he was a virile Alpha after all. Not even the most restrained of Alphas would be able to hold themselves back when an Omega as desperate as Sehun kept submitting himself to them.

Sehun was certain that he would come to regret this tomorrow when Kai would pretend like nothing had happened between them once again. But the heat… Well, he would just blame everything on the heat.

Even though he knew that not all of it had something to do with the heat. He had longed for Kai for so long. If this was the only way he could be with the man, then…

Kai withdrew the fingers after a long hour of just thrusting them in and out of Sehun. From the way Sehun’s breaths came out rough and shallow, it was clear that he was worn out now. Kai, however, growled and groaned as though he wanted to keep going. But he somehow managed to refrain himself.

Sehun turned his head around with a yearnful gaze, hoping that Kai would kiss him. It was all that Sehun wanted right now after having yielded his body to the man. Just a kiss.

But Kai was already climbing out of the bed. Sehun frowned at him.

“Won’t you… sleep here?” he asked in a shaky whisper.

Kai sat still on the edge with his head hung. Was he already regretting what he had just done? Again?

“I will leave,” Sehun muttered then, tears stinging his eyes. Sitting up, he straightened his clothes and looked to Kai once more, wondering if the man would ask him to stay.

But Kai said nothing. With a heavy heart, Sehun rose from the bed and meandered his way out of the room. He did not go too far down the hall before he dropped to a crouch and hugged his legs to his chest. Then burying his face between his knees, he broke into a quiet sob.

* * *

The babies were fussier than they had ever been the next morning. They managed to wake the entire manor up early at dawn with their hungry crying. It was strange for babies their age to be crying for nothing. So, something must be wrong.

Sehun hurried out of his room, still clad in his pyjamas, and found the other servants to be rushing up the stairs.

“Are they hungry, perhaps?” asked Han as he followed Monty and the others toward the nursery. Sehun hurried after them.

“Something might have scared them,” said Sehun’s mother. “They cannot be that hungry.”

“Maybe Master Kai gave them a good beating,” said Nadia, chuckling.

Sehun’s mother gave her head a light slap. “You need a good beating, girl,” she spat.

Sehun agreed.

The babies were in their nursery, but they were not in their cribs. Their cries were deafening.

Kai was struggling to hold them both in his arms as he tried to console them. “I’m sorry,” he said helplessly, a deep frown plastered on his face. “I should not have.”

“What has happened here, Master Kai?” inquired Monty calmly.

Archer and Wynter were sobbing uncontrollably, both clinging to their father’s neck and shoulders desperately, not wanting to let go.

“I just showed them outside through the window,” Kai sighed, looking exhausted. “There was a pack of wolves. And they saw those wolves. And now, they are spooked, and they won’t stop crying.”

Sehun knew he should not be finding this situation amusing. The babies were clearly traumatized. But they were so adorable. They were so small, so fragile, so vulnerable. They were afraid of some other wolves that must have been running through the woods.

“I told you something must have scared them,” said Sehun’s mother. “Here. Let me hold one of them.”

Kai easily handed her one of the babies, who was crying the loudest. “Here. Take Wynter.”

The baby did not stop crying, however, and refused to be held by the woman. He demanded to be let go. Frowning, Sehun’s mother handed the baby over to Nadia. Wynter cried even more loudly, wriggling in her arms to be set free. Han tried holding him, too. In the end, he put the baby down on the floor.

Wynter quickly scrambled up to his feet and ran over to Sehun as fast as his wobbly feet could take him. He tripped and dropped to the ground before he could even reach Sehun. He stopped crying for a second, realizing that he had just fallen down. Then all at once, he broke into a louder, shriller cry, raising a hand to Sehun for comfort.

Sehun thought of nothing but the baby as he lurched forward and rushed to Wynter. He picked the baby up at once and hugged him gently in his arms. Wynter was way heavier than Sehun had expected him to be. But he was soft and warm all the same. He lightly held onto one of Sehun’s shoulder while he settled his head down on the other. He was no longer crying.

Sehun gave him some light bounces to comfort him, rubbing the baby’s back.

“He… stopped crying,” remarked Nadia.

That was when Sehun looked at the others, who were gawking at him. While most of them seemed baffled, Monty simply scowled at him.

Ungg,” Archer cooed, snivelling, as he pulled away from Kai and leaned toward Sehun, making his grabby hands. “Ingh.

Kai did not hesitate for a single second as he handed Sehun the other baby as well. “Good grief,” he sighed as Archer stopped his cries as well when Sehun took hold of him. Rubbing his forehead, Kai plumped onto the couch.

Sehun was paralyzed for a moment. He was… holding the babies. Both of them. They clung onto him and sniffed him curiously before they comfortably rested their heads on Sehun’s shoulders. They were so calm so fast. They felt safe and protected in Sehun’s arms, even though Sehun was certain that he was the weakest member in the room. But they trusted him.

Archer lifted his head eventually and pointed to the window while looking at Sehun. “Poo-choo nyu na woof!” he told Sehun excitedly.

“Woof?” Sehun let out in a breath.

“Woooof! Awoo awoo!” Archer dropped his head back on Sehun’s shoulder.

“Let us get back to our chores,” Monty ordered, ushering the others out of the room before he turned to Sehun. “And you. Put them back in their cribs.”

“No,” Kai said with a heavy sigh. “They seem to be calm with him. Let him keep them for a while. They have been fussy since yesterday evening.”

Sehun’s heart leaped with joy. But Monty clearly was not happy with Kai’s decision. He bowed his head anyway and made his way out of the nursery after pinning Sehun with one last black look.

Unable to hold the heavy babies up any longer, Sehun carefully placed them on the carpet. He then quickly grabbed their pacifiers and Archer’s piglet soft toy before kneeling down before them. He handed them their binkies first before he gave Archer his toy.

“Now, those wolves will not harm you,” Sehun said. “Not as long as we’re all here to protect you.” He smiled and gave the babies’ nose a light pinch.

They giggled. Wynter crawled over and climbed into Sehun’s lap all of a sudden. Sitting there, he probed his pacifier curiously, resting against Sehun’s chest.

Sehun swallowed hard. So, this was what having pups felt like. All this warmth, all this love. He glanced to Kai, who was now watching them with keen eyes.

“You were right,” Sehun muttered. “They do like me.”

Kai groaned and leaned back against the couch. “Why didn’t you help me with them earlier, then?” he asked, scowling.

Sehun blinked. “Was I allowed to?”

Kai cocked an eyebrow at him. “What?”

“I didn’t… I didn’t think you would want me to… touch your pups.”

Kai’s eyes narrowed, but he did not say anything. He glanced out the window instead.

Sehun brushed his nose against Wynter’s head and sniffed the baby’s scent, so that he could learn their distinctive scents to be able to tell them apart from now on without having to look for their pacifiers.

“They are… your pups, right?” he asked.

Kai’s jaw tightened. “Of course, they are my pups,” he spat without looking at Sehun. “They are mine.”

Sehun pursed his lips.

“I love them as if they’re my own,” Kai added at length in a calmer tone. “Is that not enough? Am I not a deserving father to them?”

Sehun smiled despite himself. “I would not know much about deserving fathers,” he murmured. “My father abandoned me and my mother as soon as I was born. To me, you are the only man I know who is worthy enough to bear the name of a father. And that makes these babies the luckiest pups in the world.”

Kai turned his head and looked at him then. There was no hint of mockery in his gaze. He looked so solemn, so touched by what Sehun had told him.

Kai licked his lips and leaned forward. “Look, Sehun,” he said. Sehun’s chest tightened. “About what happened last night and the night before—”

“I know,” Sehun cut him off. “It… didn’t happen. I get it.”

Kai stared at him confusedly for a moment before he glanced away once again.

It hurt Sehun to think what he had been reduced to. But he had done it all with a sober mind. He had allowed Kai to touch him because he had desired it. And something told him that he would do it and more again if it meant he would get to feel Kai.

The more he let this happen, the more his heart was going to get hurt.

Part of him wished that Kai had never returned. But it was an unfair desire. This was Kai’s home. Not Sehun’s.

He looked down at baby Wynter on his lap. “Is this… okay?” he asked Kai.

“What is?”

“This?” He placed a hand on the baby’s back.

Kai sighed. “They want you. There isn’t much that I can do about it.”

Sehun frowned. “But you don’t… want this.”

Kai looked conflicted for a moment. He leaned forward and placed his elbows on his knees, hands clasped together. “I can see what is happening, Sehun. Now I won’t pretend that I am happy about it.”

Why not? Since he was a marvellous pretender, anyway. Sehun did not say that, though.

“Is this what you want?” Kai then asked.

The question caught Sehun by surprise. “What do you mean?”

“They are my babies. My pack. You… You’re…”

“An errand boy?”

Kai rose from the couch. “That’s not what I mean. You are not going to stay here forever. Or I might not. They are the ones who are going to suffer without you when you leave.”

“I won’t leave,” Sehun said.

Kai stared at him. “I highly doubt that you would want to spend the rest of your life here as an errand boy.”

“If it would mean that I get to be with them.”

“You barely know them.”

“But—”

Kai harshly tore Wynter away from Sehun and put the baby in the crib before he turned to Archer and did the same. Sehun kept his blurry gaze low for a moment, trying to blink the tears away from his eyes. While Wynter looked up at his father with big, wide eyes, Archer grabbed on the rails of his crib and grinned at Sehun.

Standing up, Sehun said, “I’m sorry. I know that I had overstepped by doting on your pups.” Probably because he did not have any of his own. “I will stay away from them if that’s what you want.”

“It’s not about what I want,” Kai growled then. “What don’t you understand?”

Sehun flinched and worried his lower lip.

“It’s what’s best for them,” said Kai. “I never asked you to stay away from them. So, if you think you will always be here for them, then by all means, dote all you want.”

Sehun was not sure if he were making the promise he could keep. Would he not want to have a mate and pups of his own one day? Would his mate be okay with him holding someone else’s pups dear?

“I’m just saying,” Kai then added in a softer voice. “do not give them a false hope.”

Sehun lifted his head and looked at the other man with glistening eyes. “What about you, then? Were you not giving me false hopes the last two nights?”

Kai was stumped by the accusation for a second. Clenching his jaw, he shoved past Sehun and strode out of the room without another word.

Sehun should not have said anything. It was not right to accuse or blame Kai for what had happened. He knew the consequences of doing all that, and he had done it, anyway. That was his decision. He had no right to put Kai on the spot.

* * *

There was music. The wonderful smell of food wafted in the air. Everyone was happy to host a guest for once. Well, everyone but Sehun. He remained in his room the whole day, battling with his heat. He wanted to break down and sob his heart out, but at the same time, he was furious. Furious about Kai’s friend that was coming over. The sick feeling in the pit of his stomach made him feel nauseated. Jealousy, he realized after a while. He was jealous. As much as he never wanted to leave the confines of his room, he was curious about Kai’s ‘special friend’ with whom he had gone out on a date with.

So, later in the evening, he finally stepped out of his room and went looking for his mother in the kitchen. She was too busy to even notice his presence.

When the doorbell rang, Sehun clenched his fists.

“Ooh! Someone, get the door!” his mother yapped.

Sehun started for the front door, although he knew Monty would want the honour of welcoming their guest. And there he was, right by the door, dressed all sharp and neat. Sehun had been avoiding Monty all day, not wanting to hear the man reprimand him for what had happened earlier in the morning.

“Welcome,” Monty greeted with a short bow, holding the door open. A woman, dressed a heavy fur coat, stepped in. She was as young as Kai was and had a pleasant smile about her. Sehun’s heart stopped for a moment when he realized she was an Alpha.

“Thank you,” she said to Monty.

“May I take your coat, Ma’am?”

“Of course.” She let Monty peel the coat off her back. She was pretty-looking, Sehun thought. She had her brown hair up in a bun and wore a lot of sparkly jewellery. Clearly, she was wealthy and loved showing it off.

Han and Nadia hurried from opposite corners of the manor and bowed before her.

“Kai has a lot of servants,” she said, smirking. “I am surprised.”

“We worked for his father, Miss…?”

“Lora.”

“Miss Lora,” said Monty.

Sehun had never wanted to kill someone before, but he surely wanted to now.

“Lora.” Kai’s voice boomed into the hall and all heads turned to look at him descend the stairs with an easy smile on his face. He had dressed up for this woman, too. Sehun wanted to rip that nice shirt Kai was wearing apart and tousle his neatly combed hair with his hands.

“Ah, Kai.” Lora ambled over to Kai and hugged him, placing a kiss on his cheek when he reached the bottom of the stairs. “You really have a nice house.”

Kai smiled and nodded. “Thanks. It’s not as nice as yours, I’m sure.”

How rich was this woman?

Sehun glowered at Kai’s hand that was on the small of Lora’s back, grinding his teeth, as Kai ushered her toward the dining room.

Kai’s eyes flitted to Sehun for a fleeting moment, and Sehun’s knees almost buckled. He looked so handsome. God, Sehun had never hated himself for being just an errand boy and a servant’s son as much as he did in that moment. Not to mention a non-shifter, worthless to a shifter Alpha except to beget him little half-bred pups.

As Kai walked past him, he reached a hand out and brushed his fingers against Sehun’s.

Sehun gawked at him, eyes ballooned, face paling. The brief touch left a terrible ache in his heart. Why was Kai doing this? This constant teasing and mocking. How cold was his heart that he took pleasure from Sehun’s longing for him?

After a moment, he quietly followed Kai and Lora into the dining room. His mother waved him and Nadia over to help her with the bowls and plates.

“Where are your boys?” Lora asked, taking her seat in the chair Kai had pulled out for her.

Sitting himself down, Kai said, “They are watching TV upstairs.”

“TV?”

“I played them The Jungle Book. Wine?”

Lora chuckled. “Yes, please. You’re so sweet.” She made sheep eyes at Kai while he poured her a glass of wine.

Sehun could not watch this. Putting the platters down on the table, he quickly excused himself and hurried away from there. If Kai wanted to hurt him, he had finally done it. And that too while Sehun was on his heat.

He headed upstairs to the nursery. He found the babies sitting in their cribs, leering at the TV between the rails.

They jumped simultaneously on their bums when they saw the cartoon wolves in the TV. Sehun had never seen The Jungle Book. Actually, he had not seen many things. He did not own a TV.

He sat himself down on the floor between the cribs and enveloped his arms around his legs.

Oowu!” Archer cooed excitedly, noticing Sehun. Wynter sucked harder on his pacifier, sticking an arm out through the gaps between the rails to grab Sehun.

Sehun smiled and gave the baby his hand. This was bad. He should not be here. Kai was right. At the end of the day, the babies were the ones who were going to get hurt because of this intimacy.

They sat there together and watched the rest of the animated movie. The babies would occasionally howl or make some other noises or clap their hands. They curled up in a corner of the cribs and shivered whenever the villainous tiger showed up. He was terrifying indeed. He even gave Sehun the creeps.

When the movie finally ended, Sehun turned the TV off and turned to leave the nursery half-heartedly. If he could, he would have stayed here with the pups forever. But he did not want Kai to find him in here once his lady friend had left.

He went back downstairs to check if Lora was still there. She was. In the drawing room with Kai. As much as Sehun wanted to pry, he knew it would only hurt him more. So, he retreated to the kitchen instead, looking for his mother’s solace.

“Mom?” he called when he found his mother leaning against the kitchen island with her arms crossed over her chest and eyebrows drawn together. “What’s wrong?”

She exhaled heavily, shoulders slumped. “I am not a big fan of that woman.”

Sehun was surprised to hear that. His mother was never one to explicitly express her hate for someone. But Sehun was pleased to hear it all the same. “Why?”

“She is incredibly pretentious. God, I hope she would not become the Master’s wife. I cannot imagine serving that lady every single day.”

Sehun scratched the back of his head. “Do you think… Kai would… marry her?”

“I don’t know. It would be good if Kai took a mate. But what do I know about kids these days?” She sighed.

Sehun looked away, gnawing at his lip. “Mom, there’s… something I need to tell you.”

His mother stopped and turned to him with a curious look. “What is it?”

Sehun gulped and carded his fingers through his hair. He was not sure if it would be right to tell his mother everything. But he could not suffer in silence anymore. He needed to reach out to someone, or else Kai was going to kill him.

“I think… I’m in love with Kai.”

His mother said nothing for minutes, her ashen complexion depicted her horror all too well.

“No. I know… I am in love with him,” Sehun corrected himself. He tried to swallow the sob that was rising in his throat. “I have liked him since I was a kid. But don’t worry. He doesn’t like me back. I’m just an errand boy.”

When his mother finally spoke, she sounded miserable. “That’s… rough, sweetheart.” She smiled at him sadly and wrapped her arms around him. Sehun nuzzled into the crook of her neck and fought back the tears that threatened to fall from his eyes. “But I knew that. I always have.”

Sehun pulled back and blinked at her. “You did?”

“No one would look anyone the way you had been looking at him since you were ten years old without love in their heart, my darling.” She stroked his hair gently. “I know. And I know it is hard on you. But you cannot force someone to love you back. Sometimes, the best favour you can do for yourself is… try and move on.”

Sehun nodded his head. “I am going to try.” It made no sense to pine for a man who was in love with someone else. Kai would take Lora for a mate. Maybe she would even love the pups. Sehun would be just be an unwanted wedge. “For real this time.”

Perhaps this was just the nudge he had needed.

Pulling away from his mother’s embrace, he grabbed his jacket. “I need some air. I’m going for a walk.”

“It’s late, Sehun,” his mother said.

“I can’t stay put, Mom,” he replied pitifully. “It’s… hurting me.”

His mother did not try and stop him again as he wended his way out through the backdoor. The night was darker and colder than he had expected it to be. But the cold was just what his burning body had needed. So, he did not mind it much as he trudged over the damp loam and started for the woods.

 

 

C H A P T E R   F I V E

 

 

Goddammit

He was lost.

He had spent all his life in this area and yet somehow, he managed to get lost in the woods again. Well, he could not really be blamed. He seldom left the manor to roam around these woods. He was not a shifter, so he lacked the wolf’s instincts to navigate through the woods. And the darkness of the night did not help one bit. He was starting to get cold and even more miserable than he had been when he left the manor.

It must be midnight already. Sehun cursed himself for having wandered too deep into the forest that he had lost sight of the manor and the road. It took him at least another hour before he finally found the road that led back to the manor. Sighing in relief, he started for home.

However, he jerked to a stop when he saw a man walking down the road, clad in a leather jacket. Sehun had seen him somewhere, but he could not quite remember where. He was definitely from around here, though. He was older and bigger. A shifter. Had an ugly scar on his face. Probably from a fight.

And he caught a whiff of Sehun’s scent before he raised his head and looked for the scared Omega in the dark. A sinister grin formed on his lips when he spotted Sehun, who was staring at him, wondering how to get past him so that he could run back to the manor.

“Well, well, well,” the Alpha chimed as he started toward Sehun. “Are you lost, little birdie?”

Sehun swallowed hard and glanced around him. He could turn back to the forest, but he doubted that he could outrun a wolf in the woods. So, he tried to appear brave.

“I’m just getting back home,” he said and began to walk again. As he walked past the shifter, his arm was caught in a brutal grip. Gasping lightly, he looked up at the other man in horror. “Unhand me, please.”

The shifter smirked cockily at him. “And if I do not?”

Sehun stared at him, blood draining from his face.

“What a pretty little babe,” he hummed, leaning down toward Sehun’s face. “In heat.”

Sehun flinched back and scowled. “I-I will kick you, Mister.”

The man laughed. “Kick me all you want. I like that shit. So, shall we take it to my place?”

“You’ve got the wrong idea,” Sehun groaned and tried to yank his arm free from the man’s grip. “I don’t ever want to mate with sleazy old assholes like you.”

The shifter took offence then. His grip on Sehun’s arm tightened painfully. Sehun whimpered in discomfort. “Watch your mouth, pretty birdie. I might do some horrid things to it.”

Sehun quickly snapped his mouth shut and glared harder at the man. Why did he ever leave the manor tonight!

“I think I’ve hit the jackpot,” scoffed the man.

Sehun wondered if he could cry for help. Maybe he could knee the bastard in the crotch and make a run for it. Or did that only work in movies?

And then he heard tiny, squeaky howls echoing into the night. His breath caught, and blood pulsed in his temples. He looked past the shifter’s shoulder and gawked at the wolf pups, so white against the dark backdrop of the night like small puffy clouds. They looked angry and determined as they charged forward, as steadily as their little paws could take them. They howled and barked and growled as they rushed toward Sehun.

What on earth were they doing out at this hour?!

The shifter released Sehun’s arm and turned to the pups that were charging at him. “The hell is this?” he muttered.

As soon as the pups reached them, the shifter snorted and bent down to pick one of them up by the scruff. Sehun gasped and lunged at the man, snarling viciously.

“Let him go!” he yapped. The pup had gone quiet as the man held it up and chuckled at its face.

“I’m going to eat you for breakfast tomorrow!” the shifter scoffed. The pup whined weakly then. The other pup pounced on one of the man’s legs, attacking it, biting it as hard as it could. The man almost kicked at it, but it leaped back cleverly.

“Wynter,” Sehun heard Kai’s voice then. “That’s enough.”

The pup turned around and galloped over to its father, who was walking toward Sehun and the shifter with his hands in the pockets of his coat.

“Put my son down before I seriously hurt you, Terry,” Kai said in a menacing growl.

The man stared at Kai for a long minute before he lowered the pup back to the ground. The pup, Archer, let out a weak bark at the man before he too ran back to his father.

Sehun hugged his arms around his quaking body.

“Kai,” said the other man. “I didn’t know they were your pups.”

“You better not have,” Kai said, stopping before the shifter. “But maybe you did not know this is also my territory.”

“Your territory? It’s your father’s.”

“He’s dead. So, now this piece of land is mine. I would strongly advise to not to touch what’s mine ever again.” He looked at Sehun then.

Sehun’s blood ran cold in that moment.

The shifter glanced to Sehun anxiously. “Oh. Sorry. I had no idea,” he told Kai with a nervous laughter. “I’ll consider myself warned.”

With that, the man strode off. The pups finally stopped growling and sat down on the dirt while they waited for their father to take them home.

Sehun turned to Kai, who was scowling at him. “What?” he said, scowling back. “I was doing just fine without you coming to my rescue.” He shoved past Kai and marched toward the house with his hands fisted. The pups jumped back onto the paws and followed Sehun home.

“You could have gotten hurt,” Kai said from behind.

Sehun did not look back at him. “What do you care?” he spat through his clenched teeth.

They said nothing more as they walked back to the manor. As soon as they were inside, Monty fixed Sehun with a disappointed lour. “It is not wise for you to be wandering around at night,” he said.

“You don’t have to tell me what to do, okay?” Sehun knew he was lashing out, but he could not hold the frustration in anymore.

When he looked back, Kai was collecting the naked babies from the floor and handing them over to Monty. “See to it that they are bathed and put to bed,” he told the old man.

Sehun was about to turn around and stomp away when Kai looked directly at him.

“And you,” he said. “I would like to have a word with you.”

“I have nothing to say to you,” Sehun said.

“Sehun,” Monty rasped.

Sehun clenched his fists tighter. Kai looked a little baffled and a little shocked. “I am asking you, Sehun,” he said nicely.

Sehun must have hit a nerve. Kai had never spoken to him so softly. He did not refuse a second time. Turning on his heel, he marched upstairs toward Kai’s bedroom.

“Master Kai,” Monty said. “I will be sure to reprimand the boy for his insolence. It isn’t like him to be so rude.”

“It’s all right,” Kai said and gave the man’s shoulder a pat before he started for the stairs.

Sehun reached the bedroom first. Facing the window, he stared into the night, huffing and panting furiously. He wanted to yell at Kai. He wanted to tell Kai to stop playing with him. It hurt. It hurt too much.

He heard the door close behind him.

Turning around, he faced Kai with a black look. “What did you want?” he asked exasperatedly. “Do you want me to debase myself again so that you could treat me like a plaything?”

Kai simply stared back at him without any readable expression in his face.

Sehun’s anger returned tenfold.

“Because that is what you are doing, aren’t you?” he spat at Kai. “You know darn well that I want you. That I’ve always wanted you. So, you touch me to ridicule me. To make a joke out of me! Because you know that it is all that I’ve ever wanted from you! So, go ahead! Use me as you wish. Make me the subject of your sickening entertainment. I’m just an errand boy after all. A stupid non-shifter! So, why would anyone care about how I feel? Do whatever you wish. Isn’t that what you want?!”

He paused to take a breath. Kai still was not reacting. Sehun wondered if any of this left any effect at all on the man. Probably not. Kai’s heart was as cold as ice. Why should he be affected by Sehun’s grief?

Sehun broke down then. He could not stop the tears that betrayed his eyes and streamed down his cheeks. “You are hurting me, Kai,” he mewled out, wiping his face with the sleeves of his jacket. “You have always hurt me. You hurt me when you ignored me as a kid. You hurt me when you treated me like I did not even exist. You hurt me when you left for good. And you’re still hurting me. Every single day.”

But how was it Kai’s fault that Sehun let himself be hurt like this? He was expecting too much. He was wanting too much. How could someone like him dream to be loved by someone like Kai?

He looked up at Kai again with tears blurring his vision. Then closing them, he hung his head. What was the point of all of this? Sehun was exhausted. His emotions were all over the place. His body was falling limp to a fatigue like no other.

And then Kai was crossing the room, closing the distance between them. His hands came up to the sides of Sehun’s face and raised it. The next thing Sehun knew, his lips were crushed under Kai’s.

Sehun’s entire body stopped functioning for a second as Kai’s lips pressed against his own. They were warm and soft, just the way Sehun had expected them to be when they were kissing him. All those years of wondering how a kiss would feel like, and it was finally happening. It was more than what Sehun had thought it would be. His stomach turned all warm and fuzzy, his blood stirred in his loins, his heart hammered hard against his chest. The scent of Kai’s skin filled his senses.

The kiss was a little more than chaste. When Kai pulled back just a few seconds later, Sehun found himself staggering forward, chasing after Kai’s lips. Kai did not kiss him again, though. He frowned into Sehun’s eyes, hands cupping Sehun’s cheeks tenderly.

“I can promise you,” Kai said in a low, breathy voice. “I am ridiculing no one when I’m touching you, Sehun.”

Sehun stared back at him breathlessly. His hands slowly rose to Kai’s chest to cling onto the man’s shirt. “You… kissed me,” he let out, close to tears.

“And I’m about to do it again,” Kai spat and leaned forward once more, smashing his mouth against Sehun’s. The kiss was rougher this time. Hungry. Desperate. And Sehun yielded with no conditions. He did not know what game Kai was playing with him now, but he could not think about that in that moment. Kai kissed him hard enough for Sehun to forget his own name.

A weak moan broke from Sehun’s throat when Kai caught his lower lip between his teeth and tugged at it gently before sucking it again. All that Sehun could do to not to fall to his knees was hold onto Kai’s shirt helplessly. Kai’s hands tilted his head to the side so that Kai could deepen the kiss. And God, did he do it so good…

His tongue slid into Sehun’s mouth and licked the roof of it. Sehun struggled to keep kissing Kai back. He was not sure if he were even doing it right. He had never been kissed before. Did all kisses feel this good, or was it just Kai’s?

His knees finally buckled, and he almost dropped to the floor. Kai’s arms came around him at once and held him up, his body heavily leaning against Kai’s.

Breaking the kiss all of a sudden, Sehun clutched at Kai’s shirt and shook his head. “Please… Don’t,” he begged in a whimper. “I don’t think… I can… take it.”

Kai’s frown deepened. “Sehun…” he let out. Seeing that Sehun could barely even stand straight anymore, he slipped one arm around Sehun’s back and the other around the back of his knees, he lifted Sehun up and bore him to the bed.

Sehun cried softly against Kai’s chest, a hand curled around the back of Kai’s neck. He felt like a child, who did not know how to handle with his overwhelming emotions.

As Kai laid him down on the bed, Sehun said, “I’m sorry.”

“No,” Kai sighed, sitting down next to Sehun. “I’m the one who should be sorry.”

Sehun closed his eyes momentarily. “Please… Don’t kiss me if you don’t want to see me break apart.” It would all be so much worse tomorrow. It always was.

“Sehun,” Kai exhaled sorrowfully. “I don’t want you to break apart. That is why I… try to stay away from you.”

Sehun opened his eyes and blinked at the tears before glancing to Kai. “What do you… mean?”

Kai rubbed his temples. “This could… never work. We are two different echelons of the same species.”

Sehun sat up then and hugged his arms around his legs. “I know that I am not someone shifters like you end up with. Especially you, who have all of this…and I… I have nothing.”

“You think I didn’t notice you?” he asked, raising a hand to cup Sehun’s cheek. “I always have. I always looked back when I walked away from you. You were the one person who liked me for who I was even without knowing much about me. I never gave you the chance to get close to me because I knew that it would hurt you in the end. Alphas like me… don’t end up with…”

“Me,” Sehun finished it for him. “People would talk. People would say that I whored myself onto you.” He leaned into Kai’s touch. “But I don’t care about that. Do you? Do you care about what the others would say if we mated? If I… were the one to give you pups?”

Kai clenched his eyes for a moment. “I do not. But…”

“You are worried that you would lose everything your father had earned over the years. The territories, the power, the allegiance of the other wolves.”

Kai sighed and retrieved his hand. “He never cared about what I wanted. I wanted to be free of these responsibilities. I went away because of that. But here I am again. He dragged me right back in.”

Sehun did not know how to console Kai. A moment ago, he had wanted to bite Kai’s head off. But now, he no longer knew what to think or believe. Kai seemed sincere in his words, though.

“Have you… once… wanted me the way I want you?” Sehun asked with a piteous look.

Kai did not answer for a long minute, causing Sehun a small heartache. But then he opened his eyes and looked at Sehun with an earnest gaze. “You have no idea.”

Sehun looked back at him like a kicked pup.

“Holding myself back around you the last couple of days was been the hardest thing I had ever done,” Kai admitted. Sehun’s heart fluttered at that. Oh, dear lord. Was this really happening? Was he hearing everything right? “We cannot do this, Sehun. I cannot do this. I am unable to promise myself to you. And that is why you could get terribly hurt in the end.”

“What if I say that I trust you to not to hurt me?” Sehun said.

“How could you possibly know that I won’t?” Kai growled at him now. “You are being naïve again. You are very reckless. You do everything in your power to test my limits, Sehun.”

Sehun had seen those limits being put to the test. Kai had easily given them up the instant he had seen Sehun on his bed the other night.

The thing was, he understood Kai’s point. He knew very well that Omegas should not trust Alphas to keep them as a mate for life. In the end, most Alphas went for other Alphas and had heirs with them. But knowing that Kai felt the same for Sehun, he could not just give it all up like that.

He rose to his knees and shifted on the bed, straddling Kai. Planting his knees into the mattress on either side of Kai, Sehun held onto the man’s shoulders and pressed their foreheads together, eyes shut close.

“I love you, Kai,” he conceded. “I have for a very long time. You cannot tell me now that you had wanted to be with me too and expect me to just walk away from you. I cannot do that. I would rather get hurt in the end than hurt for the rest of my life.”

“Sehun,” Kai panted, almost pleadingly. “Don’t do this. You’re… killing me.”

“I want you,” Sehun breathed against Kai’s lips. “I want you to hold me, take me. I want to be yours. I want to mate with you. I want to be there for you. I want to be there for your two pups. I want to carry your—”

“Please, stop,” Kai snarled now, his hands flying up to Sehun’s waist. Sehun nearly winced at the harsh grip. Kai was not pushing him away. Instead, he was pulling Sehun close. A growl rumbled in his chest as he told Sehun to stop this at once.

“I love you,” Sehun whimpered again. “Please, don’t push me away.”

Kai was not like the other Alphas. Sehun was willing to trust him. Or maybe he was just being too naïve like Kai had said.

Holding onto the sides of Sehun’s waist, Kai lifted him from his lap and slammed Sehun down on the bed before mounting him. He slid between Sehun’s legs and ferally crashed his mouth against a side of Sehun’s neck to kiss it.

“Ah… Kai,” Sehun moaned, arching into Kai’s body as Kai bruised his neck with rough kisses and gentle bites. He buried his fingers in Kai’s hair and thrust his hips up onto Kai’s. The contact immediately had Kai groaning against Sehun’s neck.

“I might not stop if I start, Sehun,” Kai hissed, a hand grabbed Sehun’s hip to shove it back down commandingly. He wanted Sehun to obey him.

“Do you really think that I would ask you to stop?” Sehun let out, gasping for breath as he slid his hand down Kai’s back. “Who was the woman, then?”

Kai stopped kissing Sehun’s neck and raised his head. “What?”

“Lora,” Sehun muttered, cheeks crimsoning with heat. “The woman who came by tonight.”

Much to Sehun’s surprise, Kai smirked. “You are such a jealous little thing.”

Sehun blinked, jaw falling slack. “I… W-Well…”

“She is only a good friend of mine,” Kai said.

“What? Really?”

Kai licked his smiling lips and bowed his head once more to press another kiss to Sehun’s throat. Sehun tilted his head back into the mattress, baring his neck to Kai. He wanted Kai to bite it hard enough that it would leave a permanent scar behind.

But Kai only kissed him. So tenderly as though he wanted to savour the taste and heat of Sehun’s skin. Then there was a knock on the door.

Kai raised his head and clenched his jaw tightly. “What?!” he growled at whoever that was standing on the other side of the door.

“Master Kai, it is only me,” said Monty.

Grumbling under his breath, Kai pulled away from Sehun.

Sehun had half the mind to draw Kai back in. This could not be happening right when all of his dreams were about to come true. Bloody Monty.

Sehun sat up and straightened his clothes while Kai unlocked the door and prised it open with more force than necessary.

“What is it?” he asked annoyedly.

“I was looking for… Sehun,” the man said. “If you are done talking.”

“No, we’re not,” Kai spat.

Sehun cleared his throat and rose from the bed. “What is it, Monty?” he asked, approaching the door.

The old man looked in his way and grimaced. “Come with me, will you? I would like to have a word with you. I think you have troubled the master enough for one night.” He turned to Kai again. “Unless you have something else to do with the errand boy, Sir.”

Kai’s expression instantly turned to something bitter. He looked at Sehun almost guiltily. “Perhaps you should go now.”

Sehun’s heart sank. “Are you… sure?”

Kai held the door open for Sehun. “Good night.”

With a disappointed frown, Sehun stepped out of the room and followed Monty downstairs. The older man said nothing until they were alone in the servants’ quarters, out of everyone else’s earshot.

“I know what you are up to, boy,” the man said.

It had been a very long night, and Sehun was not ready to hear a lecture. “Then you would know well to keep your nose out my business, Monty.”

“Mind your tone,” he spat at Sehun then. “You think your actions have no consequences? Master Kai’s pedigree is of a great breed. But he has already brought home two nameless bastards. I will not let his first heir to be borne by another filthy non-shifting bastard. I made a promise to his father that I would do everything in my power to serve his great lineage. I will not serve a man who lays with the likes of you and sires children from that filth.”

Sehun’s entire body numbed and turned cold. He had never heard Monty speak so harshly. Not to him, not to anyone. The words were so hurtful because they were true.

“If you think you and your mother can finally worm your way into richness and power by mating with Master Kai,” Monty then added with a lockjaw. “think again. I will not let it happen for as long as I am breathing.”

Sehun sniffled and wiped away the tear that trickled down his cheek. “I am not a filth,” he said in a whisper. “He… likes me. I just found out that he likes me.”

“He would like any Omega as easy and desperate as you,” he hissed at Sehun. “He would bed you and give you a pup or two. And when he realizes that he needs a true-bred heir to carry his bloodline, he would toss you aside. Is that what you want?”

Sehun could not stop the tears that stung his eyes repeatedly. “That is not true. He likes me. He would not… toss me aside.”

Monty scoffed at him then. “I know that you tried to get close to those kids first to get closer to Master Kai.”

Sehun blinked at him, horrified. “No, I did not.”

“Perhaps it is time that you left, boy. The longer you stay, the harder you will make it on yourself.”

Sehun wiped his face once more and squared his shoulders. “I am not going anywhere, Monty. You are wrong. You are wrong about me. You are wrong about Kai.”

He did not stay back to hear anything more as he hurried to his own room, where he spent the rest of the night crying over the fact that someone had called him filth.

* * *

 Kai was not in his bedroom when Sehun checked the next morning. He must have gone for a morning run. Feeling a little disappointed, Sehun headed into the nursery.

He needed to know where he and Kai stood after last night. What if Kai had changed his mind again? Sehun did not know how he would deal with it if he had.

The babies were awake when he walked into the room. They were watching the birds until Sehun diverted their attention.

He felt a little bolder than he usually did as he approached the babies. Archer and Wynter quickly put their arms up to be lifted.

Sehun smiled to himself as he picked Archer up first and settled him on the floor before he turned to Wynter. He then joined the babies on the floor to play with them. They had a lot of toys. Archer’s favourite was the piglet of course.

“Do you want the piglet?” Sehun asked, grabbing the toy. “You like the Mr. Piglet, don’t you?”

Archer giggled excitedly and clapped his hands together.

“His name is Porkchops.”

Sehun turned his head around with a start and looked at Kai, who was standing by the door, leaning against the doorframe with his arms crossed over his chest. The grey T-shirt he was wearing was soaked with sweat.

“Oh,” Sehun let out, handing the plushie over to Archer. “Porkchops.”

Pokkie! Pokkie!” Archer squealed, hugging the piglet to his chest.

Sehun rose back to his full height and faced Kai shyly. “Kai, what we talked about last night—”

“I meant every word,” said Kai, shutting the nursery door behind him as he walked toward Sehun. “I cannot promise you myself, Sehun. I can be steadfast, but there are just… too many things I can’t sacrifice right now. Especially if it meant the safety of my children.”

Sehun bowed his head. “I understand. But I had also meant what I had said. I would rather… get hurt in the end than hurt forever.”

Kai exhaled heavily with a faint smile. “I’m going to try not to hurt you.”

“I don’t ever want to be a burden for you,” Sehun said. “This is my choice. I am not your responsibility. Whatever happens, I can face it myself.”

Kai looked away for a moment. “You don’t think I’m going to put a pup in your hands and turn my back on you the way your father did to your mother?”

Sehun blushed. He could not believe that Kai was talking about having a pup with him when they had just shared their first kiss. Well, they had already done way more before that.

“You love them, don’t you?” Sehun asked, smiling down at the babies. “I have faith in you, Kai. All that I need to know is that… you want me.”

Kai licked his lips. For moments, he said nothing. Then as he started for his bedroom, he raised a hand to Sehun’s waist and caressed it gently. “Why don’t you put the babies back in their cribs and join me in the shower?”

Sehun’s eyes almost popped out of their sockets. “Why don’t we… start with a date?”

Kai laughed. “All right. A date it is. Tonight.” He leaned in and brushed a kiss to Sehun’s cheeks before he wandered into his bedroom.

Sehun dropped back on the floor and focused on his breathing for a moment. He could not stop grinning like an idiot. He knew things might be rocky in the future, but he decided to enjoy the moment he had in his hands right this instant.

He then looked to baby Archer who crawled over to him and climbed into his lap for a seat. Wynter screamed at his brother then, hurriedly crawling over to yank Archer away from Sehun to reclaim his seat on the lap.

Sehun scooped them both up into his arms and seated them on his lap. He wished that he could hold them forever.