I collapsed in the chair next to the bed where Zephaniel was sleeping after surgery. It had been a long day, and all I wanted to do was take a shower and go to bed. The door opened, and Snake rushed in. “Viv,” he said as he cupped my face in his hands. “I love you.” We kissed for a bit, when he pulled back he pulled a chair over next to me. “How is he doing?”
“He’s fine,” I said. “You should have seen Meghan today. She was a huge help in the surgery, and she was damn good in the field. I had her cut into a man and remove bullet fragments on the side of the road, and she’s not even thirteen years old yet!”
“I know, I was talking to his friends downstairs. Trauma surgery by phone, they said she was cool as the back side of the pillow.”
I nodded as I thought about her. “She’s a natural, she’s going to be a far better doctor than I am when her training is done.”
There was a knock on the door and I told Gabriel to come in, I had heard him talking with Meghan outside. “Your junior doctor said he was going to be fine,” he said as he walked over to stand at the foot of the bed.
“He is, he should wake up in an hour or so,” I told him. “Can you sit with him for a little bit? I have to see how my baby is doing.”
“Of course.” We got up he took the chair. “Keep him calm if he wakes and get him to shift if you can.” I took Snake’s hand as he led me downstairs. We came out into the main bar area, where Meghan was holding court. Moose and Teri were proud as could be as their precocious daughter told the story of her evening.
I rushed over to Teri, who handed me a sleeping Eve. “She’s fine,” she said. “Ate a bottle an hour ago, has been changed, went to sleep fifteen minutes ago. I saved you the easy part.” I laughed as I held her in my arms and kissed her forehead, this was the longest we had been apart, and it wasn’t easy for me.
“Any problems with her?”
“Nothing a mom of three couldn’t handle with a little help from the Baby Whisperer there,” she said as she rolled her eyes. “I can’t calm her, I hand her to Meghan and she’s fine.”
“She did good today, I’m so proud of her.”
“Me too. If she hadn’t yelled when she did, Zephaniel would be dead. It threw the shot off just enough. Of course, if someone had told me they were friendly that would have been a big help.”
“I’m sorry, Ma’am.” I looked up, a tall and strong looking young man was standing there, his head down respectfully. “We were under orders to protect you, but when we heard about the men coming to take the Blessed One, we got a little overprotective of your daughter.” I looked at him, wondering who he was. “I’m sorry, Ma’am. My name is Maalik, I’m one of the warriors. I was at the farm with Zephaniel and Uriel over there.” He pointed to another tall, muscled man. I swear, these guys looked like the Chippendales had come to town, there were enough six-packs in the room to open a liquor store. One of the prospects handed us bottles of Leinenkugel’s.
“I’m Doctor Vivian,” I said. “What were you doing at the farm?”
“Marking the territory and patrolling to make sure no other wolves approached,” he said. “We didn’t see any signs. Mrs. Teri saw us when we had to cross the driveway and couldn’t stay in the ditches.”
I started to think about what had been said, something was bugging me. “Wait… how long have you guys known about me and Eve?”
“We’ve been here for five weeks, Blessed One.”
Five weeks. Wait. “FIVE WEEKS? And what was this Blessed One name, it’s driving me nuts.”
He looked upstairs. “Our Alpha wants to be the one who explains everyone, Doctor. As for the name, that is how you were made known to us, that you were the Blessed One who had birthed the Promised One.”
I shook my head. “I delivered her and helped her live, her mother was like a sister to me. She died during the C-section.” I still was angry at myself that I didn’t save them both, but I had been over it over and over, I had to choose and only Eve had a chance. “She was a wonderful person, she was mated to a good man who died at the Sheridan Pack trying to get blood for her.”
“Yes, how did you know his name.” Snake, Viper and the others were all quiet, Carson had been one of us and we hadn’t heard anything since he went to the Pack.
“Zephaniel joined us two months ago, shortly after it happened. Apparently, the Alpha figured that needing blood meant there was a healer or doctor behind it. Carson’s name was recognized by Alpha Stanton’s mate, Denise; they used to be in the same Pack.”
“DENISE? Beta Denise?” Oh Luna…
“Yes, her mate was finally killed and that made her the next mate for Alpha Stanton, he wanted her bloodlines, thought a Beta might survive where the other Lunas hadn’t. Anyway, Denise figured out you might still be alive, that’s why they tried to do the trade.”
“They beat the shit out of him, his mate felt it, it sent her into premature labor and we almost lost them both.” My gut flipped over as I thought about that day. “How did he die?”
“The Luna thought she could get the information out of him, because they used to be in the same Pack. She went in alone, and he strangled her with his leg chains. When the Beta and his men burst in, she was dead, they tore him apart as he hung there in revenge.”
The whole place was quiet. Finally, Viper stood and raised his beer. “To Carson, a fine man and wolf to the very end.”
“TO CARSON!” We all took a drink. I couldn’t help it, tears were flowing as I looked down at their daughter, swearing that she would have a better life than this.
“Zephaniel was in that Pack?” Snake was trying to figure it all out.
“Yes, he was a warrior. His younger sister, Lisandra… she just reached puberty, and the Alpha took her as his next Luna. Zephaniel couldn’t stop it, they beat him when he tried to see the Alpha. He ran, and eventually he found us.” Maalik shook his head. “Mating girls at thirteen. Sending warriors to force mate a Doctor. It makes me sick.”
I couldn’t help it, I moved forward and pulled Maalik into a hug. When I let him go, he was beaming as he looked down at a sleeping Eve. “May I?”
“Sure,” I said as I passed her over to him. “Do you have children?”
“My mate miscarried once before this started, then died in the first wave of the curse,” he said. “I left my Pack, went a little crazy. If Gabriel hadn’t found me, I’d be dead by now.”
Gabriel came down the stairs and went right to Viper; I looked at him and gestured to the room, he told me Michael was watching him. Viper walked to the center, his whistle immediately quieted the room. “All right, it’s story time. Gabriel, the floor is yours.”
He sat on a barstool in the center of the room, everyone gathered around. “My name used to be Alpha Benjamin Pearson, of the Bitterroot Pack. We weren’t a big pack, there were 43 of us, and that first year we lost four women, including my Beta Female. We didn’t have a Pack Doctor, and the one we used was killed after he couldn’t save a woman. The next year, my mate and I decided that no matter what, we wouldn’t get pregnant, it was just too risky.” He took a drink of beer. “I had her locked in a room, it was horrible. She suffered, I suffered, she begged me to relieve her and I couldn’t. Then my wolf shoved my human part aside, I opened the door and she got pregnant.”
I felt horrible for him. “It was a death sentence, we both knew it, but our wolves didn’t care. At twenty weeks, she started a fever, and six hours later she and my son were gone. I killed her, it broke me. I shifted and ran into the mountains, I went completely feral. Two years I wandered the mountains alone, until one spring night I was walking along a cliff. I laid at the edge, my eyes watching the stars and the rising moon, and I heard a voice. It was a voice unlike any other, and it came from inside my head, not from outside. She told me to shift, and my wolf complied immediately. I stood up, turned around, and immediately dropped to my knees when I saw her. She was beautiful, ethereal, covered with the barest of silk, her long hair shining in the moonlight.”
“You saw our Goddess,” I whispered.
“Yes. I was impertinent enough to ask her the question that had haunted me since this started. Why. Why were our mates being taken from us in such a way, our babies killed, before they had a chance at life. Her answer shook me to the core.” He took another drink. “She said it was because she cursed us to this fate. She made it happen, our own Goddess poured out her wrath on the wombs of our women, the cruelest of all possible judgments. She used our own wolves to ensure our punishment.”
I couldn’t believe it. “Why? Why curse her own creation? What have we done?”
“I asked the same thing. She told me how she created us to be social, she created mates to ensure Packs would develop bonds and ensure genetic diversity. Instead of waiting, instead of traveling to new Packs and creating ties of friendship, instead of honoring the mates she gave us, we became selfish, impatient and aggressive. We took what we wanted, when we wanted it. Choice mates became the norm, Packs went to war with each other, and she had enough of it.”
My mind was reeling, and in a way, I was relieved. I had never been able to figure out how it could be so widespread when it first appeared, unlike how epidemics behaved. I didn’t see how I couldn’t stop it or save anyone, and now I knew why. It never was me.
Snake pulled me in, he could sense how I was feeling. “So how do we remove the curse?”
“We can’t, not just yet. Every female who goes into heat with her mate will get pregnant, and every pregnant female will die. Eventually, there will be only one woman left, our Promised One. She holds the fate of our entire race in her hands. If she finds and mates her destined mate, the curse will be broken. If not… if she dies, if she is force or choice mated, if she never finds him, it’s all over. We die out, slowly and alone.”
“Wait, how do I fit into this?”
“You are the Blessed One, the mother of the Last Shewolf. Luna told me that you were in danger, that you would need protection, that your daughter would need it even more. She asked me if I was willing to do this. I swore a vow to my Goddess that I would protect you, and her, with my life.”
“And all of us have taken that same vow,” Uriel said as he stood up behind his President. “We have forsaken mates, Packs and all previous bonds to become your personal guard. It is our honor to protect you.”
I looked around, every member of the Knights of the Moon had dropped to a knee, fist over their heart, bowing their head to me. “Rise, please… I’m not someone to be worshipped. I’m a person, just like you.”
They all stood, and Maalik turned to me, handing me my Eve back. “You don’t understand your own importance, Doctor Hardigan. You are the mother of the Last Shewolf, you are the most important person in our world until she comes of age.”
I looked down at my baby, the realization hitting me. “I’m just the second-to-last shewolf,” I said to myself. “I’m doomed as well.”