“Better to fail at doing the right thing than to succeed at doing the wrong thing.”
I was finishing up my patrol with Brian, trying to think up of an excuse to leave him to meet up with Anna. I wasn’t far from our arranged meeting spot, maybe a five-minute walk at most, but Brian seemed reluctant to leave my side, making me wonder if he was worried about my safety or if someone told him to keep an eye on me. If it was the latter, I didn’t know how I’d convince him to leave me be, especially with the Lawmans breathing down our necks.
We trotted at a steady pace when I stopped, catching a whiff of a familiar scent coming downwind. Brian appeared to smell it too. I wasn’t worried about smelling Anna. What made my anxiety spike was the fact that Callie’s scent was mixed in with Anna’s. Sharing a look with Brian, we made the mutual decision to check on the girls, just to be safe.
I tried to keep my heart steady. Still, every potential bad scenario ran through my mind, making it impossible. If my packmate heard my heartbeat, he said nothing about it.
We were only about two minutes out when I heard someone scream bloody murder. Without thinking, I sprinted as fast as I could to the neutral territory. Brian barely managed to keep up, falling behind as we went up the hill but catching up when we crested over it.
Shifting, I glanced around to see where Anna and Callie were. My eyes landed on my fiancée, standing over a motionless body. Shouting Anna’s name, my feet moved on their own accord. Sometime during my way over to her, I shifted back into a wolf before thundering into Callie, slamming her so hard, she flew five feet away. Brian skidded to a halt, landing between his sister and me, ready to take her on.
“Callie, what the hell is going on?!” Brian demanded while I placed two fingers on Anna’s neck. Despite being faint, a pule was there, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
“Dom?” Anna whispered weakly.
“Hey, it’s going to be okay,” I said gently, cupping her scratched up cheek. “I’m going to get you back to your family.”
“You too, huh?” Callie said. I turned around to see her pushing herself up off the ground, swaying slightly while she brushed dirt off of her. “What is it about the twins always making my fiancé fall in love with them?”
Anna laughed, then whimpered in pain. “As… if.”
“Callie, I will deal with you later. Right now, I’m going to get Anna back to the Laroche compound. Brian, get her home.”
“Dude, the Laroches will kill you when they see her in that state,” he protested.
“No, they won’t. I’m bringing her back as a peace offering. Besides, Callie’s scent is on her too. If I don’t do this, the Laroches will start a war, which is exactly what we’re trying to avoid here. If I die, I die, but I don’t think I will. Now go. I’ve got this.”
Grudgingly, Brian listened to me, grabbing hold of Callie’s hand and dragging her away.
“What happened?” I asked, lacing my fingers with Anna’s.
“She’s drunk and wanted to take me away from Elsa… like Elsa took Spencer away from her,” Anna wheezed out.
“Christ…” I muttered. “I’m so sorry. I’m going to lift you up, but it’s going to hurt. Will you be okay?”
“If I want to live, I have to be. Let’s get this over with.”
“I apologize in advance for any pain I cause. Trust me, I’m not meaning to.” With that said, I scooped Anna into my arms. She let out a strangled cry, and I kissed her on the head. The action seemed to take her aback.
“What was that for?” she asked, blue eyes boring into mine.
“A distraction?” I replied. To be honest, I don’t know why I did it. Maybe it was because I thought it’d bring her some comfort, or perhaps because Callie had been right. Whatever the Laroche twins were made of caused me and my brother to fall madly in love with them. I hadn’t entirely understood what made Spencer drop everything for Elsa, but I was starting to.
It terrified me.
“Oh… it was nice,” Anna murmured, tilting her head into my chest and closing her eyes. She didn’t move after that.
“Dom!” Lily exclaimed. My sister came sliding into step beside me, eyes wide in horror at Anna’s state. Breathlessly, she said, “Callie did this?”
“Yeah. I’m taking Anna to her parents. I can’t let her die. I’ll explain what happened and if I risk my life for her, then so be it.”
“I’m coming with you.”
“If they decide to kill me-”
“Then you’re not dying alone,” Lily retorted. “I’ve lost one brother. I’m not losing another one if I can help it.”
“Hopefully, no one dies at all.”
I slowed down as we came to a steep slope. The last thing I wanted to do was trip with Anna in my arms. Lily went in front, instructing me where to step. We made it down with only a couple of hairy moments, but my heart nearly jumped out of my chest each time. Anna didn’t wake up once, and I could hear her heartbeat slowing down. If we didn’t get her to her family soon, she might not make it through the night.
“I smell patrols,” Lily warned, lifting her nose up to the sky. “We’re downwind of them, though. They shouldn’t smell us as long as the wind doesn’t change. If we hurry, we shouldn’t be caught.”
“Yeah, speak for yourself. You try hurrying while carrying an unconscious person,” I grunted, gripping Anna tighter. Her blood covered my hands, making it more and more challenging to hold her. We needed to get her home soon because I wasn’t sure how much longer I could carry her. Thankfully, the Laroche compound could be seen from where we stood.
Motivated by the sight, I picked up my pace, going as fast as I dared. Lily stayed ahead of me, warning me about any troublesome spots. Incredibly, we made it to the Laroches unscathed. Lily pounded furiously on their door until a sleepy and disheveled Caleb opened it. It took a moment for him to process the sight before him, but the moment he did, he shouted frantically for his parents and siblings.
Ren, Arya, Hunter, and Ember stampeded down the stairs as Caleb moved aside to let me and Lily enter. I carefully maneuvered Anna through the house to avoid knocking her head onto something.
“Caleb, grab the sheet from the closet and place it on the couch. Hunter, go grab bandages. Ember, get the alcohol and pain relief ointment. Ren, take her from Dom. He’s about to lose his grip on her,” Arya ordered. The Laroches obeyed without hesitation, rushing around to gather the supplies.
“What can we do to help?” Lily asked as Ren took Anna from me.
"You can tell me exactly what the hell happened to my daughter, and you-” Arya pointed at me- “can go clean up in the bathroom before we interrogate you.”
I nodded and tried to move, but my feet wouldn’t budge, and my eyes couldn’t tear themselves away from Anna’s lifeless form. Noticing my lack of movement, Arya said, “Ren, you take care of Anna. I’ll be right back.”
“Where are you going?” he demanded. “Our daughter-”
“I know,” she interrupted curtly. Arya nodded her head towards me, and her husband nodded. Turning to me, she said gently, “Dom, come with me. Lily, stay here and help with whatever my family needs you to.”
Placing a firm hand on my back, Arya encouraged me forward. I couldn’t do anything but listen. She led me to a bathroom around the corner and shut the door. I panicked, wondering what she was about to do to me now that no one could see us.
“Relax, I’m not going to do anything except clean you up. You’re covered in Anna’s blood,” Arya said, handing me a damp towel. “Here, wipe your face.”
I took it from her and did as instructed, watching her as she moved about the bathroom, gathering more towels, a plastic bag, and… a shirt?
“Once we get all this blood off you, I’ll give you some privacy to change. You can put your dirty clothes in this bag. I don’t want you here any longer than you need to be.”
“Because you hate us that much?” I blurted.
Her hazel eyes bore into me, and her voice was barely audible as she said, “No, actually. I don’t hate you at all. I may be an Alpha, but I’m also a mother. You saved Anna’s life, and that’s more important to me than anything. I’ve already lost two members of my pack in the last few months. I don’t plan on losing any more.”
“Barry and Frank?”
“Anna told you?”
“I found her in the neutral territory a little while ago. She was crying. I thought it might have something to do with Elsa, so I asked her.”
Arya took the bloody towel from me. “Has she said anything about her?”
“Only that she can’t reach Elsa. She said it’s like something’s blocking her.” I saw a tic in the Laroche Alpha’s jaw. “Is it the Controllers?”
“That’s my suspicion, but I’m not going to ask. They’ll know why if I do. I have to protect my daughters.”
My anger flared. “But Elsa’s a traitor to you. Your husband nearly killed my brother over what happened. You can’t tell me you care about her well-being.”
“I do care,” she hissed harshly, causing me to step back. Reigning in her temper, Arya added, “Ren attacking Spencer was all for show. We had to let our packs believe we were against it, no matter how much we didn’t want to do it. I’m not saying Ren wasn’t furious, he was, but I don’t believe it was towards Spencer. It’s towards this whole situation. Besides, if Ren wanted your brother dead, he’d be dead.”
I shuffled on my feet, processing her words. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Laroche. For everything.”
“As am I. I wish it didn’t have to be like this. I’m just worried about Anna. I fear she’s going to go after Elsa.”
“She won’t be alone if she does.” The words were out of my mouth before I could stop them. Arya Laroche froze, her calculating eyes searching mine.
“She would need to come up with a good cover, like buying a fake ticket to somewhere far away from her destination.” Arya opened the bathroom door and said, “We need you to stay here until Anna wakes up. We need to confirm what you told us is true.”
“I understand,” I said, not minding in the least. It’d allow me to make sure Anna was okay, and it’d allow me to possibly discover more about their Controllers.
I waited for Arya to shut the door before taking off my bloody clothes. I scrubbed my body to rid it of Anna’s blood and scent, the stench making me nauseous. Now I understood how Elsa felt when she found Spencer that night…
Once clean, I threw on the fresh clothes and entered the Laroche living room. I found Lily in the corner, speaking to Caleb. I let them be as it didn’t seem to be heated. Settling into a chair and under the watchful eye of the Laroches, I waited for Anna to wake up.
One hour passed, then two, then three. Soon, the first sign of daybreak peered over the mountains, and I began to wonder if I’d reached her too late. My heart constricted at the thought.
As I prepared for the worst, I watched as Anna bolted up, screaming, “Elsa!”