“She is full of wounds, riddled with scars, but she is still standing, and she is still beautiful.”
Tossing my duffel bag over my shoulder, I crept noiselessly through the house. Poking my head out the door, I checked to make sure the coast was clear of any patrols. Loren and Melinda were out tonight, but after checking the patrol schedule and route, I figured they’d be on the opposite side of the territory right now, too far to stop me.
I stepped outside and quietly shut the front door. Listening for any sounds, all I heard was Noah’s quiet music floating from his open window along with his and Ember’s voices. However, his room didn’t face my direction, so I decided it was safe to move.
Slinking out into the courtyard, I stuck to the shadows, allowing them to be my cover. A few times, I halted after hearing a twig snap. However, the only thing I heard was the thundering of my own heart, so I continued on my way.
After five heart-stopping moments when I thought I’d been caught, I made it to the bottom of the hill. Dom leaned against the hood of his SUV, surveying the surroundings. However, when he saw me, he leaped up, rushing over to grab my bag.
“How are you feeling?” Dom asked, placing a gentle hand on my arm.
“I’m okay,” I lied. Truthfully, my body ached from the trek down. Despite the concussion being mostly gone, the gashes in my legs and torso still hadn’t fully healed, and they were screaming in protest. I couldn’t wait to sit down. “Where are we going?”
“I don’t know yet, actually,” he admitted, scratching the back of his head. “I asked Spencer where he was, and he kept saying ‘pussytoes.’ Any ideas?”
“Isn’t there a flower named Rosy Pussytoes?” I suggested.
A revelation appeared to hit Dom as tipped his head back. “God, I’m such an idiot. I know where he is!”
“A place in Montana we scouted for a potential hotel. I decided against it, but Spencer loved it. He must’ve bought the place. It’s a day or two’s drive away.” Dom threw my duffel bag in the trunk. “What I want to know is how you knew that so quickly?”
I inadvertently grinned. “Elsa and I were looking up flowers for mom to plant in our garden and came across the name. Being the immature ten-year-olds we were, we thought ‘pussytoes’ was a hysterical name for a flower.”
“Not gonna lie, Spencer and I thought the same thing when the realtor told us the name of the flowers in the garden,” Dom said, breaking into the first full-fledged smile I’d ever seen him wear. Dom looked me up and down. “By the way, you know we’re heading to the wilderness, not to a club, right?”
I glanced down at my black skirt and loose-fitting sweatshirt. Despite the cold weather, my wolf blood kept me relatively warm. “Don’t get excited. It’s the only thing I had that didn’t hurt my legs.”
Dom sputtered. “I didn’t- that’s not- I’m not-”
I smirked at his flustered words. “Sure, you’re not.”
“My parents always warned me the Laroches were deadly. I thought they meant fighting capabilities.” Dom pointed a finger at me. “Your words are equally as deadly.”
“So are our looks.”
“Yes, they are,” Dom agreed, once more looking me up and down. For a moment, the two of us stood there, smiling like idiots at each other, when fear replaced his impish expression, his entire body tensing. “Anna…”
The direction of the wind shifted, and their scent hit me first. Slowly, I turned around, heart hammering in my chest as I faced down Caleb and Hunter, their teeth and fury bared. I raised my hands in a placating manner while I said, “Please, don’t attack. It’s not what it looks like.”
Hunter shifted first. “Then tell me what it is we’re looking at, because to us, it looks like you’re running off with the enemy.”
“I’m not running off with him. Not like Elsa did with Spencer. I’m going to find her because she’s in grave trouble.”
“What kind of trouble?” Caleb asked. Although rage filled his face, I could see the terror in his eyes. He and Elsa gravitated towards each other the moment she was born like I gravitated towards Hunter. If anyone was as worried as Spencer and me, it was Caleb.
“Enough trouble that Spencer called me when I was at your house earlier today,” Dom said. “I decided to help him and offered Anna the option of joining me. She agreed.”
“We don’t know where she is, only a vague idea of where Spencer is. We’re going to him, and from there, we’re going to find her,” I added, lowering my hands. “Please, whatever she’s going through, it’s enough to break whatever barrier has been blocking our communication. I can’t sit around and wait to find out if she’s okay.”
“I’ve bought fake tickets for me and Anna to show we’re flying to Russia to throw the Controllers and our parents off our scents long enough for us to get far away.”
I turned around in surprise. “Seriously?”
Dom shrugged. “You wouldn’t believe where I got the idea if I told you.”
“Huh.” I faced my brothers again, steeling myself for a potential fight. “I’m going with Dom to find Elsa. You can either let me go, or you’ll have a fight on your hands. I might be weakened, but I know you both well enough to find an upper hand if need be.”
I lied out of my ass with the last statement, but I needed to convince them to let me go. Elsa meant everything to me, and deep down, part of me knew she was on her way to check on my wellbeing when she was attacked. Guilt filled every atom inside of me whenever I thought about it.
“Do you need us to come with you?” Hunter asked.
“We will,” Caleb said, straightening.
“No, I need you two to stay here as my eyes and ears on the pack, so I know what they’re doing,” I told him.
“The only person in my pack who knows about me leaving is Lily because she asked the same thing you did, and I told her the same thing Anna just did. If you need to cooperate with each other, talk to her. Here.” Dom dug in his pocket and pulled out a business card. On the back, he wrote a number and handed it to Caleb. “Lilly’s phone number. You can tell her I gave it to you and what transpired tonight.”
“I’ll let Hunter call her. Lilly hates me,” Caleb remarked.
“I wouldn’t be so sure of that.” Dom’s mouth quirked upward ever so slightly, making me wonder what secret he knew about Lily.
“I’ll call when we get Elsa, but don’t contact me until then unless the Controllers are keeping tabs on our phones.”
“I don’t like you being with a Stark by yourself…” Hunter glowered at Dom. “You keep your hands off my sister, understand? I already lost one of the twins to your family. I don’t want to lose another.”
Dom’s temper flared. “I saved her life. You really think I’m going to let something happen to her?”
“I’m not talking about hurting her.”
“Okay!” I interrupted, my cheeks flaming. “We’re going to go before Loren and Melinda catch us. Both of you be safe. If any emergency comes up, call me. Otherwise-”
“Yeah, we know,” Hunter said, stepping forward and pulling me into a bear-hug. “Be careful, will you? I love you.”
“I love you too,” I responded. Caleb was next, whispering the same sentiments as Hunter. “I’ll let you know when I get Elsa, at least.”
“We’d appreciate it,” Caleb said, kissing the top of my head.
Dom opened the door for me, and I slid into the passenger seat. He got behind the wheel and tore away, leaving my brothers in the dust, headlights off to avoid being seen by anyone else.
I raised my eyebrows at him. “What’s the rush?”
“I want to make sure they don’t change their mind and raise the alarm,” he replied, checking the rearview mirror. “You sure you want to do this?”
“Yeah.” My voice was shaky. I’d made it this far already; I couldn’t turn back now.
“That sounded confident.”
“I’d offer my hand for you to hold, but I think Hunter might mind-kill me if I touch you.”
“He should’ve said to keep your eyes off me too. They’ve barely stayed on the road.”
Dom cleared his throat, switching on his headlights finally. “Sorry. You just… you look really pretty tonight.”
“Thank you?” I said, wondering how the hell I looked ‘pretty’ when my legs were torn to high heaven, bruises dotted my skin all over, and I had minimal makeup on, just enough to cover the bruises, the dark circles under my eyes, and the cuts.
“You don’t think you do?”
I voiced what ran through my head a mere second ago and added, “Plus, compared to you in your tight, white shirt, slicked-back hair, and your-” I cut myself off before I mentioned his snug jeans accentuating his muscular legs. “Yeah, I don’t feel so pretty right now.”
Dom hesitated, then offered his hand to me. I laced my fingers through his, taking comfort in him as we drove into the unknown on a mission to save my sister.