Winter Wars

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I swear to Jebus Marcy can be so thick sometimes. It’s like she thinks the people around her don’t care enough to worry. When she showed us that tattoo, I was downright murderous. I wanted to strangle her for never mentioning it and Sebastian for doing that to her. I know she’s an independent person and still isn’t used to having people to depend on, but a little confirmation that she thinks of me as more than a background prop would be nice.

Ryner keeps telling me that, in time, she’ll come around, she’ll start talking to us about the more important things. I have more patience than a dead man, but I can’t keep letting her walk over me or Ryner or Jayson and not do anything about it.

Then there’s the fact that she went off with William like everything is just fine. Like she doesn’t have something more important to do like fix her relationship with Jayson.

I was so pissed on the way to Marcus and Tyler, I don’t even notice that we’ve stopped in front of a gun range. Great idea. I can picture shooting Sebastian for what he did to her. Maybe that’ll relieve stress. And at least I won’t hurt anybody else in the process.

Ryner and Jayson stay far back when I have the gun in my hands. When the person next to me comments about girls not being able to handle guns, I have to thank mom for her amazing self-control that I’ve inherited. If not I wouldn’t have given a second thought to shooting him in the foot. Instead, I settle for knowing I can shoot a smiley face into the target sheet without concentrating.

I shoot until my fingers are stiff and all the clips are gone. Ryner and Jayson leave me alone the entire time.

Ready to call it quits on today, I let them take me to the hotel where I shower and sleep through the night.

Waking up, I know right away there’s someone else in bed with me. Soft snores float from the pillow next to mine. Freaking out occurs to me, but I know who it is. The other full-sized bed is empty, still made and ready to be used. Instead of the nice and spacious bed one over, Marcy chose to crawl in bed with me. It doesn’t take a genius to know that this is her way of apologizing to me. And if I wasn’t such a softy it wouldn’t work. But I am, so I can help but notice how much she looks like a little kid. All innocent and tired. But I know first-hand why she’s so tired and that she is far from innocent.

I lay next to her in the state between waking and sleeping, until there’s pounding on our door. Marcy’s eyes fly open and adjust to the dim light.

Tossing the covers back, I pull on my pants (who wears pants to sleep?) and look through the peephole. Glancing at the clock and opening the door, I wonder what type of internal clock Ryner has. He’s completely dressed and wide awake at eight in the morning. This has been the latest I’m allowed to sleep in a while, but going back to bed seems like an awesome idea.

“Jayson was taken,” he says as soon as I open the door.

And suddenly Marcy is there next to me. The second before, she was in bed, half asleep. The mattress didn’t so much as a squeak, the sheets so much as rustle.

“Where? Why?” she asks. She ignores that she’s not wearing pants (I guess it runs in the family) and glares at Ryner as though that’ll produce all the answers she needs.

He pushes past us and starts pacing. Marcy starts to zoom around the room gathering clothes. “He was taken as a challenge to your position. He is… he is important to you and so he was taken. The other Alphas do not believe in your strength.”

Marcy opens the door and we file out. She’s quiet. Most would take this as contemplative silence, but this is Marcy. She only ever gets quiet when she’s too angry to speak. I could only hope her anger didn’t blind her ability to think.

Ryner insists we change into our respective combat outfits. Despite his worry (though he’s doing a good job of keeping it under control) common sense is still number one with him. Marcy, it seems, is ready to take on an army in her forest green shirt, red camouflage cargo pants, and bandanna. (It’s amazing how quickly it became part of her everyday wear). However, after I say, “It’d be easier to fight if you were dressed for it” then she and I changed in the back of the SUV. My groggy brain hadn’t registered it, but Ryner is already dressed for combat.

An assortment of weapons is already stocked in the truck, and if Ryner didn’t already know where we were going, he’d have crashed with Marcy’s butt being the only thing in his rear view mirror. She pulls out two swords, five knives, three daggers, a longbow, a sheath of arrows, and a mace. After further contemplation, the mace, three of the knives, and one dagger are tossed back into the trunk. I take the daggers, the bow, and the arrows. Marcy straps on the knives to her thighs and held the sword in her lap, clenching and unclenching her fists. I can only hope the Alphas know how dangerous she can be.

Naturally the fight is taking place in a forest. Marcy and Ryner are on edge; she twirls her knives/necklace, her keeps his hand firmly on his sword hilt.

My body reacts to the attack before my mind can even register it. At first, I feel massive shame. My first reaction is to jump. I land on a tree branch with inhuman grace; it barely quivers. But, surprising myself, it’s not to flee, but to get better leverage. And, I find, it feels much better to be on the business end of a longbow.

Somehow, someway, my melatonin-induced mind snaps into focus and I realize exactly why I’m here. While my sniping from the trees helps the odds—two to one ratio, myself excluded—I’m not much help in the ways of fighting and my Alpha and Beta can handle themselves. No, I’m not here to fight. I have to find Jayson.

I jump from tree branch to tree branch sniffing and listening for any signs of him. This is especially hard because we’re in a forest and Jayson always smells like a forest. But maybe… I switch my target (which is as weird as it sounds) from natural forest-y smells to the ocean. Jayson hung around the forest surrounding Westmoor and that was surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean which is full of salty, salty water.

The scent of salt is faint on the wind, but I hold onto that. Deeper and deeper I run and the less I’m sure it’s even Jayson I’m tracking. Finally, I see him. He’s chained to a tree, his feet not touching the earth. His head sags against his chest.

I lean against the tree, scanning, all of my senses working overtime. No one is close to us, but these are Alphas we’re dealing with. Over a century of battle experience and trickery between them all. I take my chances and jump, bow at ready. No one attacks. No traps are triggered.

“Those cocky bastards,” I mutter walking to Jayson. They were so sure there was no way we’d get past them on the initial attack there isn’t even backup. Bad Guy mistake number one.

“Jayson,” I say. “Jayson.”

There’s a sharp intake of breath before he lifts his head. Oh, Jebus, I’m so glad Marcy isn’t the one to go ahead. He’s been beaten again, but I can tell he’s in the process of healing. Maybe it looks worse than it actually is. Maybe all the blood is from wounds that have healed. I hold onto that notion as I circle the chains even though his ribs groan under the pressure.

I give the chain an experimental tug. Marcy was hurt by silver, but she had been shot in the chest twice by arrows. That would have hurt anyone.

The chains are uncomfortable at first, but the feeling quickly becomes intense, almost burning my hands. Okay. Not doing that again. The sword at my hip hits my shin and an idea pops into my head. I am really slow today.

Unsheathing the sword, its initial weight takes me by surprise. It’s heavier than I would have thought. I lift it above my head and with all the force I can manage, bring it down on the chains. They snap audibly and he falls to the ground with a grunt.

And then, because my heart can take it, the fight comes to us, but, I am happy to say, ends quickly.

Marcy stands with her sword to the throat of an older man. Maybe mid-forties. His red eyes blaze with anger. Three other Alphas stand around them, shifting their weight, waiting for Marcy’s verdict.

Leaving Jayson to Claire (who appeared out of nowhere with Marcus, Tyler, and Ethan), I stand on Marcy’s left side and Ryner takes her right.

“What reason have you for attacking one of mine?” Marcy asks.

The Alpha stares back at her. “You cannot harm me,” he sneers. “It is not within thine nature.” Marcy sets her size seven foot on his chest—it’s amazing that he groans because she’s so small and it doesn’t look like she’s putting down any pressure.

“You mock me.” These three words are monosyllabic, simple, but she inherited her most powerful trait from dad—her voice. Powerful and authoritative her words send the other Alphas to their knees. Marcus and Tyler drop to their knees, but of their own free will. Ethan, being the jackass he is, remains standing. Claire keeps tending to Jayson, who, now that the silver chains aren’t near him anymore, looks decidedly better.

Lifting her sword over her head, she starts to bring it down between his eyes. I bite my tongue and refrain from making my terrified expression too obvious. Aside from the fact that I can’t challenge her authority, especially now, I’m scared. Not of the men stronger, faster, and smarter than me, but of Marcy. Her eyes have turned the color of blood. Yesterday, when Marcy had left, I asked Ryner why some of the Alpha’s eyes were like that.

“Eyes such as that are born from murder,” he said. “Those Alphas killed for their position.”

But Marcy would never hurt mom and dad. She was wasn’t even at the scene of the crime. She was… she was… marked. Marked by Sebastian who killed our parents and that, by extension, means Marcy killed mom and dad. A twisted and warped way to look at it, but true all the same. Marking is an informal marriage amongst werewolves. What’s theirs is yours and what’s your is theirs—and that includes murder and misdeeds.

“Have mercy,” the man mutters. The tip of the blade stops millimeters away from his head. My stance relaxes a bit.

“You ask for my mercy?” she murmurs. “Tell me, would you grant mercy upon the ratfink who dares to try your strength and harm your Pack?” Under normal circumstances, her speech would be funny. She speaks archaically like the older men—almost as if she’s mocking them. But her tone, her words, her everything makes it seem as natural as breathing. “I have no mercy for you.” Her sword presses against the base of his throat.

And, I can’t tell you grateful I am for werewolf speed, Jayson sets his hand on her arm. I can almost guarantee that anyone else would be short one hand. With the possible exception of me and Ryner.

No words are exchanged, but sometimes it isn’t necessary. Although, I suppose there’s no polite way to say, “You shouldn’t kill him no matter how much of a jackass he is because later you’ll beat yourself up about it and no one wants to deal with your pity party and foul temper.”

“Perhaps there is mercy in me,” she says sheathing her sword. “Next time you cross me, though, I will have your head.” She promises. The scariest part is, no one doubts her.

As soon as the sword disappears, so do the Alphas. They beat feet back to wherever they came from and I could not have been happier.

Fainting is something I seem to do a lot after dangerous situation, but I fight the lightheaded feeling and focus on Marcy. The sword, thankfully sheathed, is on the ground from her dropping it. Marcy sways on her feet as she looks at her hands.

“I almost killed him,” she mumbles. “I almost killed him.”

“You reacted as any Alpha would, having her Pack threatened.” Ethan says smoothly, gliding over to us. The lightheaded feeling comes back and Ryner places a steadying hand on my elbow to keep me from falling.

“I don’t want to be that Alpha,” Marcy snaps. “I don’t want to kill anyone no matter how much a dickwad they are.” Oh, wow. Haven’t heard that in a while. She must be super-pissed if she’s bringing genitals into it. “I’m not—”

“—even the Alpha?” Ethan raises his eyebrows. “I beg to differ. The moment you came to protect your Pack member, the moment you referred to him as one of your own, you became Alpha. And it is not truly up to you, what kind of Alpha you want to be. It is part of your heritage, in your blood. Your hand will be forced more than once in the future. A time may come to pass when you won’t be able to fight your impulses. Jayson won’t always be there to stop you.”

And just like that, with the mention of Jayson, everything else seems to fly out the figurative window. She turns and stalks toward him. Surprisingly, Jayson seem more irritated with the situation than anything else. He sizes up Marcy as she comes to a stop in front of him. “Thank you,” she says. “For stopping me.”

He shrugs. “You wouldn’t have been able to live with yourself.”

“You almost died,”

“But I didn’t,”

“That’s not the point.” I don’t know who to feel for: pity for Marcy because she’s really trying and Jayson isn’t giving her a chance, or angry for Jayson because it took him almost dying for her to realize her mistake. I glance at Ryner who’s watching with a puzzled expression. What he’s confused about is beyond me. It seems pretty black and white to me.

“I’m sorry, Jayson,” Marcy says. “I know it’s not enough nor will it ever be, but it’s all I can offer for right now…” She trails and looks to the ground. “Feel however you want to feel, but know that I’m sorry. Not that I don’t care, I just…” she trails off again, kicks the ground, and mutters, “Screw it.” Marcy pulls him into a bone crushing hug. Jayson is so surprised, he forgets that he’s angry and hugs her back.

Ryner just looks more confused than ever. I’ll have to ask him about that.

When Marcy pulls away and is standing on her feet (being half a foot shorter, she stood on her toes to hug him), she looks calmer. Which is good because I’ve had it up to my tits with her attitude. Knowing, she’ll find a way to make it up to us.

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