Winter Wars

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When I open my eyes, I can still see Jayson’s bloodied body. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone so badly beaten.

When everyone came back to Westmoor, I couldn’t have been happier—at first. I had paced all night trying to figure out how I should go about apologizing. The words ‘I’ and ‘am’ and ‘sorry’ have all but disappeared from my vocabulary unless the word ‘not’ is somewhere in the sentence.

It wasn’t like it I was pissed off because of Ethan—even though he had pissed me off. I wasn’t even really that angry. I was scared. At the table when I spoke the man (who resembled a tusk-less walrus more than a man), it didn’t feel like it was me speaking. I was too calm, too collected. It scared me.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m never calm about fighting. I’d much rather get in someone’s face instead of being passive aggressive. That was more Trina’s thing.

I had almost figured out what I was going to say when a flurry of noise and movement sounded the stairs at sunrise. After peeking out my door and noticing all the injured people running around, I knew that we had been attacked. How I failed to hear it is beyond me.

I would have stayed to help patch up everyone else, but when I saw Ryner carrying Jayson inside, I knew he was the one who needed the most help.

When Ethan refused to let me help, I was so close to punching it’s not even funny. He, being my parents’ sole confidant, should know what I’ve done and am more than capable than helping. It was like he didn’t care if Jayson died. After lots of yelling on my end and frustrated noises on his, he let me help.

My respect for ER doctor grew one thousand fold after I was finished helping Jayson. Not getting much sleep last night, I passed out on a couch.

You’d think that after working so much I’d get a small break, but as soon as my eyes open, Greg, the person who helped convince Ethan I would be fine, is pulling me to my feet.

“Up and at ’em,” he says. “We have work to do.”

“Are there more injured people?” I wonder. I could have sworn someone was in here working up a storm.

“No,” he shakes his head. “Trina took care of the rest. It’s about five and we need you awake for the attack.”

“What good can I do if you’re all wolves?” I rub my eyes and yawn. Most people are just now waking up too. Looking around, I wonder how Trina managed to work. She’s all about sanitation being a nurse and whatnot. Tyler is stretched out on the floor, Marcus is sitting up on a couch with his head tilted back next to Ryner who’s laying down. So the guy is human. Trina is curled up with a blanket in front of the couch.

We start to wake everyone. Greg is polite and shakes them gentle; I shake them too, but with my foot—bending over is asking too much as soon as I wake up.

“I don’t think anyone should be fighting,” I say. “It just doesn’t seem like a good idea.”

“We haven’t much of a choice,” Greg shrugs. “Either we stay here and let Westmoor burn again, or do everything we can to defend it. No one would have it any other way.”

“I don’t suppose there a way I could get out there and fight.”

He chuckles. “As much as I would love for you to join us, Beta overrules. You’re not Alpha yet, so anything relayed by you is merely a suggestion at this point.”

“You know Ethan isn’t always right.”

“I am more than aware,” Greg assures me. “Rank is important, so right now, his word is law. Everyone has to listen to him. Everyone except you and your sister, of course.”

“I wouldn’t listen to him even if I wasn’t future Alpha.”

“Ah, but then you wouldn’t have much of a choice. As I said, his word is law. We haven’t a choice in listening.”

“Then what’s the point of free will if someone is just going to force you to do what he or she wants?”

Greg doesn’t answer.

It’s six o’clock when everyone is fully awake. It’s around the same time that Trina and I manage to take showers. I don’t sweat easily and I sure don’t smell that easily, but I had been in the same clothes for five days. Even if I was asleep for four of them, it’s still gross.

When I come back downstairs, Trina gives me a weird look. “What?”

She shakes her head. “Nothing. You just look… different.”

“I think what you mean to say is that I look like a girl.” While I take pride in not looking like a stereotypical girl, today I had to ditch my regular baggy clothes. But when you consider that they were burned to a crisp or with Sebastian, I don’t have much of a choice. Claire sent Tyler to Myra to get me clothes and she came back with jean shorts with the American flag patterned on the pockets, black combat boots, a grey tank top, and a sleeveless green jacket. Knowing Myra she’s banking on me being uncomfortable in these clothes.

Myra also supplied Trina with clothes, but hers are more conservative. Black skinny jeans, a white t-shirt, and black Converse.

“Hey, Trina—”

“Don’t worry about it,” she says. “Yesterday was stressful. I know why you snapped.”

“Damn,” I kick the ground with my boot. “And I had a good apology for you.”

She laughs. “Save it for another time.”

Knowing me, I don’t doubt that I’ll need it.

Ethan soon draws everyone’s attention towards him. “Tonight, there will be another attack. Everyone, injured or not, will be needed for this,” He turns towards me as if anticipating my question. “Trina and Marcy are still to stay under this roof.” He glares at me and I hold his stare. Dad said to try and stay on his good side, but he also knew that we would butt heads. How long will it be until Ethan stops treating me like a burden?

“Even the most wounded of us will be fighting once more.”

The hair on the back of my neck stands up straight and for once it’s not because of Sebastian. “You’re not gonna send Jayson back out are you?”

“Of course,” He speaks as though this is the most obvious thing in the world. “Why would he not?”

I open my mouth to speak but close it when no words come out. Most everyone had been far behind when Claire and Tyler carried in Jayson, almost no one saw how bloodied and battered he was. Tyler told me that there were more than just wolves at the fight. Women with superhuman speed and skill wielding silver weapons coated in wolfsbane.

A lesser wolf would be dead.

But Ethan would be fine sending his son, who couldn’t even keep his eyes open, out to fight again. He really doesn’t care if Jayson dies.

“Uh, Beta?” Tyler speaks up from somewhere on my left. “I, uh, I don’t know if you saw Jayson or not, but I did. Wounds like that can’t heal in a single day no matter how skilled the healer.”

A small smile plays on his lips. “Ah, yes, but we do have quite the doctor in our midst. She insisted on treating him herself.”

“You know damn well what the hell I meant,” I mutter. “Jayson’s in no better condition to fight than a newborn pup. He’s lucky to still be breathing.”

“And while he is breathing he shall be of service. We need as many people to fight as possible.”

“This isn’t smart. I’m no expert on strategy or war, but I know it’s best to retreat when you’re outnumbered.”

“That’s quite right,” Ethan says as if bored of the conversation. “You’re not an expert, so please, do us a favor and shut up.”

Before I can say anything more, Trina takes my hand. “Marcy, your hands.” I had been clenching my fists so hard I broke skin—and I hadn’t even noticed.

An unspoken curse still resting on my lips, I turn and walk out, everyone moving to avoid my toxic anger.

“Why are you mad at me?” Jayson asks. He stands in front of me. Looking decidedly better, but hurt all the same.

“I’m not mad at you,” I mutter.

“Could have fooled me. I’m gonna be fine.”

“Jayson, you are far from fine.”

He rolls his eyes. “By the time we leave I’ll be ready to fight.” On a whim, I gave him my crescent moon cloak and urged Trina to give Ryner hers. I don’t know why, but I felt like they would help them. They won’t be any good as wolves, but as humans, they’re more nimble and that could prove crucial in the upcoming fight.

Ethan had relented a bit and made Jayson part of the backup, but Ryner had to stay with him. I might have fought with the Beta, but there wasn’t anything I could do that would make him let Jayson sit out.

I poke his shoulder and he jerks in pain. “You. Are not. Fine,” I grind out. “If I had my way you wouldn’t even have to get up.”

“You shouldn’t intentionally hurt the injured,” He sits back on the couch he had recently vacated. “And why do you care so much?”

“Because aside from Trina you’re the only person who even begins to understand why I do what I do. Besides, you and Ryner are my only friends here. It would suck if you died.”

He frowns but doesn’t say anything. Ryner and Trina step in. “We need to leave. There are more warriors on their side. Most of them are occupied at the water’s edge, but a few, along with twenty wolves, have made it to Westmoor clearing.”

I stand up straight and shift my weight from foot to foot. “You can’t tell me you don’t need any more help. I want to help.”

“I am sorry, but the two of you need to stay here.”

“We can’t just sit around and do nothing,” Trina insists. “I’m not a fighter, but I want to help in any way I can. This is our home too.”

Ryner looks like he’s struggling to make a decision. “I do wish to ease your unrest, but I cannot allow you to join the fight.”

“Right, Beta’s orders. Can’t refuse.” I cross my arms. “Fine. Whatever. Go. Just try not to die.”

“Our daily lives consist of trying not to die,” Jayson shrugs. He and Ryner turn, heading out into the forest.

“This isn’t right,” Trina complains. “Neither of them have weapons.”

“I’m sure they can hold their own without, but yeah, this is far from right.” We sit on the couch leaning on each. “We have to get out there and do something.”

“How? Ethan posted guards at all the doors.”

“He didn’t lock the windows. When you’re used to sneaking out somewhere, finding exits is second nature,” I roll my shoulders. “When I become Alpha, Ethan won’t be my Beta.”

“I didn’t think you were so keen on taking on the responsibility.”

“I’m not,” I shake my head. “When I was with Sebastian, I was always with him. And that meant I saw everything that happened. No one could drop a pen without it going by him. I know what kind of stress having a host of people depend on you can be, but I know I can do this.

“I want to change the way things are done here. It’s barely been a few days, but I hate to see it. And while I’m not an expert, I know enough about warfare to know that we have to retreat if we want to survive.”

“What do you know about warfare?”

“Sebastian’s more entangled in this than you’d believe. He has money to spare, but he isn’t with the government. If taxes and money cuts and the tax deficits are high, he needs to pay his men more. And while he is generous in certain things, money sure as hell isn’t one of them.”

She turns to me and crosses her legs. “Who is he? You never answered me.”

“He’s… a hacker and owner of Brastas Inc.”

“What?” Brastas Inc. is mostly known for their manufacturing of computers and other technology innovations. They’re more infamously known for their shady busy partners and potential illegal dealings that no law force has ever been able to catch them on.

I put my hands up in surrender. “I swear I didn’t know anything. He just told me he was good with computers and you know I’m tech-tarded. I barely remember how to use my phone.”

“You don’t even remember you have a phone. How old is he anyway?”


“He’s ten years older than you? What the hell were you doing with him in the first place?”

“I met him at a movie theatre. You know how I like to watch movies by myself because you and everybody else talked through the whole thing. Well, yeah, he was there once and helped me out when some asshole spilled his soda on me. I didn’t think I’d see him again, but I did. I was usually with people… then…” My words grind to a halt as one more person invades my mind. “Damn it, damn it, damn it. Lacey,”

“Lacey, what about her?”

“Aside from you, she was the only person I ever really talked to. And it doesn’t take a genius to know Sebastian’s gonna target her soon.”

“He’s not gonna kill her, will he?”

“No,” I lie hoping against hope I’m even the tiniest bit right. “He’ll keep her alive, but right now, we need to focus on the task at hand. Can you hear it? They’ve been pushed to Westmoor clearing.”

“Right,” She and pulls me with her. “We need to get out there and help. We’re the only two who aren’t injured and even stand a chance.”

“Wait, are you sure you can do this?” Last time she was in a dangerous situation, she froze out of shock. While the circumstances are different now, I still worry. She’s not the fighter, I am.

She settles the question with a determined look. She wraps her hand around her necklace and I do the same. Two knives with an ivy design on the hilts appear in my hand. I can’t help but smile. The thorns were mom’s favorite part of the rose.

“I’m positive I can. You can’t be the only one defending, right?”

When Jayson brought me out here yesterday, I thought that it was the most tranquil place in all of Westmoor property. It’s as peaceful as it is calming. I didn’t think anything could break that atmosphere, but chaos has erupted on all sides Westmoor Clearing.

Small battles rage all around me. Although I had never seen Ethan as a wolf, I recognize him fighting two other wolves, biting and clawing and kicking. Donning our crescent moon cloaks, Jayson and Ryner wade through ten wolves with silver knives like hurricanes of destruction, kicking and punching their way to drive back the enemy. And somehow, between the two seconds I had turned away from her and now, Trina had disappeared from my side.

Gripping my knives, I dash through the fights, stopping only to defend myself. I scan for a white shirt in the center of black garbed fighters.

Before I make any leeway in finding Trina, something gleaming catches my eyes. Up in the trees, an archer sits and aims her arrows at Ryner and Jayson.

Just like so many years before, my body moves of its own accord and I rush to save them. Nothing makes the time go slower or more enemies get in your way than when people you care for being in danger.

I almost don’t make it in time.

I hear a swish as the arrows are release and time seems to slow down. There’s no time to warn them. If I don’t so something, they’ll die. I slide to a stop and turn, throwing my arms out. I watch as the two arrows slowly come towards me. Everything is silent. I can only hear my heart pounding as if trying to escape the impending danger. The sickening sound of skin ripping, muscle tearing, and bone cracking washes over me as the arrows pierce my chest taking everything in their path.

Everything is silent. I can only hear the pounding of my heart. Tha-Thump. Tha-Thump. Tha-Thu…

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