Waltz of the Lioness - Revised

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Scent of a Beast - Brock's POV

“Why in the hell can’t I scent her?” Frustration laced every word as his growls filled the air. Brock tore through the trees at the bottom of the ravine, breathing in deep trying to find any trace of his mate.

Though they had started at the road, Lara’s scent smothered any others that they might have found there. To him, Cora’s scent was a light, honey citrus scent...delicate and subtle, yet invigorating. It was familiar, reminding him of his childhood and an innocence of days long past.

Together, he and Alden had scoured the entire area above while others searched the area in the ravine. For each hour that passed, Brock’s frustration rose. Every patch of earth that had been unsettled, every pile of stones that had been disturbed, and every broken branch that had been discovered was looked over thoroughly. There wasn’t a pebble left uninspected. However, there was no path left behind to follow.

Brock had hoped desperately that they found a trail that would lead him to his mate, but each time he was left disappointed. Lara’s scent was too insistent in the area above to be ignored. It was as if Cora vanished into thin air...or at least found herself trapped in the pungent aroma that was so very unlike hers.

Finally, after a couple of hours following dead end after dead end above, they both moved to the search party below. Down here, there was not even a hint of a trail to follow...nothing but the wreckage of the car existed in this area as far as any of them could tell.

“Cora!” His tone, once strong and sure, had become almost pleading in it’s call. His dark eyes, now tawny gold, searched the area around them, peering into each and every dark crevice in hopes of finding something they might have missed.

Closing his eyes, he fervently to tap into that thread of a bond that had already developed between the two of them. As engrossed as he was in trying to follow that thread, he missed the footsteps of someone approaching. A tap on his shoulder startled him, causing him to spin on his heels and grab the man. The man’s shirt twisted in his clutches as he pulled him near with a quickness of his lion and with a snarl on his lips.

A small tremble coursed through Alden’s body. “Sire?”

Brock’s grip loosened as realization dawned. The man in his hands was a good man...loyal, and dependable. Every fiber of him knew that, even if rational thought was fleeting at best. He was known among his people to be fair and just, easy natured and loved by those in his kingdom and beyond. However, there was no denying that he was also known to be deadly if one crossed him or his pride.

Now, with the uncertainty of his mate’s whereabouts, an even more vicious side that he had never known was brought to the surface. A reckless abandon brought on by a singular desperation to find Cora. Brock gritted his teeth, his frustration making the muscles in his jaw tense.

Brock fully released the man from his grasp before stepping back. Running a tanned hand through his unruly dark hair, he dragged in a few deep, calming breaths. With each breath, he let it linger at the back of his throat in hopes that some hint of his mate’s flavor might tickle his senses. Only, each time he felt himself wanting to wretch, instead. Lara’s scent managed to slither its way around the ravine as much as it lingered above, the toxic vinegar scorching through his nostrils.

“Thank you for assisting, Alden. I didn’t mean to startle you.” Brock sighed, bringing his fingers to the bridge of his nose to squeeze the pressure point there.

Alden bowed his head towards Brock. “It is I who should apologize to you. I am afraid I was the one who startled you first.”

Brock let the last few hours plague him, each dead end tormenting him for his failure to find that which he sought. “I just can’t figure out why I can’t get a read on her? No scent, no nothing. Each time I think there is a hint of something, it vanishes before I can follow it up.” Brock let his eyes close once more in an effort to tamp down the intense sensation welling inside him, attempting to find solace in the tether that connected him to Cora. “The only thing keeping me sane is knowing she’s alive.” Alden raised a brow at Brock’s use of the word sane, but quickly let it fall from his features. “This whole damned place smells like Lara,” Brock thundered, the anger boiling over in his veins.

The calming breaths did not have the desired effect. His face twisted with distaste as he slammed a fist into the nearest tree trunk. Bark splintered off and flew several feet in all directions upon impact. Brock’s breathing was ragged, his chest rising and falling rapidly.

“I don’t think...I mean,” Alden started tentatively, his mouth hesitant to utter his next few words. Brock let his lion’s eyes scan the area once again, hoping he missed something while only part of his awareness remained with the chauffeur. “Well, maybe it is not an accident that this whole place smells like Lara...” Alden let his voice trail off and took a step away from Brock. Brock believed that to be a wise move, given the circumstances and his erratic behavior.

Every muscle in his body tensed, the words sinking into the forefront of his mind little by little. While his brain still processed the meaning, his mouth spilled forth with the question it was trying to answer. “What do you mean?” He spoke low, a modicum of threat, disgust, and fear weaving into each syllable.

“It’s just...too strong. She wouldn’t be able to mask your mate’s scent unless...well, unless she was marking her territory, in heat, or...”

Brock’s whole body tensed as he clenched his fists into tight balls at his side. Each muscle rippled as waves of power flowed from him. Through a rigid jaw, he finished Alden’s thought. “Or she is hiding her from me.”

The trill of his phone pierced through the trees. Barely containing his emotions, he pressed the screen and roared into the phone. “This better be good!”

The voice stuttered and stumbled over itself on the other end. “Uh, Sire...we cannot find the lady’s...umm, your mate’s phone number. There is not one listed...on the...the registry...when they applied to relocate to our pride, sire.”

Brock’s grip tightened on the device that was relatively small in comparison to his hand. The small sounds of stress cracks drifted in the air. “And just how is that helpful in finding my mate?” The frustration bled to anger, though he knew it was not this man’s fault.

“Well, I...I can give you the address that they used to register,” the man offered meekly through the line.

Brock’s mood shifted slightly. This was something he could use...something he could act on. “Give it to me,” he commanded, then offered a please to soften his tone. The man gave him the address as he and Alden made their way back up to the top of the ravine. “Wait! Repeat that to me one more time.” When the man repeated the address, Brock halted his steps and frowned. “Are you sure?”

“Yes, sire. I cross checked with other sources to...to confirm it.”

“That doesn’t make sense.” His frown deepened. “That area was granted to wolf shifters.”

“Yes, sire. Umm...it says here that-” There was a pause on the line. “Ah, yes. There it is,” he muttered more to himself than to Brock. “It says here that Cora Conner is the adopted daughter of Anton and Darcy Conner. It seems that they defected from Malcolm Kingly’s pride...nearly twenty years ago.”

Brock blanched, growing silent on his end of the phone. When his mouth opened, he was afraid to know the answer. “Who signed the papers?”

“Oh, well that would be...let me see...” Brock knew the answer. He felt his lion shifting in his chest restlessly as he waited as patient as he could for the answer. “Looks like Lara Kingly signed off on the adoption.”

Brock let out a huge roar that echoed into the forest surrounding them. No longer was it a coincidence. Lara’s involvement with his mate extended much further than he had first thought. But, how much further?

Ending the call, he wheeled to face Alden. “When was the last time the team checked in with coordinates?”

Alden had been keeping tabs on Lara’s whereabouts by having the team that followed her check in with coordinates. His phone had pinged nearly every half hour with an update at the beginning. Brock struggled to recall the last time he heard the ping from Alden’s phone. Time had gotten away from them both, and Brock feared the worst.

Alden snatched his phone from his back pocket, awareness causing his features to pull over his eyes in concern. Sliding his finger across the screen, Brock stood helpless as he watched him fidget with the phone. The longer he looked at his phone, the more his features paled in concern.

“Sire, I haven’t received an update in over an hour and a half,” he brought his gaze up to meet Brock’s, his eyes creased deeply at the corners as he winced at the revelation.

“What were the last coordinates?” His tone was abrupt, the sensation that his time was running out creeping over him.

Alden looked back down at his phone. His eyes closed tightly before he answered, “The wolf reservation.”

Brock swung around and stormed the rest of the way up the incline, tearing through brush and trees as he went. The waiting car was brought to life using the key fob just moments before he threw the fob to Alden. Alden was close on his heels and snatched the fob from the air with a deep frown on his face.

Brock started relieving himself of his clothes as Alden stood by, watching helplessly. “Where are we heading, sire?” He made sure there was no mistaken the we in his sentence. He intended on going. Alden looked every bit ready to follow him into whatever fray fell before them.

Brock cast a quick glance sideways, ready to tell him that he was free to go back to the castle. The look of determination on Alden’s face made him rethink his words. “We are going to get my mate, and my cub.”

Alden’s mouth thinned, the mention of the king’s cub giving him an even more determined look. He gave a quick nod of his head before he took his cell phone out and punched in a few numbers.

Brock was nearly disrobed as he shoved the length of his pants down strong, muscular thighs down to his well sculpted feet. He threw his clothes through the car window, ready to shift as he heard Alden speaking. “Yeah, Donna! I think you and the others need to set up. Block off all roads heading in and out of the pack lands,” he glanced at Brock before adding, “and get another team out to the wolf reservation.” Brock had a new respect for the man before him. “Our King’s mate and cub are in trouble.” The squeal on the other end of the line was audible, even without his lion’s hearing. Alden pulled the phone away from his ear briefly. “I know. We will get them back,” he let his eyes linger on Brock’s face before continuing. “I promise you that.” It was a solemn promise, one he gave directly to Brock.

Brock’s chest filled with warmth at the dedication and loyalty of this man. He bowed his head towards Alden as he spoke from his heart when he replied, “thank you.” He let his shift come on quickly, and darted toward the reservation.

His lion would be able to traverse the land quicker, using more stealth than driving. In his lion form, he could also sense her more clearly. She was alive, but the connection between them was saturated with pain, uncertainty, and more than both of those, anger.

A fire was brewing in his Queen’s belly, and he could feel pride sweeping through him as his lion weaved swiftly and gracefully through the trees. She was a force to be reckoned with, but could she tap into it before he arrived?

One thing was certain. Lara would pay for her deception, and the price would be hefty.

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