Back at the Marrok's, Thea slipped inside with the hope of avoiding Leah again. The problem was, she was hungry and she knew she had to eat or risk having problems with her wolf. She sighed and headed to the kitchen. Maybe she'd get lucky and Leah wouldn't be around.
Thea was in the middle of putting a couple of sandwiches together to take to her room with her when she heard footsteps. She knew even before she turned around that it was Leah. "Good afternoon," she said politely.
Leah wrinkled her nose at her. "I thought I smelled something unpleasant," she said and moved past her to get a drink.
Thea opened her mouth to say something rude but thought better of it. "I don't like this any more than you do. I didn't ask for my life to be completely changed by being attacked by a monster. I miss my house and my solitude. I'm sorry my presence is so disturbing to you," she said. She kept her chin up as she left the kitchen with her food. She didn't run downstairs to her room but she did walk faster than normal.
Once she was in her room she checked her phone, which she'd put on vibrate the night before without thinking that she might not hear when her father called, and discovered he'd left a message telling her he'd gotten home safe and sound and assumed she didn't answer because she was asleep. She felt bad about missing the call and dialed her parents' home. When the other end was picked up it wasn't either of her parents who answered, it was her brother Cyrus.
"Missing us already adelphi?" Cyrus said with a teasing note in his voice. "Or are you still feeling guilty about scaring mama and papa so much that papa hopped a red eye flight to the middle of nowhere Montana to check on you?" he added.
"A bit of both Cy, if I'm completely honest. Wait, why are you answering their phone?" she asked.
"Because papa decided that mama deserved a holiday and he's taken her to that little bed and breakfast in Hague they like to go to and I will be house sitting for them. How are you Thea? Papa said you were fine, but you know me, I have to hear it from the source."
Thea laughed softly. "Yes you do. I'm fine Cy. I'm healing. Being away from there, not having to worry about running into them, it helps."
"Damn, I was hoping to get to beat the hell out of that kotsiros," Cyrus growled and for a human it was a good growl.
Thea sighed. "Cy, he's not worth getting into trouble."
"Thea, we know what he did to you, there near the end. I'm not talking about the cheating. I wish you'd come to me, or to Helios or even to Petros. We would have gotten you away from him adelfi, we would have protected you."
She heard the hurt in his voice and it made her eyes fill with tears. "I know Cy. I was afraid, not of him because I'd already decided to file for divorce, but of what you, Helios, Petros, or papa would have done if I'd admitted he was hurting me. It would have broken my heart if one of you had ended up in jail over it."
"That's our Thea, always putting others first and trying to protect them. I won't promise not to beat his ass if he gives me a reason to but I won't go hunt him down in order to do it," he said.
"Good. That's all I can ask. Now, tell me, how are you? And how are things with Rachel? The last I'd heard you two were talking about moving in together." She had no clue that Rachel was a werewolf or that she'd gotten her Alpha's permission to tell him what she was because she wanted to convince him to try the change.
"I'm good. A little puzzled, but good. Things were great with Rachel. Then she got all weird on me and I thought she was dumping me but then she said she had something really important she had to talk to me about before we could move in together. I'll be seeing her in a little while. I'll tell her you asked about her."
"That sounds a bit ominous," Thea said with a frown. "You'll call me and let me know everything's alright, won't you? You know I'll worry if you don't Cy." She had a bad feeling but she wasn't sure why.
"Sure Thea, I'll call you later tonight. I'm gonna get off of here. You take care of you," Cyrus said and after she said bye they both hung up.
Thea sat there worrying about the conversation while she ate her sandwiches then tried to push the worry away. She was just overreacting after her own attack, she was sure all was well. To distract herself she called Sage to see if she wanted some company. Maybe she'd talk to Sage about it and get another perspective.
"I am always up for company," Sage replied. "Besides, it sounds like something is bothering you. Come on over and we'll talk."
Thea hung up and headed to Sage's house. She couldn't shake the bad feeling she had but she tried to convince herself it was nothing, just an overreaction to what her brother had said.
"Hey girl. Wow, you really look upset. What's going on Thea?" Sage asked once Thea got there.
"I don't know, It's probably nothing. I'm probably overreacting but..." She sighed softly. "Let me start at the beginning," she said and when Sage handed her a beer she laughed a little. "I look that bad huh?"
"You look like you could use it, yeah, even if the effects won't last long. Now, tell me what's got you so upset," Sage replied.
"Thanks," Thea said and tucked her feet under her when she sat on the couch. "I missed my papa's call last night after he got back to New York so I called the house a little while ago to apologize and my brother Cyrus answered because my parents are taking a holiday. When I asked him how things were between him and his girlfriend, because they've been talking about moving in together, I got a really bad feeling after something he said. He said she got really weird on him and then said there was something very important she had to talk to him about first. It's probably nothing but I can't shake the feeling I have that something's wrong."
Sage listened and thought about her response. "Over the years I have come to realize that more often than not our instincts are spot on. There may be some merit to your bad feeling I'm just not sure what to do about it."
"Therein lies my problem. It's not like I can just drive over to check on him," Thea said worriedly.
"You know what? Let me call Anna. We can run it by Charles and see what he thinks," Sage said and hit the speed dial button she had programmed on her phone for Anna's cell.
"Hey Sage, what's up?" Anna said as soon as she answered.
"Hey Anna, is Charles there? There's something I want to run by him to get his opinion on it."
"Um, yeah, hang on a sec," Anna replied. "Honey, Sage needs to talk to you," they heard her say in the background as she handed the phone to Charles. Being a werewolf meant there was no such thing as a private conversation unless you were completely alone with the other person.
"Sage, what's wrong?" Charles knew that was the only reason she'd be calling Anna's phone and asking to talk to him.
"Thea's here with me. She had an odd conversation with one of her brothers and has a bad feeling about something he said. Here, I'll let her explain," she said and handed Thea the phone.
Thea took a deep breath before she spoke. "I called to talk to my father but my brother Cyrus answered. We talked for a bit then I asked how things were with his girlfriend because they were talking about moving in together. He said she'd gotten all weird on him then said there was something important she needed to talk to him about first before they could do it and he's on his way to see her as we speak. I'm probably overreacting but... something feels off to me Charles," she confessed. "And no matter how hard I try to convince myself otherwise, I can't shake this feeling."
Charles was silent for several minutes. "Trust your instincts Thea. It sounds to me like she's hiding something from him, something that could negatively affect him or their relationship. I'm going to go talk to Da about this, see what he thinks. I want you to stay at Sage's until I get back to you." He could feel the pull of spirits, they were trying to get his attention. That alone told him that Thea's concern was very real.
Charles headed over to his father's house. This was a conversation that would be best done in person. He went straight to his father's study because he knew that was where Bran would be. It was where he always was.
"Charles. To what do I owe this visit?" Bran asked when his son entered without knocking.
Charles quickly explained the conversation he'd had with Thea. The clock was ticking and if something was wrong they might be running out of time to fix it.
"Hm. Thea is sure something was off about it?" Bran asked.
"She is. She thinks she may be overreacting but I don't think so."
"I'll make some calls to the Alpha in the Bronx, have him be on the look out for trouble. It's possible the girl is pack and her wolf has chosen him for her mate and she wants to tell him everything first. Or she could be fae." In their world, if something was off it was always of a supernatural cause.
Charles waited while his father tried several numbers. Every one of them went straight to voice mail and his unease grew with every unanswered call.
Bran was not amused by the fact that the Alpha as well as both his second and his third had their phones turned off. That in itself was suspicious. Since they weren't answering their phones he used his other means of contacting them, but instead of it being a request he made it an order. 'You are to call me, now.' There was no ignoring an order from the Marrok. Within seconds his phone rang. "Andrew, how good of you to return my call," Bran purred into the phone and there was a dangerous edge to his voice. "Care to explain why it is that you, your second, and your third are all unavailable at the same time?" he added.
Charles heard the gulp on the other end of the line and cocked a brow. Something was definitely going on there. He knew the Bronx pack wasn't very big, not yet, and they'd only been in the area for a few years, but if the Alpha was nervous it meant they were doing something they knew could bring the Marrok's justice down upon them in the way of his enforcer. He listened closely to see what the man had to say.
"My apologies Marrok. We are in the middle of pack business and didn't wish to be disturbed," Andrew replied.
"And what is this business, hmm?"
Again that gulp. "It's nothing to concern the Marrok, just a potential new pack member being... educated on what that would mean."
Bran and Charles shared a look. The man was lying, they could both tell. "Very well then, I will let you get back to it." At the same time he spoke to Charles in his head. 'You need to go immediately. If they are changing people without all of the rules being followed, you are to deal with them as you see fit. I fear our new wolf's brother may be in grave danger.' It was too great of a coincidence that Thea's brother's girlfriend had something 'really important' to tell him and the Alpha was lying. Bran didn't believe in coincidences.
"I'll head out right away," Charles replied. He would fly himself into a smaller airport then catch a commercial flight into New York City.
"Keep me informed. I will speak with Thea and if something has happened to her brother we will see that justice is served."
Charles went home first. He debated having Anna stay behind but her gifts as an Omega might come in handy, especially if the Bronx pack was forcing the change on those who didn't consent to it.
Sage tried to keep Thea distracted from her worry but when her phone rang she saw Thea jump. Sage was expecting it to be Charles so she frowned when she saw it was Bran. "Hello?"
"Sage, give Thea the phone."
When Sage held the phone out to her Thea took it and it felt like her heart was in her throat. "I'm here," she said quietly.
"I have sent Charles to New York, to the Bronx to be exact. There is a fairly small pack there that, oddly enough, has two female werewolves in it. I spoke with the Alpha and his remarks warrant an investigation. I feel that your unease may be reasonable. Tell me, what is the name of your brother's girlfriend?"
"Rachel Sinclair," Thea replied in a shaky voice.
"Andrew Sinclair is the Alpha of the Bronx pack and his daughter, who is also a wolf, is named Rachel. You need to prepare yourself for the possibility that they are going to try to change him without his informed consent and there is the possibility he may not survive."
Thea made a strangled sound and Sage took the phone from her. "I'll keep her here until you hear from Charles. I think she'd feel safer here without the tension that can come from Leah. That's not a slight on your mate, Marrok, but Leah doesn't like Thea and right now she doesn't need that strain too."
"Of course. I will call when I have something to tell you," Bran replied.
Sage hung up the phone and slipped an arm around Thea's shoulder. She didn't speak platitudes, she didn't tell her it was all going to be okay, because there was a chance it wouldn't and she wasn't going to lie to her friend. She just gave what comfort she could with her presence.
Anna fretted all the way to New York. Charles told her why they were going and she could only imagine how worried and scared Thea was at the moment. She knew if her own brother was in such danger she'd be frantic. "Maybe this Rachel, if she is a wolf, maybe she's chosen him for her mate and she's just going to tell him everything for his own safety," she suggested.
"If that were the case there would be no reason for her Alpha to lie. And he did lie Anna. Da and I both heard it in his voice. That's why he sent me to deal with it. If they force change Thea's brother and he survives we'll be able to calm him and then take him back with us."
"And if he doesn't?" she asked.
"Then the Alpha, his second, and his third will die and the pack will be broken up and the members sent to other packs. Except for the girl. I'll let Da decide her fate." He was reluctant to issue a death sentence for a female werewolf since there were so few females already.
Anna nodded. "Makes sense. I hope for Thea's sake he doesn't die," she said softly.
Their arrival was unannounced. They simply slipped into the Bronx and took the pack by surprise. Charles sauntered into the warehouse the Bronx pack used for all pack business and those who knew who he was were instantly on alert. Their fear permeated the air as he made his way to Andrew.
"Why has the Marrok sent his enforcer here?" Andrew asked in a neutral voice.
"You should know better than to try to lie to the Marrok. Where is your daughter, Rachel?" Charles asked.
"She's tending to a pack member."
Charles shook his head. "Lying will not help anyone here Andrew." He could feel his mate's influence seeping into the air. He knew to stay out of its sphere and he moved until he had Andrew inside it. "We know you're daughter has been dating a human. We know they're talking about moving in together, and we know she informed him there was something important she had to tell him before she could. Given that information, and your lies, we have no choice but to assume you have forced the change on the human without his full consent."
"She's my daughter, what was I supposed to do?" Andrew asked suddenly.
"Tell her no. We have rules for a reason, so that those who are changed know exactly what the risks are. If any wolf forces the change on a human their life is forfeit. You know this." He was expecting the attack and he was ready for it. The fight didn't last long but before Charles could land the killing blow a scream stopped him. "STOP!" The voice was feminine and full of fear and it caused Charles to pause. He looked up to find Rachel Sinclair rushing towards them.
"Please, I beg of you, don't kill my father for this. His only real crime is loving me so much he was willing to risk the Marrok's wrath to make me happy. I begged my father to change him but he won't even look at me now. He woke up a little bit ago and... he hates me," she whispered.
"Is he the only one you have forced the change on?" Charles asked.
Anna looked at her mate. Even she heard the truth in that single word. A distant crash followed by a human snarl had her running in the direction Rachel had come from. Cyrus Stavros was awake, confused, and hurt and that was a very bad mix for a new werewolf.
Somehow Charles managed to reach the door first. If Anna was unable to calm the wolf he would exert his own dominance to do so, but he was willing to let his mate try first. After all, that was what she was there for.
"It's alright," Anna said soothingly. The man bore a strong resemblance to his father, Mikolas. "I know you're confused Cyrus, and I know you're hurt, but its all going to be okay. We're friends of your sister, Thea. She asked us to check on you."
The soothing voice drifted over him and the wildness faded from his eyes. "You know Thea?" he asked. His wolf was so close to the surface that his voice was a bit distorted.
"We do. I know you have questions and we can answer them but you have to calm down first."
"Get her the hell away from me," he hissed suddenly.
Anna turned to see Rachel hovering nearby. "Go, you've messed things up enough," she said and turned back to Cyrus. His eyes slowly turned to the same warm brown as Thea's and Anna sighed in relief. While Charles dealt with the Alpha and those responsible she talked with Cyrus. The Alpha and both his second and third were removed from their positions of power and the fourth was made Alpha of the now much smaller pack. Charles would keep an eye on them for a while to make sure there weren't any further issues. The trio would be expected in Aspen Creek within two days to face the Marrok and while Charles got all that organized Anna tried to convince Cyrus to go back to Aspen Creek with them. It wasn't until she had him call and talk to Thea that he agreed.
Thea tried to keep her mind off her worry but when her phone rang and she saw it was Cyrus she nearly wept with relief. "Cy? Are you okay?" she asked.
"I've... been better. I have some people here who say they know you," he said and frowned when Anna called out "Hey Thea."
"Hello Anna. I didn't know you went too but it makes sense. You can trust them Cy, I promise."
"They want me to come back with them."
At those words Thea knew. "That would be a good idea. Everything will be explained when you get here. I promise Cy."
"I sure as hell hope so adelfi," he said and hung up.
Once the call ended Thea buried her face in her hands and cried for several minutes."It was hard enough for papa to accept what happened to me, how can we ask him to accept that it happened to Cyrus as well?"
"Your brother wasn't attacked though, not like you were. Sure it wasn't exactly consented to but the situation is different. Let's use that to our advantage. Tell him about Rachel and explain she'd let her feelings control her and she Changed him. Because he wasn't fully informed before the change we thought it best he come here for now," Sage replied.
"I think papa would accept that," Thea admitted.
On the way to the airport Cyrus realized that by leaving he'd be leaving their parents' home unattended. He took out his phone and made a call. "Petros, I need a favor. I'm supposed to be house sitting while papa takes mama on holiday but something's come up and I have to go out of town. I need you to watch the house for me. Thanks adelphos," he said when his brother agreed and hung up the phone.
Cyrus was barely conscious when Charles helped him onto the small private plane and no sooner was he sitting and he was out cold. He was still asleep when they reached Aspen Creek and Charles carried him to the truck, put him in the bed of it, and had to let Anna drive them to Bran's so he could watch over the new wolf.
As soon as Thea got word they were back and on their way to Bran's she was out the door. She was a nervous wreck and Sage had to take the keys from her to drive. "No sense in getting into an accident," Sage said and Thea had to force herself to calm down so she didn't affect her friend as well.
Half an hour after their arrival Thea was sitting at her brother's side when his eyes opened. "Thank goddess you're finally awake, I was starting to worry." His reaction wasn't what she'd expected.
As soon as Cyrus realized Thea was there he scrambled to put some distance between them. "No. You... you need to go. You shouldn't be in here Thea."
"Cy, its alright. You're safe now."
He laughed bitterly. "I'm not worried about me. You aren't safe. You... you don't know what I am, what I've become," he said in a strangled voice.
"A werewolf. Just as I am." She kept her voice soft and sent a feeling of calmness towards him. She was using what little knowledge as an Omega she had so far to try to influence him.
Cy stared at her. "But... how?" he asked, confused.
"When mama and papa couldn't get me on the phone, it wasn't because I was at a bed and breakfast and I'd forgotten my phone charger at home. It was because I was attacked by a rogue werewolf, almost died, and was Changed instead. Papa knows what I am. I tried to keep it from him but you know how papa is, he knew something was wrong. We both thought it best to not say anything to the rest of the family, for now."
Cyrus frowned. "Papa knows and he's okay with it?" he asked.
"Yes, he is. What other choice did he have? Do you think he would abandon one of his children for something they had no control over?" she asked gently. "I know you need answers to all that's happened to you. I don't have them but let me tell the Marrok you're awake and he can answer any question you may have."
"Marrok. I remember hearing that right before it happened. They sounded really scared when they said the Marrok wasn't going to be happy."
Thea thought about what to say. "The Marrok is the ruler, for lack of a better word, of all the werewolves in North America. There are rules that have to be followed and they broke them. That's why whoever it was who said it was scared. I'll warn you now, he may not be quite what he seems when you first meet him." She moved to the door, peeked out to speak to the person standing there, and closed it again. "He'll be here in a minute," she said.
When the door opened a few minutes later, the blonde man who stepped inside didn't seem like much to Cyrus. And then suddenly power swept through the room and the new wolf lowered his head, not just his eyes, in submission. Cyrus hadn't been a submissive person before he was Changed, he was nearly as dominant a personality as his father, which must have made things interesting in the Stavros household when they were children, and as such he was a fairly dominant wolf. However, Bran Cornick was the most dominant wolf in North America. When the Marrok's power hit you, you obeyed. Not even his own sons were immune.
Thea felt the power flow past her and she could have chosen to keep her eyes on his face but out of respect she lowered them. "Bran Cornick, I would like to introduce my brother, Cyrus. Cy, meet the Marrok," she said softly.
The power receded before Bran spoke. "Welcome to Aspen Creek. I have heard from Charles what his take on the situation is, based on what he was told, but I would like to hear your side of things."
Cyrus didn't hesitate, the command in Bran's voice wouldn't allow it. "My girlfriend Rachel and I were talking about moving in together. She told me she had something really important to tell me first. I thought she was going to tell me her family was really religious because the one time I'd met her father he didn't seem to like me and I thought it was because we worship the Greek pantheon. She takes me to this warehouse her dad owns and I thought it was odd but she promised she'd explain. We get inside and she tells me, with a straight face, that she's a werewolf. I figured she was pulling a stupid prank or maybe she was dumping me, and then she said she could prove it. This creature came out, I thought it was a dog until it stepped into the light and then I knew no way was it a dog. She called it dad, said everything would make sense soon, and the thing growled at me. I did what any sane person would, I ran. Just before it knocked me down I heard someone say 'The Marrok won't like this' and then there was too much pain for me to even think. I guess I blacked out but I woke up a few times, in a lot of pain, and Rachel just kept telling me it would all make sense soon. She sat there acting like nothing had happened and I couldn't stand to look at her."
Bran listened to his tale and waited until Cyrus was done to speak. "They knew the penalty for Changing someone against their will and yet they were willing to risk it."
Anna, who'd been hovering outside, came into the room. "The girl said she begged her father to do it because she loved him and he wanted his daughter happy."
"That does not excuse what they've done."
"No, it doesn't. But I think you should take it into consideration Bran. And ask what Cyrus thinks should happen. He's the one they forced the Change on and he survived it. He should get a say on if they live or die."
Bran gave his daughter-in-law a dark look. He knew she said 'live or die' on purpose.
Cyrus blinked. "Wait, you're going to kill them? You can't just kill people, its..."
Thea put her hand on her brother's arm. "Werewolves live by strict rules Cy, we have to in order to survive."
"Don't kill them. There must be something else you can do. Andrew just wanted to make his daughter happy, and Rachel, maybe she was rash and could have gone about it another way. She thinks she loves me, people can do some really dumb things for love."
"I will take your input under advisement," Bran said, and with a look at Anna he left the room. The rules were there to protect all of them but... perhaps Anna had a point. If they were going to bring wolves out to the public, maybe some rules needed to be altered.
Food and drink were both brought into the room for Cyrus and after he'd eaten his fill he went back to sleep. It would take time for his body to adjust and the sleep was a healing one.
Thea was sitting at his bedside deep in thought when the door opened. The scent of roses and spice, mingled with musk and mint, told her Asil was there. She didn't know how he knew what was happening but she was glad he was there.
"You should get some rest Thea," Asil murmured. "If you are concerned for your brother I will watch over him for you."
Thea lifted tired eyes to him. "Are you sure that's a good idea? I think he's a dominant wolf and he doesn't know you."
"It'll be fine. I am more than capable of keeping both our wolves in line. Get some rest."
"Wait, how did you know?" Thea asked, confused.
"Sage called me. She thought I might be able to help. Now, go Omega, rest so you can help your brother to adjust when he awakens."
Thea gave him a tired smile and kissed his cheek before she headed to the door. "Thank you Asil," she said and slipped out.
Asil touched his cheek where her lips had been and stared at the
door. That simple touch was nearly his undoing and he had to force
himself to take a seat in the bedside chair when all of his instincts
were screaming at him to go after her.