There were conditions and he should not have been surprised. Nick shook him awake and he tiredly followed stumbling until he hit Reese’s bed and fell onto it ready to curl up and sleep again.
“Get some coffee kid, we need to talk,” Nick said poking him in the side and making him jump. Noah sighed and held out his hand to ward him off and Nick chuckled and walked away. A minute later he felt a heavy hot object in his raised hand and he gripped it and sat up drinking fast and instantly regretting it.
“Be careful,” Reese sighed and Noah felt a weight beside him. He opened his eyes feeling a bit better and shook his head at the Aussie wolf who, as usual, looked awake and ready for action. Reese could have tumbled out of bed seconds before and he would still look like he was ready for his close up.
“Elena wanted me to talk to you,” Nick said seriously and glanced at the door behind which Layn slept. Noah nodded and drank more coffee giving Nick his serious face. If Nick was talking to him and excluding Layn it could only be good. Nick watched him for a moment before glancing at Reese and then back at Noah.
“Elena is letting you and Layn stay,” he began and Noah grinned widely wanting to whop in the air but he didn’t, “on a few conditions. You have to listen to me absolutely or whoever is in charge. The minute you question a directive, hesitate or disobey you will be going back home and will be exempt from any future missions or important pack functions until Elena thinks you’re ready again.”
“I can do that Nick you know that.”
“We know mate but the pack likes to talk,” Reese joked and got a dirty look from Nick. He held up his hands in a peace gesture and went silent trying unsuccessfully to hide his smirk.
“I know you can but I needed to say it and we needed to hear it.”
Noah nodded feeling giddy at the opportunity. He was going to be part of this. No more being stuck with Jeremy, Jaime and the twins. As soon as he proved his worth here he’d be going on more missions and doing more things. It really was about time he felt.
When Noah’s internal monologue had its full he stood and walked to the nearby table to grab the paper only to have it taken back by Reese who considered himself a world politics connoisseur. He rolled his eyes and took a few pages handing the rest to Reese and glancing up when the door opened again. Layn walked out looking like a zombie. He’d be happy that they got to stay. He loved fighting. Noah did too but he was also nervous as hell about getting killed and facing his father. It had to be done though. He was brave. He would prove it.
He paced up and down the street looking at the park in the distance. Students bumped past him either late for class or social engagements and for a moment Layn stared after them jealous that he could not have that kind of life, a simple life where you went to school and dreamed of your future. Maybe someday.
He walked across the street and onto the green space. The park was a wide circle with trees spaced throughout it and benches with wide pavement pathways and a few statues as well. It was not a park to hide in but it had a perfect amount of people.
When Elena told him the first part of the plan he thought she was nuts, he stood up and paced around the hotel room wanting to depose her but he kept his mouth shut. He had promised to follow her orders and he had to try. Until she asked that was. Layn looked up from his hands behind his back, his trying to remain calm, position to see her crossed armed and waiting for him to speak.
“Jay will see right through this plan. This is stupid and he’ll have everyone on us to kill us right then and there. I am not even sure he will care it is in public.”
“I know and this is exactly why we need to do it this way,” she pushed with no room for argument but Layn could not let it go that easily. His mouth and his stubbornness always seemed to be getting him into trouble.
“You realize that he doesn’t care how many of us he kills, or he does care because he wants us all dead. He’ll take us all down…,” Layn hissed letting his worry seep out quickly like the smog the city was famous for.
“And we’ll take him down, hard and painful,” Clay growled. Layn glanced at the enforcer and then then back to Clay’s mate, the Alpha.
“None of you understand him as he is now and why this can’t work. Change the plan,” Layn begged. They had refused. Elena had refused. Now he was stuck in this cold park waiting. Anxious thoughts consuming him.
He chose a bench to sit on and watched people walk by with his hands clamped under his arms. His jacket and winter clothes he had bought from a place he had always gone to in the city when he was younger. He still refused to accept anything from the pack so his clothes may not be as expensive as their Artic Goose coats and brand name boots but he did just fine. He was not freezing in his knitted mitt’s, hats and scarf and too used winter coat but he was definitely cold. As Nick said it was his own fault for being so stubborn which was fine with him. He’d rather not owe anyone.
Layn took his hands from his armpits and blew on his fingerless mittens rubbing them together to warm them up. He scanned the park and the surrounding area but saw no one he recognized. This plan was not going to work and he felt he was wasting his time but he stayed anyway. The pack was watching him and so were Jay and his gang supposedly. They had been since they got here.
Layn drummed his fingers against his jeaned thigh and blew out warm air that misted on the breeze. Suddenly his phone vibrated in his pocket. He took ancient thing out and looked at it. The screen had a giant crack but it was still usable. Elena was messaging.
Just a bit longer and we’ll try another tack.
Layn nodded and deleted the message like all the rest putting his phone back. As he watched and waited he saw a dark haired guy walk from the direction of St George Street and Soldiers Tower. He was slight and had two steaming coffee’s in his hands putting it close to his face to feel the warmth. Layn ignored the guy until he was standing in front of him what felt like hours later.
“How did you get away from them?” Layn asked as Noah sat down beside him and handed him his coffee. Layn gratefully took it feeling the warmth spread through his fingers. Where would any of them be without the great invention of coffee?
“I told Nick I needed some time on my own,” Noah shrugged. Layn tensed but didn’t show it. Noah would have to be much more convincing than that.
“Yeah right, what really happened?”
Noah looked up at Layn’s eyes which insisted he step up his performance. Noah looked annoyed for a moment before he shrugged faking nonchalance while leaning back against the bench and slinging one arm around the back. “They need to give me my space. I walked out for a while. Maybe they can find me and maybe not but I’m tired of never being able to go anywhere. In Alaska I could. I should be able to here,” Noah explained with just the right touch of annoyance and bravado mixed with unsure confidence. Layn nodded ever so slightly at this.
Noah relaxed and they said nothing for a time. Layn glanced around again scanning for familiar life forms but surreptitiously he was watching for them. Would Cain and Jay be stupid enough to take the bait? He doubted it but it was worth a try.
“What about you? Chafing under actually mentorship?” Noah asked almost not able to stop himself from sneering.
“You know me. I’m just a free spirit,” Layn grinned adopting Noah’s posture. He crossed his legs and fidgeted a bit finally feeling his phone vibrate again. Assuming he could give up and go get warm he smiled inwardly and took the phone. Jay.
Want to come and see what I’ve done?
Shit. Layn stood in seconds and looked around still seeing no sign of anyone but normal humans. “What?” Noah asked. Layn sniffed the air and caught only normal scents. He growled at himself and sniffed again catching what he thought was Nick’s scent. He took off running dropping the hot coffee on the ground. Behind him Noah did the same cursing but kept pace demanding to know what was going on in between breaths.
Layn ignored him and continued sniffing until he was tackled from behind. He twisted in the air to land on his back and tried roll from the hold but Noah landed on top of him perfectly and pinned him down. To outsiders it looked like a couple of teenager play fighting in the snow. The humans would shake their heads or smile but no one would bother them.
“What is going on?” Noah demanded with two hands on his jacket front pushing down. A snarl worked its way over his face. Anger flared in his eyes.
“Joseph messaged me. He’s attacked them. We have to go,” Layn insisted trying to push Noah off but he couldn’t from the position he was in.
“No, Nick said if they are attacked we need to run. They’ll find us but we can’t get involved,” Noah insisted. Layn shook his head but Noah pushed a gloved hand over his mouth. “We run and that’s not an option,” he ordered.
Layn looked at him surprised for a moment before nodding. Noah eased off of him and started leading the way but Layn struggled up quickly and caught his arm. “I know the city, let me find a place,” he insisted and started off without waiting for an answer. Noah sighed but he followed.
Walking from Queens Park they turned right and made their way to Bloor and to the museums in that district but Noah grabbed his arm and shook his head. “Reese went to a museum to hide and they found him. We need something else,” Noah insisted. Layn wanted to point out that Reese was an entirely different situation and Jay had never set foot in a museum but it was pointless.
Instead he paused and thought before nodding and walking in the opposite direction. They stopped at a local diner and ordered take out and then returned to the burned out ruins of Layn’s former home. “This is your big plan? What is this anyway?” Noah asked. Layn told him and Noah only stared before shaking his head but Layn took his arm and propelled him towards the house.
“It’s the best place to be right now Noah. We can’t go to a hotel or they will track us and everywhere else is pretty much the same. The smoke and left over smells here will cover our tracks and we’ll be safe. That’s what you want right?” Layn shrugged and led them around to the back to a busted out window that led to the basement.
“No,” Noah growled back. Layn ignored him and climbed in jumping the three foot distance to the basement floor. He looked around and then up knowing the rest of the house was a burned out shell but here they still had shelter and a good hiding spot. “A little help,” Noah called and Layn turned accepting the bags he handed down and then waiting.
“So this is where you lived with him?”
“Yeah, it looked different. More like a house. We can stay in the basement until we hear otherwise,” Layn instructed.
“I don’t want to just be safe you know. I want to go and I want to fight but I can’t. Elena and Nick both ordered me not to. If anything went wrong we were to run and hide. If I disobey I’ll never be allowed on any mission again. I can’t risk it,” Noah explained as Layn set the bags down and pulled over a shoddy mattress from the refuge pile to sit down on.
“If there is no pack to go back to then why does it matter?”
“There will be,” Noah sighed but he was so anxious and uncertain Layn could tell from where he sat. Noah wasn’t expecting his new family to survive either but he refused to say it out loud which would mean it was true.
“Maybe, but we need to figure out what to do if there isn’t.”
“There’s still Jeremy and Jaime and the twins. We tell them to leave and we go to Europe. Nick gave me this,” Noah said and took his wallet out opening it to show him a credit card bearing the name Nicholas Antonio Sorrentino.
“He can track us if we use it which is why I paid for all the food and stuff,” Noah explained and Layn nodded.
“Ok, we wait here and plan our next move later,” Layn agreed. Noah nodded and sat down opening the bag with the food. Layn looked around the basement. The stairs were in ruins and half sunk into the floor incapable of being used to go upstairs, the ceiling was sagging and boxes of storage and discarded items that had been piled up for years were littered all over the place. Layn looked up to see that the little light they had shone from the room above, as well as the windows, and the mattress they were sitting on fell in from the guest room there. That was lucky since the only thing in that room had been a mattress unused for years.
Noah took the first watch not trusting fully Layn and woke him early in the morning to take the next one. He took some food from the bag and munched on it shivering while Noah fell into a light sleep. Layn listened to and watched the rain coming down and turning the snow into ice as he wrapped his arms around himself. He checked his phone and Noah’s but there were no messages. Both of them had agreed that they would call Jeremy if no one got a hold of them before morning but as Layn eyed the phone he felt that this had suddenly gone way beyond something they could handle.
Layn stood and paced while he started to dial the number for Stonehaven but a noise outside stopped his short. He froze and watched the window seeing nothing and hearing nothing for a moment but then it came again. A very faint footstep, a hesitant one as if the person was not sure they should be here. Layn glanced at Noah and then pocketed his phone walking towards the window. He’d have to drive off whoever was out there, away from Noah.
He hauled himself up and slipped on the ice around the window when he pulled himself out. Around him the world was still and sparkling in the moonlight with the newly made ice. He crept as quietly as possible around the house seeing a dark figure when he turned the corner at the opposite end. He darted back so he wouldn’t be seen and then looked out again. The person had disappeared. He sniffed but the advantage of having the house help block their scents was that he couldn’t smell anyone.
Quietly he walked over the snow and ice and peeked around the other corner. The person was crouching and picking something up. Layn looked around for something to distract him with and picked up an ice ball. He palmed it in his hand and then threw it off to the right darting around the house again. He took off at a run when he heard the person following him and continued aiming for the fence. He could circle back around and…something hit his back and he flew into the ice and gasped at the pain. He struggled but the person had him pinned tightly.
“Layn, it’s me, stop,” Jeremy said quietly. Layn paused and then sniffed to be sure before he relaxed. Jeremy let him go and he turned getting into a sitting position and looking at the man sitting beside him before he smiled tiredly in relief.
“Where are they Layn?” Jeremy asked and stood holding out a hand to help him up.
“You were right Jer, you knew right where they were,” Adam called. Layn looked up seeing Noah along with Adam who had a hand on his shoulder. Savannah, Lucas and Paige appeared around the corner of the house. Layn felt some tension lift from his shoulder. They had some extra help now. Maybe they would find the pack alive after all.
“We don’t know,” Noah answered Jeremy’s original question from the back of the house looking at them, “we think Joseph got them Jeremy. We need help finding them,” Noah said apologetically.
“I intent to do far more than that Noah. None of this is either of your faults,” Jeremy said. Layn nodded but Noah didn’t look convinced.
“We need to leave and start looking for them,” Layn insisted. Now that they had more help it would be easier to find them and it was easier to believe they could help them.
“We will but first we have to get you two warmed up. You’re both freezing and your lips are blue,” Jeremy said looking at Layn. When Layn looked at his eyes he saw the Alpha there. Jeremy had given up being Alpha a long time ago but in the absence of having an Alpha to lead them he must have instinctively become one again.
“Does that mean you’re the Alpha now?” Layn asked but Jeremy didn’t answer.
He led them away from the burned out house and towards his familiar SUV. “How did you know?” Layn asked once he reached the door handle and opened the door. Jeremy turned on the heater as soon as they were inside and it felt like he had never had heat before, the most wonderful feeling in his life. He relaxed beside Noah who was pushed forward to feel the heat and getting some colour back now.
“I can always start a fire to keep you warm,” Adam joked. He had gotten in the front seat and was starting the car while Jeremy was in the passenger seat trying his cell phone again. When he was done and they were on their way with the others in another car behind them, Jeremy explained.
“Elena called and told me the plan, if she hadn’t called back by midnight I was to come and bring the council. We’re here now which mean this was much bigger than she anticipated,” Jeremy said and Layn nodded.
“I knew it was but it’s hard to see things for yourself sometimes,” Layn whispered and Jeremy caught his eyes in the mirror silently agreeing.
“That’s why we’re here,” Adam clarified.
“Where do we start?”
“Where did you lose them?” Jeremy asked looking from one to the other.
Now that there were more of them Layn felt safe going back to a hotel and spending the remainder of the night to rest and plan. When they were walking from the car to the hotel Layn sensed movement on the roof top and looked up tensed and ready when a figure dropped down and landed on the balcony above them.
“Found them then, good,” Aaron said and jumped down the join them. A few seconds later Cass dropped down as well brushing imaginary dirt off her sleeve.
“You would have thought being a vampire you could find us first,” Layn teased. Aaron rolled his eyes and hit him in the arm lightly before turning to Jeremy.
“We need to get inside,” the temporary Alpha instructed. Layn turned and scanned the buildings surrounding them. He was sure they were watching. It seemed Jay had found more mutts to follow him, or he’d made more. In any case there were more than they could deal with. Just as he was turning his attention to going back inside he saw a dark silhouette move on top of an apartment building to the left.
Layn turned to tell him but Jeremy’s voice came low from his left “I know, let’s go inside.” Layn nodded and took his eyes off the building top to follow them.
“How many are there?”
“We’re not sure, far too many for my liking,” Jeremy answered as they walked across the lobby and got into the elevator.
“Why don’t we just take them out now? Then they can’t go back to the others and tell them,” Layn pushed but Jeremy held up his hand. Noah moved from foot to foot and glanced at him and then up at Jeremy.
“We’ll talk about it in the room Layn,” he said meaning he wanted Layn to shut up. The young werewolf considered demanding answers but he kept quiet. Jeremy would throw him into a locked room and keep him out of the proceedings like a child. Instead he turned his attention to the dingy elevator mirrors noticing they needed a good cleaning.
When they got to the room Layn flopped down on the bed enjoying the warmth and the coming food Jeremy had ordered. “Tell me exactly what happened.” Layn spoke at the same time as Noah and then stopped letting Noah tell his side and then Layn spoke which was much the same story.
When all was silent for a few minutes, Layn drummed his fingers on the top of the bed waiting. “We need to capture one, interrogate him and find out where everyone is,” Layn insisted looking at Jeremy. The man said nothing but a chorus of voices rang out behind him with their opinions which were largely “no’s”.
“We don’t do that,” Paige announced shaking her head.
“I can’t condone the illegal use of force,” Lucas agreed.
“They would do it to us,” Noah shrugged. Layn nodded to this. Noah and he had both seen torture and seen both the use of it and the stupidity of it. Cause pain and someone will tell you whatever you want but sometimes the idea of it would make them tell the truth.
“I think it may be the only way,” Aaron said and Layn nodded. Vampires and werewolf’s were more alike than he thought.
“I’ll help,” Adam said crossing his arms and ignoring the look Paige was giving him.
“Jeremy?” Savannah asked and Layn looked his way. His lip was twitching a bit and he seemed far away. Finally he looked up and addressed them.
“It may be the only way to figure out where they are and what they are planning.”
“You should let the werewolves deal with this. We have experience and everyone else’s conscious can be clean,” Layn suggested.
“Yes, because two teenagers would have so much experience,” Savannah snorted. Layn glared and opened his mouth to speak but Jeremy held up his hand and looked at them. He wished werewolves had been the rescue team. They would have understood the need to do whatever it takes. Other supernaturals never did.
“You’ve both had a long night out there. Get some sleep and we’ll give you our decision in the morning,” Jeremy ordered soft but firm.
“No, wait,” Noah started but Jeremy only had to look directly at them for Noah to shut up.
“This is a council matter and neither of you are part of the council. Go, please.” Noah sighed but stood and Layn followed hating this. Being shut out like this. He knew he wasn’t an official member of the pack or the council but they should still get a say.
When they were in their room across the hall Layn shut the door and started pacing. Noah shook his head and grabbed a beer from the mini fridge sitting down on the bed. “Don’t even think about it Layn. You’ll be in a huge amount of trouble and they will kill you.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Layn said pacing to the bed and falling onto it. “The problem is they will chose to not do what they need to because they are too good for their own good,” he groaned.
“Not Jeremy. He’ll do what it takes to keep the pack safe,” Noah disagreed.
“Yeah, but what if he can’t convince them. This will be a wild goose chase. We need to do something.”
“No, why are you always trying to get me into trouble? For once you’re doing what I say and sitting here. We are waiting for them to decide and then we’re doing what they want us to.”
Layn sighed and sat back drumming his fingers on the bed spread. He’d have to do this the hard way then. It would have been easier with a partner but it was still better than doing nothing and waiting for the adults to fix things. He had never been very good at that.
For the next few hours Layn watched TV with Noah half paying attention and dozing a bit. When he stood next time on the pretense of using the washroom, he grabbed a hard wooden brush from the bathroom and felt the groves on the back. This would do. He carried the brush casually at his side tapping his thigh and stopped beside the bed pretending to watch a commercial on the TV for a local charity.
Without even thinking he back fisted Noah with the brush near the temple. Noah looked dazed for a moment but then fell back unconscious, the beer and remote slipping from his hands. “That was easier than I thought it would be,” Layn murmured and threw the brush on the bed. He assumed he’d have to fight with Noah and muffle the struggle.
Layn grabbed his coat, hat and mitts and pulled on his boots before taking the hotel key and looking at the hallway through the peephole. The coast was clear. He stepped out quietly and shut the door behind him slowly before he walked down the hallway and to the stairs. Once he cleared the hallway he raced down the stairs taking them two at a time.
Dashing out onto the street he instantly regretted his decision. The wind was biting into his cheeks and making him remember cold Canadian winters as a kid. He never had enough insulation then either.
Layn walked along the street and looked up at the roof tops scanning for life. He was sure they had at least a few mutts watching them. Layn squinted and saw some flapping that might have indicated movement. Why didn’t he just go up? It would have been easier but they could have tracked him too easy as well.
Layn ducked into an alley way and looked up. The fire escape ladder was rusted but might hold him. He jumped and grabbed a hold of it with one hand grunting at the extra weight. A broken hand was not helping him in this regard. Sweating already he began the arduous climb as silently as possible. The ice and rain made the trip twice as hard and he considered giving up but looking down he saw he was already half way. Either way would not make a difference now and going back would only get him in more trouble with the pack.
He continued to climb feeling his fingers freeze to the metal and he bit his tongue to keep from crying out. Just keep climbing, he just had to focus. He had just gotten his second wind when a chunk of ice fell from the sky and hit him in the shoulder. He looked up wide eyed to see glowering dark eyes holding something above his head. Ice. The mutt let the ice go with a smile and Layn pulled himself against the ladder tightly feeling it skid across his back and break the skin.
“I just want to talk!” Layn shouted up above the wind. The mutt grinned maliciously and held up another piece. Layn looked down and judged the distance to the ground, too far. He’d break another bone or much more if he jumped.
He ducked another piece of ice and looked both ways. Windows, his best chance was a...
Layn jumped and lost his hold for a second grabbing onto the icy bar with one hand a foot down. Dangling and trying to regain his hold he looked down to see Noah aiming a gun up. He shot again and Layn ducked hoping the other werewolf was not shooting at him. Seconds later ice came tumbling down at him and hit Layn both in the shoulder and the head. He grunted and found a foot hold just in time for Noah to shout. “Duck Layn!”
The mutt’s body toppled by him and would have thrown him off the ladder if Noah hadn’t warned him. As soon as he body hit the ground Layn gripped the ladder with his good hand and placed his feet on either side of the ladder sliding down until he was a few feet from the ground. He jumped and stumbled with the cold before he regained his balance.
“Jeremy is going to kill you,” Layn sighed. Noah rolled his eyes and crouched down checking the mutt’s vital signs. “We need to get him out of here. Someone probably already called the cops when they heard the noise,” he clarified.
Noah nodded and grabbed his arms. Layn grabbed his legs grimacing at the pain in his hand but saying nothing. They drug the mutt around the corner and behind a dumpster where Layn let him go and rubbed his hand. Noah glanced at him but then looked away ignoring him. Layn preferred this and took a moment to catch his breath.
“What do we do?” he asked Noah who looked unsure for a moment before he answered, “You suggested taking one of them and interrogating them. We bring him back before he wakes up and prove that your plan was right.”
“I don’t think so pups,” a voice growled. Layn turned in an instant and was met with a fist that made him fall back and hit the wall hard. Layn moaned as he slid to the ground and pain shot up his leg. Noah yelled and Layn stumbled up falling to his knees when pain made his leg bent awkwardly.
“NOAH!” Layn yelled gathering the last bit of extra energy he had to haul himself up and lunge at the mutt holding Noah by the throat. Layn smashed his fist into the mutt’s head distracting him for a moment and giving Noah the opportunity to get away but he punched the mutts head in the same spot instead. The mutt swayed and Layn jumped to the ground and grabbed Noah’s shoulder shoving him from the alley.
They got two steps before another mutt swung in front of them and smiled. Layn swore and tried to grab Noah pushing him the other way but Noah pulled from his grip and attacked. Layn jumped in to help but he was pulled back by the back of his coat. He turned and started to punch but the mutts hands came up to either side of Layn’s head clapping hard. Pain shot through his ears disorienting him and making him fall forward. Another hit to the head made the world go black.