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Blood on Her Hands

Everard—Our first chapter in Ever’s POV!

Four weeks had gone by since Hycinth had left and as expected, Leander had deteriorated quickly. His righteous anger and fury that Hycinth had chosen her dead parents over her soulmate, knowing their cruelty, had worn off, leaving only abysmal devastation behind. He couldn’t think or function past his pain. He didn’t want to.

I stood to my feet when Sydney and one of her apprentices, Heidi, entered the study. Crossing the room to them, I asked quietly, “What news do you have?”

Sydney’s eyes cut in Leander’s direction and then back at me. “Should we talk about this...here?”

I understood her hesitation. I looked over to Leander. He was slouched in an oversized chair, legs apart, head back with his eyes closed. For the moment, his breathing and heart rate was regular, none of the usual hitches and spasms I’d become accustomed to hearing. He was asleep. But even slumbering didn’t guarantee a break to his agony. Most nights he woke up roaring, fighting the nightmares in his head. I’d moved into the room next to him at the packhouse so I could be near him when he needed me. Usually, when the night terrors hit, he’d destroyed some part of his room, whether shredding the sheets with his claws or putting his fist through the nightstand before I even break through the door. Only to find him curled in a ball on the floor, sweat covering his naked body, and tears streaming down his face with the realization that his waking existence was so much worse than the nightmares could ever be. Rocking his body, seeking comfort that never came, the same desperate chant muttered incoherently from his lips, ”She’s gone... She’s gone... She’s gone...”

It fucking broke my heart.

For so long, Leander had been my rock of support. He’d kept me sane when I was at my lowest with no hope left. He’d stood by my side without exception, holding me from falling apart when I couldn’t do it myself.

My, how the tables had turned...

Leander had willingly sacrificed his own mate by making a deal with her for her freedom so that I could have the one thing I’d always wanted most.

And now I had it.

Gwen’s small frame was just becoming rounded with our pup.

She hated that I slept here every night and refused to let her join me. But it was just too dangerous. Leander was unstable, a pent-up bomb getting ready to go off at any moment. I wasn’t about to let my mate and child suffer the fallout when it happened. Because in my gut, I knew it wasn’t a matter of if he snapped completely, but when.

His Wolf was too far gone.

Too lost in the torture of his existence. Leander knew it as well. He’d refused to shift since Hycinth had left. At first, I’d encouraged him to let his Wolf run, thinking it would help ease his heart and mind. A full-bodied shudder had gone through him at my suggestion. His eyes had darkened to his Wolf as he tried to break free and the haunted expression of the animal staring back at me had chilled me to the bone. I’d never mentioned it again.

“Ever? Are you listening to me?” Sydney’s voice broke me from my troublesome thoughts.

“What?” I shook my head, trying to clear my cluttered thoughts. ” Yes, it’s okay to talk here.” No matter what, Leander was still our Alpha, and I wouldn’t take anything else away from him after he’d already suffered such a loss.

Heidi left our side and walked to Cyril who was seated across from Leander. Crouching down, she glanced at Leander and then whispered something in Cyril’s ear. Cyril nodded, the expression on his face unreadable. Standing again, Heidi inched closer to the slumbering Leander.

I shook my head. It hadn’t taken more than a day before available shewolves had started circling him like sharks after blood. How they could think they even had a chance was simply ridiculous and beyond my understanding. Interestingly enough, if I’d had to wager a guess, I would have thought Sydney to be at the front of the line, but she wasn’t one of them. Over the weeks, she’d maintained only the highest professional, interacting as her job required but no more.

Sydney adjusted the clipboard in her hands, flipping two pages up. “Our patrols ran into two more wolves last night. They chased them past the border but lost scent after a few miles. They couldn’t catch them for interrogation.”

“More reconnaissance,” I gritted through clenched teeth.

“It would seem like it,” Sydney agreed tightly. “There could be no other reason to get so close and then run.”

I nodded, my mind turning over the possibilities. We had borders to protect. There had been whispers of potential threats coming from Hycinth’s pack. News had traveled quickly. They knew Leander’s mate was gone. But no one knew the true devastation. We’d kept him isolated. Because if they knew, no doubt, they would strike without mercy. It was what they did.

We’d made a mistake in leaving Hycinth’s pack alive. They were evil through and through. I’d argued with Leander, but he’d been adamant. Maybe a part of him instinctually knew he couldn’t leave Hycinth with nothing if he ever hoped to win her favor. Her parents had to be put down. No exception could have been made, not after what they’ve done. But he’d chosen to leave her pack intact, outside of the ones that were lost during the battle that day. Both of our packs had suffered much.

But in the end, it hadn’t mattered. Hycinth had left him anyway.

And I hated her for it...

I hated that she’d ripped out his heart.

And for what...?

Leander had avenged his family. He’d defended our people. But in doing what was right to protect our pack, he’d paid the ultimate price.

And now, yet again, his good intentions were coming back to bite us in the ass.

We were wolves. Our violence exceeded that of humans. Leaving any part of an opposing pack alive always presented a future risk if their remaining ruling hierarchy or orphaned juveniles sought retribution or if they just wanted to continue fighting over the land and wealth they lusted after.

It was the reason wolves suffered great losses whenever we went into battle. Our vengeful nature’s had to be taken into consideration. Leander had wanted peace, and he’d achieved it over the last three years...until now.

When Leander had taken out the Alpha and Luna, we’d placed enforcers within Hycinth’s pack to control any potential uprising and to be present if Hycinth had returned. For the most part, their warriors had been docile, not willing to take on the violence that was Leander. But that was over now. They were testing our borders, testing our strength, seeking a way in. It was only a matter of time.

They did not know the full extent of the damage Hycinth had done to Leander, but our enemies fully understood the potential that her actions had crippled him. They salivated for it, like the sick wolves they were. And now, Hycinth’s actions had not only left Leander emotionally maimed, but she’d put hundreds of lives at risk. Innocent males and females would die...even young pups and newborns, if her vile pack breached our borders. I shuddered hard to control my fear. But I should be afraid. The memory of what they’d done to that innocent baby after they’d cut it from its mother womb still tore me up inside. They’d proven beyond a shadow of a doubt there was no deed too diabolical, no blood too sacred to shed. I swallowed down the bile that crept up my throat.

And as far as I was concerned, every drop of blood shed now was on Hycinth’s hands.

She’d set these events in motion...

She was the daughter of the cruelest Alpha to ever breathe. We’d thought her innocent. Hycinth had been so young, only fifteen when her father died. We’d assumed he hadn’t had the chance to instill his thirst for war into her. But we’d been wrong. She’d played us all. Even I’d believed her sweet and naïve act. She’d had me convinced, hook line and sinker. What fools we’d been.

Hycinth knew the atrocities her father and her pack had inflicted and still choose them over Leander. She’d witnessed the outcome of her father’s attack. He’d successfully take out the most feared Alpha, Cyril. All without laying a hand on him. Which meant Hycinth fully understood the ramifications of her departure.

“Ever!” Sydney hissed impatiently, pulling my attention back to her.

“Shit, sorry, I’m listening,” I muttered.

From across the room, Leander lifted his head. It lolled from side to side, looking for something as he slurred, “Where’s my damn drink?”

Somehow, he’d missed seeing it on the small table next to him. Heidi quickly lifted the glass and held it out.

But Leander didn’t take it. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t even sure he saw it. Instead, his glassy eyes stared at Cyril. “I saw mother. She was there...that day.”

The entire room fell silent.

Heidi froze where she stood, arm still extended with his forgotten drink.

“What do you mean, son?” Cyril asked, tone rough with emotion.

“I-I told her I was sorry,” Leander’s voice broke.

Cyril leaned forward in his chair.

Heidi lowered the glass held in front of Leander, but she didn’t dare move from where she was rooted to the floor.

The intensity in Cyril’s gaze reflected back in Leander’s darkened glistening eyes. “It wasn’t your fault.”

“It was,” Leander insisted, his face twisted in agony. “I didn’t get there in time...I should have saved them.”

Cyril’s hand clenched into a fist. “It. Wasn’t. Your. Fault,” he repeated slowly.

Leander didn’t react to Cyril’s words. Instead, he murmured softly, “She’s waiting for you.”

“What?” Cyril inhaled sharply.

“She misses you, and...she’ll always wait for you.”

Cyril’s throat bobbed as he swallowed thickly. He was silent, unable to speak.

“She told me...she loved me,” Leander whispered.

The silence dragged on uncomfortably...

“I’m so sorry,” Heidi whispered, filling the void. She reached to stroke Leander’s arm gently, comforting him.

It was like watching a train wreck getting ready to happen but not being able to do or say anything to stop it in time

Sydney understood just like I did. She propelled herself into motion as she shouted, “No! Don’t touch hi—!

But it was too late...

Even before Sydney finished her warning, Leander launched from his chair and threw Heidi across the room all in one smooth motion. She hit the wall and crumpled to the floor, whimpering.

But Leander wasn’t finished...

He stalked toward her, nostrils flaring, black eyes murderous.

Sydney had made it to her and stood planted in front of the frightened shewolf, posture ready for attack with her hands out, using her body as a shield. “Alpha, she’s sorry! She didn’t mean anything by it!”

It was clear Sydney’s words hadn’t changed Leander’s mind. He merely took a smooth step to the right to better positioned himself to reach the target behind Sydney. I was shocked he was even able to function with the amount of alcohol flowing through his body.

Sydney turned with him, her voice trembled as she pleaded, “Fight me, not her! If you have to hurt someone, Leander, let it be me. She won’t survive you.”

Her words for suicidal, but they didn’t surprise me. For all of her faults, Sydney was fiercely protective of the shewolves she was entrusted with.

Without warning, Leander took her up on her offer.

In a lightning-fast strike, he held back none of his strength, his fist impacting Sydney’s chin. The loud crack resounded through the room. Sydney cried out as her body flew back and landed with a hard thud. She struggled but got back on her feet. Her jaw was clearly broken, her lip sliced open and blood dribbled from her mouth, but she faced him bravely. Legs trembling, she waited for Leander to attack, willing to be his punching bag to take out his anger for the violating touch of another shewolf.

However, neither Cyril nor I were willing to let him beat on any wolf, willing or not. Leander wasn’t in his right mind. This wasn’t who he was. And once he sobered, the regret of his actions would only compound an already fucked up situation.

Just as he went to strike again, Cyril jumped on Leander’s back. The force was enough to knock Leander to one knee, but the adrenaline running through him was out of control, amping up his strength. He threw his father off of his back with a roar. Cyril landed on the edge of a nearby chair and the coffee table, the wood crumbling beneath his weight.

I was already in motion and grabbed Leander from behind, trying to lock my arms around his shoulders. “Leander, stop! Just listen for a minute!”

Of course, it was a foolish endeavor.

Leander broke my hold causing me to stumble back. Cyril was back on his feet and by my side. Leander spun to face us, his expression livid. There was no recognition in his eyes. He was just too far gone. Cyril and I wouldn’t be enough to contain him, not like this. Thankfully, the noise of our altercation had attracted several other wolves. Asher came up on my right, hissing, “What the fuck happened?”

There was no time for explanations because Leander attacked again.

Surging forward, we were able to hold him at bay, but not without serious injury. I flinched at the sound of several broken ribs. Fists and curse words flew at a furious pace. If we could just hold on, tire him out...

But in the next minute, the game changed entirely. Without warning, Leander’s Wolf exploded out of him!

An eruption of agony from Leander’s Wolf consciousness ricocheted through the pack link. The force was so strong I couldn’t remain standing beneath it and dropped to one knee. Panting, I tried to get back to my feet.

His entire body trembled as he glared at us, fury rolling off of him in waves.

Oh, shit...

We didn’t stand a chance. Not against his Wolf.

But in the next moment, relief rushed through me. It appeared the rabid Wolf wasn’t interested in bleeding us more because he abruptly spun on his paws and flew out the door.

The sound of glass shattering let me know he’d exited through one of the windows.

But my moment of relief didn’t last long because a new horrifying realization washed over me—his Wolf was free!

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