HEAT

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Truth and Devastation

Leander

I had known several minutes into the forest that we were in the right location because as soon as we were close enough, Hycinth’s pain had exploded into my consciousness. It was like I’d crossed an invisible barrier. One moment, nothing, and then the next, agony like I’d never known crashed through the barrier of our mind link, the one-way door my bite had established. Anguished flames of hurt and trauma licked my insides, tormenting me with their intensity.

I’d stumbled under the onslaught, not entirely sure I was going to survive, as it consumed every part of me. But a more severe emotion, the irrevocable force that bound us together, wouldn’t be denied—my female and my unborn pup needed me—causing me to immediately stabilize my footing and drove me forward even faster.

The moment we drew close, Ever had barked orders through the mind link, and instantly, the warriors broke into strategic formation.

Without one misstep or even slowing down from our breathtakingly fast pace, Ryan and Oliver, our best two sharpshooters, fluidly withdrew their weapons and angled to the sides, one to the right and the other to the left. They dropped low to the ground behind the shelter of two trees, ready to provide cover, just as the rest of us sprinted past them.

I’d expected to face gunfire and I’d been right. Shots had rung out as soon as we broke the tree line, a chaotic flurry of bullets as wolves dove and weaved to avoid being hit.

Reflexes firing on all cylinders, instinct and nature propelled my body as I first darted to the left, rolled, and then veered hard to the right.

I had one goal—getting to Hycinth.

But when I saw her for the first time, naked and laid out like a sacrifice on a dirty wooden table, fury had detonated in my gut. Whether it was my Wolf’s decision or mine, I didn’t know, but either way, the change happened. We shifted, the bulk of his muscular form shredding the clothes off of my body.

My Wolf was in a blind rage. He salivated for their blood, eager to feel it drip off his tongue, eager to shred their bodies apart. I completely agreed with him. Barreling forward, the world faded away. His vision distorted by the ferocity of his anger, but yet crystal clear as his eyes zoomed in on our target, the Wolf standing between us and our mate—Dagger.

Dagger had seen us as well. And the son of a bitch had the audacity to grin as five wolves came at us from the side, ears pressed forward, snarling in their throats.

It was a mistake.

The idiot thought he was slowing me down, when in truth, adding wolves in direct combat, gave me a distinct advantage. Being surrounded by opposing wolves meant his shooters wouldn’t be able to acquire me as their target nearly so easily.

From my peripheral vision, I saw Ever about fifteen feet away. Somewhere between the tree line and now, he had shifted as well.

His big gray Wolf’s head whipped around in my direction, and then he leapt forward, accelerating in a burst of speed. Paws pounding the earth, he eliminated the distance between us just as the enemy Wolves made contact with me.

The impact was fierce.

Fur, fangs and claws flew in a frenzied chaos.

A powerful wave of Alpha dominance emanated from my Wolf’s chest, directed at his enemies, the wolves who dared to harm our mate.

Neither of us expected it to affect to them. Dagger was too smart to engage in battle without swearing fealty to another Alpha first.

But surprisingly, there was a effect. It was slight, but it was there, and the shocked look in their eyes meant they also registered the truth. Still, they pressed forward, intent on destruction.

Next to me, Ever moved with lethal grace. Safeguarding me from my shoulder to my flank, our bodies moved fluidly together. A fine-tuned machine, we fought side-by-side, fending off and killing Wolf after Wolf. There was no need for communication. He knew what I needed. And I had no doubt he would gladly sacrifice his own life before he let anything happen to me. There was no Wolf more worthy than him. But suddenly, right after another shot rang out, Ever yelped in pain and went down hard with a thud.

My Wolf’s head flew around. The maneuver left us vulnerable on one side but he needed to assess the damage and protect Ever from further harm in his vulnerable state. When he saw blood pouring from the gunshot wound in Ever’s hind leg, my Wolf roared furiously.

A large tawny Wolf darted forward, fangs bared, opportunistic intent on delivering a killing blow to our fallen Beta, but my Wolf leapt over Ever’s body and collided with the other Wolf in the air. The ferocity of the attack knocked the light brown Wolf off his paws as we tumbled back to the ground. It was all my Wolf needed. He snaked forward and sank his teeth into the other Wolf ’s neck, powerful jaws locking closed until his enemy sagged dead in his grip.

Spitting him out, my Wolf jerked back around only to find Ever had struggled to his feet. He was once again covering our back, limping and precariously teetering off balance whenever he had to put weight on the foot, but he fought with all he was worth, fully engaged in the ongoing battle.

Still warring with wolves on both sides, my anxiety amplified.

During the fight, I’d kept an eye on Hycinth. No other Wolf had gone near her helpless and battered body which made it clear that Dagger was waiting for me to lose so that he had my full attention before he made his next move. I was thankful, but his intentions could change at any moment.

We’d also noticeably shortened the distance between us and Hycinth, but every minute that went by felt like an eternity.

I shot fast glances at the remaining battle. Dagger had assembled many more wolves than I’d feared. There had to be close to forty of them. Not an easy task to overcome, considering our original group of only thirteen wolves and three humans, and we’d already lost two before even entering the clearing. My heart broke at the thought of Aiden and Noah laying dead and alone in the forest. And I noticed now that two more Adamant Moon wolves were motionless in the dirt and grass. The rest were covered in blood. Whether it was their own or belonged to our enemies, I couldn’t tell because we may have lost four, but far more of our opponents had fallen. Ever and I had taken out close to fifteen already, and several other bodies lay scattered on the ground.

A few of the wolves in the clearing were strangers. More than likely, they belonged to Nightshade. But the rest, I knew all too well—Julian and Diamonte wolves!

Another fierce growl ripped from my Wolf’s chest. His thoughts mirrored mine as his powerful jaws tore out yet another throat and dropped the enemy Wolf dead. We should have decimated that pack when we had the chance. I agreed. I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. There would be no mercy. I wouldn’t stop until Hycinth and my young were safely in my arms and every Wolf was dead—some slower than others, if I had my way.

From somewhere just outside of my peripheral vision, Sydney suddenly screamed, ”Leander!”

My blood ran cold.

Sydney never cried out in the fight. Ever. Which meant her shout had nothing to do with the danger she was in but that of another Wolf—Hycinth!

Spinning around, I was horrified at what I saw.

Sydney fought viciously, battling two wolves in a desperate attempt to get free of them...because Dagger was now holding a lethal blade to Hycinth’s belly!

Dagger remained in his skin, but his expression had shifted into something wild. Black beady eyes darted back-and-forth around him.

We were still outnumbered but the ratio between enemy and friendly wolves had dropped dramatically. Dagger wasn’t stupid. He could see the odds were no longer in his favor which meant the status quo had changed. His plan changed. I could see it in the evil intent of his eyes.

He was going to kill my mate and innocent pup now!

Making his move now meant he would still have time enough to get away. And there were still too many wolves around me. I wasn’t close enough to stop him!

Beginning to draw a line on her rounded belly, Dagger focused intently on his task at hand.

Hycinth was limp and unmoving, but a shriek of pain came through the mate bond.

Thick crimson seeped from the wound.

My Wolf was shaking in disbelief and horror. His echoing thoughts blasted through my consciousness, “Nooooo!!”

Rage, like I had never experienced before, snapped through every fiber of our being and then exploded out in a tidal wave of Alpha power.

Every Wolf around us went down.

Dagger knelt on the ground, one hand pressed against the earth to keep from falling flat. The other hand still clutched the blade. But like the rest, he was unable to move. His chest heaved.

Not wasting any time, my Wolf leapt over the wolves on the ground that were blocking our way. His paws barely touched the earth as he flew the remaining distance to our mate. And with each step, the depth of carnage to her body became more visible. She was barely breathing. And the blood...was it already too late?

The thought that we might lose her and our pup drove him to utter madness. Surge after surge of Alpha Influence erupted from his chest, assaulting every Wolf around us. Groans and whines could be heard all around the clearing.

My Wolf immediately began to lick along the line of blood trailing down her stomach.

“Bring the Healer!” I barked through the mind link.

"Leander...” Ever rasped through the mindlink. The distress in his voice was tangible.

It only took me a second to realize the problem. My Wolf had immobilized the enemy, but our own wolves were paralyzed as well.

And worse, I could feel a strain in the fabric of his Alpha Dominance. He wasn’t going to be able to hold that extreme level for long, particularly when he was now one hundred percent focused on caring for Hycinth’s body.

There was no need for my Wolf and I to communicate. We just both understood—he would stay focused on healing our mate while I navigated our power. We’d never separated from each other in that way before, but there was no option now.

However, isolating our strength in that manner was much harder than I anticipated. Concentrating on Ever and the Healer who was still hidden in the trees, Grace, I panted under the exertion of keeping our power in such a delicate balance that we had never done before.

Maintaining our extreme hold over wolves we shouldn’t have been able to influence in the first place was hard enough, but trying to free select individuals at the same time felt impossible. And the stakes were too high. I couldn’t risk anything going wrong.

Little by little, I worked to removed the bonds from Grace and Ever.

Relief flooded through me when I saw Grace racing across the field to me, both hands gripping several bags of medical supplies.

It only took another minute before Ever and then Samuel slowly get to their feet.

But the strain on both my Wolf and I remained fierce.

“Kill Julian,” I gritted out to Ever through the pack link. I hated that Julian would die quickly, but it was the only way I could reduce the mental stress. Once he was dead, there would be no other Alpha blocking my influence.

“He’s mine,” Luca snarled from outside my field of vision.

With my Wolf still aggressively caring for Hycinth, I couldn’t turn my head to look at Luca, but I focused my efforts in his direction. I had no problem if he wanted Julian’s throat.

I heard Luca grunt as he got to his feet. Unsteady footsteps as he walked to where Julian lay meant Lula was also hurt, but it didn’t stop him.

“No!” Julian gurgled.

The stupid male wrestled to free himself from my hold.

I clamped down even more viciously.

He moaned, “Ple—”

His words were cut off as I recognized the sound of claws slicing through flesh. Luca hadn’t even bothered to say anything to Julian before he tore out his throat.

Instantly, the incredible physical and mental strain on my body reduced significantly now that the assholes couldn’t hide behind another Alpha. I gulped in air to catch my breath. It was easy now to maintain my hold over the remaining enemy wolves while releasing those from my pack.

“Take care of the bastards,” I growled to Ever through the mind link. “And make sure they live until I am ready to deal with them.”

“Done,” Ever replied back.

Even though Ever was hurt, he sounded stable enough to coordinate the other wolves into accomplishing what needed to be done, which was good because I was in no capacity of handling it at the present moment.

It took several minutes and a lot of shouting and cursing, but finally, Dagger and the rest of his wolves were restrained with silver zipties and moved inside the dwelling.

I let go of my Alpha Influence altogether, relieved to be able to fully focus on what was most important—Hycinth.

Staring fully through my Wolf’s eyes, I assessed her condition. My stomach churned in knots. It wasn’t good.

Grace had immediately hooked her up to an IV, which included fluids and the maximum dose of pain medication, but it wasn’t enough. An extremely high level of pain still radiated through the bond. Unfortunately, giving Hycinth any more medication could do more harm or even kill her, particularly in her weakened state. She also required blood. Once Grace had established the line for the transfusion, she went on to skillfully apply salve and bandages to Hycinth’s minor cuts.

During this time, my Wolf had continued to methodically attend to the deeper wounds with his tongue. I was hugely relieved to find it didn’t appear as though Dagger’s knife had penetrated all the way into the membrane of her womb, but the wound still oozed blood. The pup was alive, that much I could sense, but completely unresponsive. I couldn’t help the sharp prick of fear. I had no idea what lasting damage had been done.

And even more concerning was there was no hint of Hycinth’s Wolf to be found. It wasn’t like her pup, where I could sense the presence, even if unresponsive. No, this was far worse. Her Wolf was simply gone.

I had no idea what that meant or what it would do to my Wolf when he realized the truth.

“Leander,” Grace said softly, interrupting the agonizing thoughts in my head. “I need to address the wounds between her legs.”

A low sustained growl came from my Wolf’s throat. He didn’t want to move an inch, but understood it was necessary and pulled back slightly to give her room.

And then, in the middle of all of the chaos and confusion, I realized I hadn’t immediately picked up on a particular scent—semen.

A fresh wave of devastation rolled over me.

Those bastards!

They’d done to my mate what had been done to my mother.

Something inside of me tore apart. Horrible images assaulted my brain, pictures I’d worked so hard to forget—my mother’s dead body, violated and broken.

And now, my mate...

Sucking in a haggard breath, I shoved the hurt and the memories away. Getting lost in the past wasn’t what Hycinth needed from me right now. No. What she needed was for me to focus and to fight with everything I had inside of me to help her make it through this.

With extreme care, Grace ran her gloved fingers down both Hycinth’s legs and murmured, “I don’t think she has any significant fractures.”

"Sydney, please bring me the water,” Grace spoke through the pack link.

I wasn’t surprised that Grace had addressed Sydney, specifically. Both my Wolf and I would lose our minds if another male came near Hycinth right this moment.

Sydney opened the back door. Limping and covered in blood, she walked to Grace’s side, holding two gallons of purified water. Setting them down carefully, Sydney’s eyes drifted over Hycinth’s body before she looked away quickly, blinking back tears. Her voice caught in her throat, “One of the SUVs is out front. We have four more gallons if you need it.” Sydney stepped away.

“Wait a minute,” Grace said.

Sydney stood silently while Grace checked Hycinth’s blood pressure and glanced up at the bag of blood attached to Hycinth’s arm. “I was only able to fit two bags in the portable cooler. I don’t think she is going to need more than that but just in case, could you bring me one more?”

“Of course,” Sydney replied and quickly went to do as she was asked.

Gently bending Hycinth’s knees, Grace maneuvered her legs so that they lay open. Reaching for one of the gallons of purified water, Grace poured it slowly between Hycinth’s open legs, the excess water draining through the slats of the picnic table beneath her.

My Wolf stared intently as Grace carefully dabbed the blood and semen away. He listened to what the Healer had to say, but he also fully intended to assess the damage for himself.

Grace had to repeat the process several times before all of the fluids were removed and Hycinth’s sensitive tissue could be examined.

Pushing his snout closer to get a better look, rage engulfed us both again when we saw fissure tears around both holes, some minor but others significant as blood continued to trickle.

Those bastards had not kept their violation to just her vagina, but also her anus as well.

Vibrating with unrestrained fury, my Wolf took an unsteady step back, unable to calm his wildly out-of-control emotions.

They would pay!

By the time I was done, every single one of them would beg for mercy.

They would beg me for death.

But they wouldn’t get it.

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