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“Leander,” Grace’s thoughts drifted through the pack mind link we shared. “Hycinth needs your attention.”

Instantly, I rose to my feet.

Startled by my abrupt change in position, Ever lurched to his feet, chest puffed out, ready for a fight.

I expected Ever’s reaction, but what surprised me was Luca’s similar response. Certainly lacking of any decent Alpha experience he could trust, betrayed by the one male he thought loved him the most, I wouldn’t have begrudged Luca’s reluctance to blindly follow another Alpha so quickly, especially me. But there was no hesitancy in his response as he stood ready, hands out, naturally aligning himself to Ever’s body to provide me with optimal cover.

“Sorry,” I muttered as I walked away toward the lakeside cabin. I hadn’t meant to alarm them. No further words were necessary. I felt their heightened emotions calm.

Breaching the entryway, I watched Sydney gently release Hycinth’s hand, lean forward and place a barely-there kiss on her forehead, before silently walking past me toward the door.

As the door shut behind her, I murmured through the mind link, “Don’t go far.”

“Of course, Alpha,” Sydney’s response was immediate.

My gaze zeroed in on Grace. I raised an eyebrow.

Grace answered my unspoken question, “Sydney has not been silent since you left. Ministering with soft touches, both she and her Wolf have whispered words of love in Hycinth’s ear, begging her Luna to return to her.”

My throat tightened at Sydney’s attempts to bring Hycinth back to consciousness. Sydney was a noble Wolf, temporarily off-track, but completely restored now, immeasurable value to this pack. Her soft ministrations clearly hadn’t been on my behalf, but from her own heart and needs, already intimately bonded with her Luna.

Pointing to a waiting diaper and small box of wet wipes on the bedside stand, Grace brought me back to the task at hand, “Be sure to wipe in the direction of her vagina toward her bottom not the other way around and inspect her folds carefully, making sure no excrement remains. Also, allow her skin to dry completely before putting the new diaper on. It’s her best protection against getting a rash. If you do see any red spots or raised bumps, there is a packet of cream that can be applied, but keeping her skin dry and clean should proactively guard against this. It would also be good for her delicate skin to spend time without a diaper.”

I nodded, listening carefully to the instructions.

“I’ll give you some time.” Grace walked toward the door. “She’s stable for now, and I need to attend to some things back at the pack. From my research online, I also ordered some additional supplies that have been delivered. But I won’t be out of mind link reach,” she reassured. “Oh, and you will find an airtight disposal container in the laundry room for her soiled diapers.”

“Okay,” I grunted as the door shut behind her.

Walking to Hycinth’s side, I flipped open the wet wipes. Pulling a few out to have ready, I frowned. They felt cold to the touch. I didn’t like the idea of putting Hycinth in any additional discomfort even if it was for the purpose of cleaning her bottom. Looking around the room for a solution, I found none. Finally, I clasped the wipes between my hands and held them there, hoping my body heat would at least take the edge off. After a moment, I set them to the side, still not completely satisfied, but it would have to do for now.

Only uncovering the lower half of her naked body to keep her as warm as possible, I gently released the adhesive tabs of the diaper and rolled her body to the side. Grabbing the first wipe, I carefully removed all traces of excrement from her skin. She hadn’t had much of a bowel movement. I suspected that was normal considering her system was just beginning to function again. Still, using every bit of concentration I had, I carefully lifted her leg and examined her folds and bottom carefully to make sure both areas were perfectly clean. Grace would have said if she felt the lacerations Hycinth had experienced to her perineum and anus were at any additional risk during this process, so I was likely being over-careful, but I had no intention on taking any chances. My Wolf also demanded his own reassurance, insisting I stop for a moment to allow him full access to my vision so he could see for himself. After careful inspection, he relaxed, content that her healing was still on track.

Pulling the soiled diaper from beneath her, I tucked the ends in and used the tabs to close it tightly. Lightly placing the blanket back over lower half, I gave her skin a moment more to dry completely while I made my way into the laundry room. It wasn’t difficult to find the disposal container; however, it did take a moment for me to understand how it worked. Apparently, after dropping the diaper in the top, there was a lever to engage an interior compartment to open, subsequently allowing the soiled diaper to drop to the bottom and close tightly again in the middle. Hmm...clever.

Keeping a keen awareness on her emotional stability through the partial link we shared, I thoroughly washed and dried my hands before eagerly returning to her bedside. Skin now dry, I quickly applied a new diaper and settled into the chair next to her bed, close enough that I could reach her forehead to lightly tuck a wayward strand of hair behind her ear.

Anxiety rising, I considered the difficult task I was facing over the next twenty-four hours. It had been two and a half days since I’d recovered Hycinth...and lost four Wolves...to this seemingly endless violence. Deep unrest flared in my spirit, aching inside as if a part of my own flesh had died.

No doubt, their bodies had already carefully gone through the ritualization process. Embalming was not necessary for our species. Our heightened healing rate conversely meant our bodies were slow to decay. Now, all that remained was the full moon tomorrow night...when we would guide them to their next life.

“Sydney,” I gave the silent command.

The cabin door opened just wide enough for Sydney to slip inside. Cool blue eyes flickering to take in the scene around her, Sydney naturally settled into the chair across the room and waited for me to speak.

Not wanting to risk stressing Hycinth, I continued to use the mind link, “I need you to stay with her tomorrow night.”

Sydney nodded, no break in her stoic expression, ever diligent to her duties. But I knew her better than that. The slightest twitch of pain in her eyes didn’t escape my attention, revealing her struggle just as all of us mourned such a heavy loss.

“I don’t know how... I’m going to leave her,” I murmured, getting to the heart of the matter.

It was Sydney’s turn to read my expression, to hear all of the words I’d left unsaid, just as I knew she would. She couldn’t repair my stress but immediately, the Delta in her began to plan, “For those hours, we could increase the Sentinels in number and tighten the perimeter around the cabin. Additionally, the bikers—”

“Bikers?” I interrupted her, an eyebrow going up.

“They have been surprisingly resilient,” she admitted wryly, “having gone up against our kind, not once but twice, and lived to tell the tale. Right now, we need manpower whose loyalty has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. They cared for her and Luca long before we came into the picture.”

“Yes. Luca told me how much Tommy ‘cared’ for her previously...something about “always staring at her tits”, I think were his exact words.” I muttered. I hadn’t forgotten Luca’s little revelation in that regard, but the time to address it certainly hadn’t been appropriate yet.

Seemingly unconcerned with my ire or simply enjoying the situation, Sydney’s lip twitched, fighting a smile. “That may be, but that male does not seem stupid to me. Having been intimately exposed to your unique brand of um, ‘violence’...and witnessing your possessiveness toward your shewolf, I cannot imagine him making any sort of play for her affections, not in that way, now. If anything, his words and actions toward her strike me as familial...a little sister...to be protected.”

To an extent, I agreed with Sydney’s assessment. No doubt, he was rough on the exterior, but my Wolf had felt a connection to Tommy, whether birthed as a result of joint forces in battle or something more, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Highly unusual for my Wolf to connect with any human in that way and another reason I had let them live, but maybe my Wolf had instinctually understood what I was only beginning to conceptualize...these males were ready and willing to lay down their lives in protection of our little mate...and we needed all of the help we could get.

“Okay. Make it happen,” I commanded.

“Yes, Alpha,” Sydney stood to leave, her glance flickering toward Hycinth once more before walking out the door.

Grace returned after another hour to help me through feeding Hycinth again. As the pump was gently pushing nutrition through her system, I remembered my earlier dissatisfaction. “I need a way to warm the wipes.”

Looking up from intently studying the feeding machine, Grace motioned toward one of the bags that she returned with her. “I thought you might feel that way so I had a warmer delivered. It’s in that bag. If we plug it in now, they should be ready before she needs to be changed again.”

Pleased that she had considered that small detail, I eagerly went to the bag and rummaged through the supplies until I found it. It only took a minute to get it out of the box, assembled with the wipes and plugged in.

As darkness filled the sky and Hycinth’s feeding was complete, I mentally counted down the hours until I had to leave her the following night. My body physically rejected the thought. Fighting to control my breathing, I blurted out, “I don’t want to put the diaper on her tonight.”

Grace looked up at me, a question in her eyes.

“I need to be with her, skin-on-skin, nothing between us,” I explained. Hycinth needed it for healing...and I needed it to keep me from going insane.

“Okay,” Grace acknowledged slowly, clearly not wanting to disagree with me but continued, “I know I mentioned it would be good for her to have some time without it but now that more nutrition is in her body, it is possible she could urinate or even have a bowel movement in that amount of extended time.”

My Wolf scoffed at the ridiculousness of the statement. As if Hycinth’s bodily fluids were an aversion to him. If he had his way, he would be cleaning her private areas just as he would in the wild. In this, I had to agree. “I understand that. It matters not.”

Seeing the determination written on my face, Grace began to plan. “This is her last feeding for tonight so once her body processes the nutrition, you could change and bathe her. A fresh waterproof pad beneath both of you should be sufficient.”

I nodded, liking the idea.

It only took about an hour after Hycinth’s feeding for her body to expel. Grace pulled together a small basin of warm water and washcloth while I removed Hycinth’s diaper and cleaned her skin with the warm wipes. As I went to wash my hands, Grace started at Hycinth’s neck and gently worked her way down Hycinth’s body with the washcloth. Again, I carefully monitored Hycinth’s mood through our partial bond. When Grace reached her belly, she handed me the washcloth. “After you wash her private areas, I do need to inspect them in regards to her healing.”

“Okay,” I agreed, taking the small cloth. “I checked both times as well.”

Once done, Grace assisted in holding Hycinth in position so I could dry those areas thoroughly and then Grace spent a minute assessing the nearly-healed wounds just as I had earlier. Satisfied with the results, Grace released Hycinth’s leg gently to the bed. “Do you need anything else from me tonight?”

“No. We’ll be fine.”

She nodded on her way toward the door. “I’ll be back when the sun rises.”

After Grace left, I quickly cut out the lights and disrobed, climbing as carefully as I could into the large bed next to Hycinth. My entire body relaxed once there was nothing left between us. Skin-on-skin. Gently holding her close in the dark, my mind reached out to the immediate vicinity, checking the security around us, “Ever?”

“It’s Asher,” came the instant reply. “Do you need Ever to come?”

“No. I trust you have it under control.”

“On my life, Alpha...nothing will harm you or our Luna,” he swore fiercely.

“Good night.” I barely got the thought out as I dozed off, giving in to sheer exhaustion.

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