Chapter 23: Allies
Things calmed down a little after the birth announcements, but there were a lot of things still happening. The office was fitted out with all the equipment that had arrived, and Marge and Mabel were working on populating the walls with the people and their information. Tom had located an office space and I had leased it under the name of the shell company we had formed, and we were actively looking for a manager to get it started up. I still had high school stuff to complete and testing for the first semester, and I got that done, even if my heart wasn’t in it.
I was young, rich, and pregnant. If it wasn’t for how my parents raised me to value my education, I might have dropped out to focus on other stuff. At least it was online high school so I could do it without school hour restrictions.
I went outside every night and sat on the porch with a hot cocoa, hoping my mate would make an appearance. He never did. I cried myself to sleep every night, wondering if I had ruined it before I even knew his name.
The second week in December arrived, and we packed my truck so I could head out on my goodwill tour of Packs. Marge was coming with me, while Mabel would stay home and keep working from the office. I had arranged with the Alphas and Lunas of the surrounding Packs to stay overnight in some places, and make short visits in others. I was starting up north, so after a visit in the morning with the Minot Pack, I was off to Winnepeg.
Alpha Dennis and Luna Kay Coleman met us as we got out of the truck in the late afternoon, and introduced us to their senior wolves. Our bags were taken to the guest room while we walked to the Alpha wing offices with him. Over drinks and snacks (I had orange juice, of course), I filled them in on what was happening on my end. They were very interested in what I was putting together.
“What can we help you with, Ella?” Kay was a woman who, despite her beauty and grace, just had a way of making you trust her like you had known her forever. I did.
“I’m looking for people who can help me with intelligence and planning. As I said, I don’t want a war. Innocent wolves would take the brunt of the battle, and they don’t deserve that. I want to do more along the lines of what the North Shore pack had happen. I want to have the Alphas watch their Packs, their power and their money be taken away, to lose all that is important to them before they are finally killed.”
“And what would these people be doing?” Dennis was wary of being pulled into something bigger, his revenge was already complete.
“They would work for me, out of my house, and help me identify and exploit weaknesses in the Fargo, Brainerd and St. Cloud packs. For instance, we need to map the members of each Pack, and also their family and friend relationships outside the pack. Let’s say there’s a female from your Pack who is now mated to a St. Cloud pack member. We could feed her information on what her Alpha is doing; not all the wolves agree with it. If we convince them to leave, maybe make an offer for them to join your Pack, we do two things. We weaken his Pack further, and they spread the word about why.”
“You’re taking the long view on this, aren’t you,” Kay said. “It could take years for you to weaken them enough.”
“Maybe, but you might be surprised. I’ve already heard from Packs around the country who saw the video of my story; it is being passed among young women and Lunas alike as a cautionary tale. We could do the same with the video of Scott Tanner’s trial. Pretty soon, those three Alphas will have no allies left, and no Packs will allow their women to go there.” I smiled briefly. “There may be Alphas out there who still believe in forced matings, but not many parents want to see that for their children.”
“I can see that working to isolate them, but what else?”
“I am putting together a different group to go after their businesses and investments. I am hiring humans for this, they won’t know about the Packs. Once they learn the weaknesses of the companies, I will use my resources to attack them and force them out of business. Whether it is driving away customers, using government inspections and audits, or taking away their financing, I’ll bleed their companies dry and along with that their power.”
He rubbed his chin. “That’s dangerous, letting humans get to know too much about Pack life.”
“I know, but I’ll manage it. When it starts to get too close, I’ll move the operation so it is handled by wolves instead.” I answered a few more questions and then I made my ask. “I have the time and the money to accomplish my plan, but I need some people with specific skills. I need ones with computer hacking, database and social media talents, those with a financial or banking background, and I’d like to bring in someone who is a lawyer with Pack law experience. I would appreciate it if you would search your Pack, and if interested, allow them to come to my home and into my employment.”
Luna Kay looked at her mate, then at me. “Would you accept mated couples?”
“Of course. I have leased several homes from former Pack members of mine who have left for other Packs. I can put them up in a home, provide a good salary and important work. They will technically be on unclaimed land as my Pack doesn’t officially exist now, and they could visit when time allows. I’ll warn you, it’s a very rural area, there isn’t much around for them other than work.”
Dennis took her hand and nodded. “I will pass the offer along to my Pack now, and ask anyone interested to speak to you privately after dinner, if that would be all right.” I nodded. “Luna Kay has set up a meeting with our Pack females if you are up for it; they would like to talk to you and ask questions.”
She led me out of the office and to a lounge area where about twenty women, ages twelve to fifty, were sitting on the couches and chairs around the room. They all stood and bowed their necks when Kay walked in, and greeted me warmly. I talked with them for about an hour about my experience and what I had learned before dinner was ready.
Dinner was very enjoyable, I had missed the large gatherings of family and friends, and they made me feel at home. After dinner, a family of four pulled me aside and asked to talk. To my surprise, it wasn’t the parents that wanted the job, it was their fifteen-year-old son Josh. “He’s a total computer geek, and since he is homeschooled, moving won’t be a problem,” his father Jim said.
“What talents do you have, Josh?”
“I’m a hacker,” he said. “My parents are worried that I’ll get in trouble with stuff I do for fun. When the Alpha talked about what you were doing, I wanted to use my knowledge in a good cause. I can help you with your revenge.”
I nodded. “What about the rest of you?”
His Mom, Angela, picked it up. “Well, our daughter Jane is twelve and I’m homeschooling her. My mate is an accountant, he helps with our Pack finances but that isn’t a full-time job. We’ve been looking for something else but the job market isn’t strong.”
The gears ground. “Have you ever done forensic accounting?”
“I did it for a few years after college, but nothing recent.” Forensic accountants were often used in bankruptcy, divorces and police investigations when you needed to figure out what happened to the money.
“I can use you as well, if you would like. It would probably be part-time, so you could still keep your Pack work going.” They agreed, and I told them that they could start in a week if their Alphas approved. I got their contact information and let them know I would prepare a house for them and email them the address in a few days.
I slept better that night, as things were starting to come together. The next day we met the Vermillion pack for lunch and then it was on to the North Shore pack. Of all the places I would visit, this made me the most nervous; it was the only one where I might have killed one of their members. I also didn’t know how mad they would be about the pelt thing.
Marge pulled into the driveway and I got out, only to be embraced immediately by Carol and then Al. “Welcome to our Pack, Ella. We’re so glad you could visit.” I could see Carol’s happiness, she almost glowed as she looked at her true mate.
It went better than I thought. The mother of one of the lost warriors came up and hugged me at dinner; she thanked me for bringing part of her son back to her. I told her that despite what we told the Alphas, we had sent the men off to Luna with the funeral prayers. I just regretted that we didn’t collect the ashes.
We talked with the Alphas and the pack leaders about many of the same things, but there were a few questions I asked her in private that were different. “I met my true mate, Carol.”
“That’s amazing! Where is he?”
“I don’t even know his name.” I talked through our first meeting when our cars were attacked, and described the wolf that stopped in detail.
“Ermagerd….” She was shaking her head. “I can’t believe it.”
“What? Do you know him?”
“Yes.” She looked in my eyes, tears pooling. “It’s Olivia’s twin brother, Craig. That white streak on his chest is distinctive. He wasn’t at the gathering, you know. He was back home with his Mom, he had a soccer tournament.”
Thoughts were swirling in my head. My mouth hung open, and finally I started to laugh. I laughed so hard I cried.
“What’s going on, Ella?” Carol was on the floor with me as I tried to get control of my emotions again.
“Fucking soccer. I hate that sport.” I started sobbing, burying my face on her shoulder as I let it all out. “Don’t you see? If it wasn’t for his stupid soccer tournament, he would have been in that reception line. I would have met my true mate, he would have claimed me, he could have taken his place at my side since he isn’t the heir. The Packs would have their ally and NONE OF THIS STUFF WOULD HAVE HAPPENED TO ME.” I broke down even more at that, and she cried with me.
She must have linked her mate to help, because I felt myself being lifted off the floor by strong arms and carried to the bedroom I was using. Carol and Marge undressed me and put me in pajamas while the emotions continued to pour out of me; Marge went to get changed as Carol sat holding my hand. “Carol, can you do something for me?”
“Do you have his email address?” She nodded. “Send him a copy of your father’s trial. It includes my story, and he deserves to know what happened to me. Tell him I’m sorry. If he asks, give him my phone number.”
“Of course, I’ll do that right now.” Marge had come into the room and was getting under the covers behind me, there was no way she was going to let me sleep alone tonight.
I could only hope he hadn’t rejected me already.