Chapter 26: Mark...
My head was spinning with everything that was going on, with everything I had learned. My heart ached for Craig, and I wondered if he was doing the right thing. I know he was protecting me, but I wasn’t some weak human with no knowledge of our hidden world. I had resources too, hell, we could leave this place and live forever on some island together.
But then I thought of Marge, and Mabel, and Mark’s parents, and all the people who were coming to help me. He was doing the right thing.
It was late, so I called Mark first. “Mark, I need to see you, there are things we need to discuss that are very important.”
He was concerned by my tone, I could tell by his voice when he answered. “Are you all right? I can come over if you need me.”
“No, I’m fine. I need to talk to Tom and Shelley too. It’s easiest to do it all at once. Can we meet for breakfast or something?”
He put the phone down, then came back a few minutes later. “Mom says to come over at eight, she’ll make breakfast for us all.” There was a pause. “Has something changed between us?”
“In a way. I accepted Craig as my mate, and he as mine.” There was silence on the line, he knew enough of us to know what this meant. “We haven’t completed the mating yet, we can’t. I’ll tell you more in the morning.”
“Are you all right with this? You know I still love you, Ella.”
“I know, Mark. I love you too, but as the father of my babies, not as my mate. I’ll explain more tomorrow, all right? It’s late, I’m tired and I have to make another call.”
“Sleep well, Ella. Can you do something for me?”
“Place the phone down on your belly.” I did so, and smiled when he told his babies good night and he would see them in the morning.
“You know they aren’t old enough to listen, right? I’m not even three months along yet.”
“I don’t care. I’ll see you in the morning, Ella.”
He hung up and I made my next call. “Uncle Doug? It’s Ella. Do you have a minute, I need to talk to you.”
“Of course, Ella. Let me put it on speaker, Remi is with me. Did you have a good trip?”
“I did. My mate was waiting for me when I came back. We talked, and accepted each other.”
There was a whoop in the background that must have been Remi. She was excited. “This is wonderful, I’m so happy Doc was wrong again and you still found him. When is the wedding? Have you mated? What did he think about you being pregnant?”
“One thing at a time, Aunt Remi!” I could hear Doug calming her down. I explained what had gone on and what Craig had done, going back to his Pack to watch out for an attack on those close to me. “Beta Mike said he had an idea. I need that idea, sooner rather than later. I need to secure not just my house but the houses around me that will be filled with those coming to help me.”
“OK, I’ll talk to Doug and tell him to get rolling on it by the morning. I’ll have him call you with what he needs.”
I smiled, I could always count on them. “Thanks, Uncle Doug. I’m heading to bed though, I’m wiped out. Can you have him call me after ten tomorrow?”
“Sure thing,” said Remi. “You get your rest. Remember, pregnancy is draining, especially for a human with twins. You need to prioritize yourself too.”
“Yes Mom.” I smiled at that, it still hurt not having my Mom there but Remi was stepping in for her. “Goodnight.” I showered and headed to bed, my mind filled with images of Craig and I. Mostly naked images. Eventually, I fell asleep.
The next morning, Marge and Mabel dropped me off at Mark’s house. With the new threat, we were doing some things different. We were all packing both a pistol and silver knives, since we would be in public and they might not be able to shift. While I talked, Mabel was going to walk around the block and Marge was going to drive out a little farther, both using their wolf senses to see if anyone was spying on us.
I knocked on the door, and Tom opened it for me. He gave me a hug and walked with me to the kitchen where Sally was flipping blueberry pancakes and cooking eggs. “Good morning Ella!” She gave me a hug before going back to the stove. “How are you and my grandbabies doing?”
“Good, last night helped. Thank you for having me.” I looked around. “Where’s Mark?”
“He’s up, I heard something earlier, but he hasn’t come down yet. Why don’t you go check on him? Breakfast is almost ready.”
I walked past Tom, who was reading stories on his iPad at the table with his cup of coffee, and went up the stairs and down the hall to Mark’s room. I decided not to knock, after all, we had seen each other naked several times. I just opened the door.
My hand reflexively was drawing the pistol from its holster in the small of my back as I took in the scene. Mark was tied to his bed, gagged and bleeding, with only his boxer shorts on. A man with a knife was carving into his chest as he screamed into the gag, while another stood next to the bed. The Glock was up and I was firing before they figured it out.
I double-tapped the man on top of Mark as everything seemed to go into slow motion. I saw both rounds hit, the first in his chest and the second up near his throat. I turned to the second man, he was lunging for me. I dove to the right as I fired back at him wildly, but I wasn’t fast enough to avoid him completely. His shoulder grazed my left hip and knocked me into the dresser to the right of the door.
I tried to roll but he had landed on my legs. I raised the pistol again, getting off a shot into his hip before his arm snapped around and knocked it out of my hand. I could hear the bone breaking in my right forearm as the gun bounced under his bed.
I tried to push out from under him, but with one bad arm I couldn’t. I felt him roll off me, and instead of going for the gun like he thought I would, I drew a silver dagger with my bad left hand. I screamed as the broken arm moved, but I got it into my fingers, the thumb still being useless to me. I scooted back using my right elbow and held the knife out in front of me.
“STUPID BITCH!” His eyes were black with rage as he stood up, holding one hand over the wound. “You shot me in the ass!” He moved until he was standing over my legs, just out of reach of my knife.
“You’re the stupid one. When the Johnson pack finds out, they’re going to kill every person in your Pack who lifts their leg to pee.”
He looked over at his partner, who was quite dead on the far side of the bed. “You’re lucky I was ordered not to kill you. Someday, I will.” He turned around and there was a loud gunshot.
I saw his back explode in a red mist as the room and my face was sprayed with blood. He dropped to his knees, then toppled backwards onto me. I felt some ribs break and screamed in pain as he was pulled off me.
“You all right, Ella?” Tom stood there, a pump shotgun in hand, as he checked the second man.
I fought the pain. “Broken arm, ribs. How is Mark?”
He set the shotgun on the bed and sat next to his son. He was untying the gag when we heard a voice in the hall. “TOM!”
“WE’RE OK, SALLY.” She came to the door and screamed when she saw the scene before her. She collapsed before Tom could reach her.
I rolled over and got to my knees just as Marge came running in, gun drawn. She helped me up to the bed, noting how I flinched when I moved my arm. “Mabel is checking the outside, she’ll let us know if there is anyone else.”
I could hear a siren approaching. I looked over at Tom, he was holding Sally in his arms and she hadn’t woken up yet. Marge moved over and finished removing the gag from Mark, then freed his hands. She wouldn’t let him move until she had checked him over. “Are you hurt anywhere other than your chest?”
“No.” I stood up and moved next to his head where he could see me. “Ella, are you all right?”
“I’m going to be fine, Mark.” Tears were flowing down my face as I looked down at him. Marge had pulled a pillowcase off and was holding it to his chest, where they had carved letters above his nipples up to his collarbone. There was a lot of blood.
Mabel ran in. “No one else is out there, I only scented two. They came through the window.” She looked around. “Nothing supernatural here, just two dead home invaders. Ella, did you use your knives?” She could see it on the floor.
“No, didn’t have the chance.” She picked up my knife, then carefully removed the straps on my broken arm holding the sheath. She also took the one from my left arm.
I looked at Tom and Mark. “Two men broke into the room and were torturing Mark. We don’t know them. I came in and shot one, Tom, you shot the other when you heard the noises and came in with your shotgun. He was threatening me so you shot him.”
He nodded. Mabel went outside, I’m sure she was putting the knives in my truck before the cops arrived. A few minutes later, she returned with the Sheriff in tow. “Fuck me,” he said as he looked at the bloody scene. Marge was still applying pressure to the cuts on Mark’s chest, I was cradling my arm and holding my arm close to my broken ribs, and he had to step over Sally who was still passed out in the hall. He made a few calls on the radio. “Ambulance is ten minutes out. I need everyone out of the crime scene, if you can move.”
Tom had already picked up Sally and was taking her to the living room. I got up and walked out, but Marge kept Mark in bed. She wasn’t going to take pressure off those cuts until the paramedics arrived.
The Sheriff stayed in the room, when his deputy arrived he had her take photos of us and take our statements. There wasn’t much for me to say, so I described what I saw and what I did. No, I didn’t know the guys or what they were doing. Tom and Sally knew even less, since they didn’t come until the gunshots. Tom’s shotgun had been confiscated as evidence as well.
When the ambulance arrived, we sent them back with the gurney to get Tom. It took ten minutes for him to come out, the sheet having been replaced with bandages and they had an IV running. His face was pale and he was in pain. I got up and walked behind them, telling them they could check me in their rig. Marge said she would ride with us and Tom was going to drive Sally when she was recovered.
I was holding Mark’s hand as soon as I got in, even if it was just my bad hand. Once he was settled, the EMT started to work on me, putting my arm in a splint and looking at my ribs. I ignored it as best I could, but she noticed. She was going to give me something for the pain, but I said I was pregnant and could wait. “How’s Mark?”
“He lost a lot of blood, but he should be all right. The wounds are long but not deep.” I was glad they were more interested in leaving a message than killing him, but I was beating myself up inside. Not only could I have gotten there early, but my mind went back to last night’s conversation. I didn’t tell him he was in danger because I was waiting for this morning. It was a mistake I would remember every time I looked at him.
Marge was already on the phone, first updating Mabel, who was returning to our house, then calling Doug and Remi. Pissed doesn’t begin to describe their reaction.
I would have preferred if this all would have been kept quiet, but they attacked humans and human law enforcement would be involved. I didn’t recognize either of the guys, so we would have to wait until they were identified to see who sent them.
We were sent to different treatment rooms at the emergency room. The doctor set my arm, which he said was a clean break, and wanted me to return in a week to have it checked. The ribs were taped, there wasn’t much we could do about them. I was given some pain medication, and as soon as I could walk out I was heading for the waiting room with Marge, Tom and Sally.
I gave Sally a gentle hug as I sat down, gritting my teeth. “I’m sorry, Sally. I didn’t know.”
“What do you mean?”
I looked at both of them. “Last night my mate came to me. We accepted each other, but he didn’t mark me because he said his Alpha and the other Alphas were still after me. Uncle Doug is protecting me, but he thought they might go after those close to me instead.”
“Oh God…” Sally buried her face in Tom’s chest.
“I’m so sorry. That’s what I was going to talk to you about this morning, finding a way to get Mark away and safe before he gets hurt. He was the logical one to go after to hurt me.” I couldn’t even look at them, I was so ashamed.
“Ella.” I couldn’t. “Ella, look at me.” Tears were running down my face as I looked at Tom. “This isn’t your fault, Ella. You couldn’t have known they’d invade our house and attack him in his own bedroom. You fought for him, you protected him. We’re so grateful you came over when you did.”
Marge pulled my head onto her shoulder until I was done crying. It was another hour before the doctor arrived. “He’ll make a full recovery, but there was a lot of damage. He has a dozen internal stitches, and over a hundred on his skin. I need to keep him for observation overnight due to his blood loss, and he needs to be on bedrest for a few more days to let things start to heal up.”
I had to ask. “Doc, what did they write on him?”
He pulled out his phone and showed me the photo he had taken after he had completed the stitching. It spelled out “URN.” He looked at us. “Any idea what this means?” We all shook our heads no. “Maybe the Sheriff will figure it out.”
We stayed until we could see him. Of course, he tried to make light of things. “Good shooting, Tex.” He grinned as I walked to the far side of the bed to stand by him.
“Ah, I don’t know, second one was a little high.” I kissed his cheek. “I’m sorry, Mark. It’s all my fault.”
“Stop that, Ella. They were just using me to send a message.” He checked to make sure the door was closed. “They said you are next, Ella.”