Chapter 72: Ker Free
Al and I had a bet going on whether Gunny would get his woman before Lisa would get her men. Let’s just say he chose poorly, I had far more confidence in the power of a muscled chest and ripped abs than investigations and interviews.
A week later, Gunny arrived for a weekend visit with his arm around Rose. She was sporting a hickie on her neck, a precursor to the change she needed an Alpha’s permission to receive. I was more shocked at the young lady who was walking beside her. She looked to be about sixteen or seventeen, and was a younger version of her Mom. In other words, she was a blonde goddess. As they walked through the gate into the backyard, her eyes lit up as she saw the big pool. Another swimmer, I thought.
As we were introducing ourselves, she let out a shriek. I smirked a little, the older kids were getting out of the pool to introduce themselves and all of them were naked. “We have guests, everyone get clothes on and no shifting without permission,” I said. Her daughter Charlotte made it look like she was keeping her eyes covered, but I could see her peeking between her fingers as a couple of the teenage males were going to the shower room to grab trunks. One froze, staring at her as she stared back; Josh finally shook his head and walked through the door. “Thanks for the warning you were bringing guests,” I said to Gunny as I smacked his shoulder. “Did you tell them you are a werepanther?”
“We talked about it on the way here, they’re still trying to get their heads around the idea that she is my mate. I haven’t changed for them yet.”
“I apologize for the shock; as werewolves and panthers, we don’t have the same hangups about nudity as humans have developed. It is normal for us to be nude around the house or the pool.”
“No problem,” Rose said. “Someone should have called ahead.” I liked her, she would keep Gunny in line.
“Charlotte, if you’d like to go for a swim, we have a bunch of spare swimsuits in the women’s changing room. We bought a bunch of them when we moved here, most still have tags on them.” She looked at her Mom, who nodded. She squealed her thanks and ran off to get dressed.
“Alphas, I can’t get her smell out of my head. My wolf is going nuts. Mom, what do I do?” I could sense Josh’s tension through the bond.
“Be her friend first, she’s human, you have to go slow. I’m so happy for you, son!” Angela was excited, she didn’t expect her son to find his mate so early.
I motioned for Gunny and Rose to sit at the table. “What was all that about,” she said. “Your eyes were glazing over…”
“It’s called the pack link,” Gunny said as he took her hand. “In a Pack, we each have the ability to talk directly between each other mentally, since we can’t talk in animal form. It only occurs within a family, like between mates, and once you are joined to a Pack.”
“Do you have to be in a Pack?”
“No,” I said, “But your animal is more stable and happy in a Pack. Wolves are social creatures, they aren’t happy alone. The Pack is like a big family, everyone helping each other and supporting the group.”
“So this is like a commune, then.”
“No, not really. It’s more like a close-knit military unit. There is an organization within the Pack, everyone has their rank and their responsibilities. Watch how things work here during the visit, and talk to anyone you want. We would never force you to take the change, or force you to be in a Pack. When you are ready, you’ll come to us.”
“Huh.” She thanked Marge for bringing out the lemonades as she and Al sat down. We looked over, the kids had run out of the changing rooms and were jumping back in the pool- naked. I started to get up when I saw Charlotte running out with Jane Spencer and diving naked into the pool to join them. The teen boys ran out and soon a volleyball game was going on. I could see Rose wanted to stop it, but Gunny put his hand on hers and I saw her relax a little. “Is it true? Her mate is here?”
I nodded, smiling widely. “It appears so. We recognize our mates by smell, and by the tingles when we touch. Josh, the young man who was staring at her, is her mate. She doesn’t know it yet, he’s going to spend some time getting to know her first.”
“Fuck me sideways,” she muttered, “I thought this was just a social call.”
“Gladly,” Gunny said as she elbowed him. “It’s best to leave them alone and let nature take its course. I’m thrilled they found each other; there isn’t anyone in the world who will love and protect her like he will. Josh Spencer is a great kid, he’s amazing with computers.”
Her eyes went wide. “JOSH SPENCER? You mean the kid who made #6 on the FBI Most Wanted list? The cyberterrorist responsible for Shitter’s Full ’17, the Great Sewer Backup?”
“Yep, that’s him,” I said. “No better friend, no worse enemy. He’s off the list now, he was pardoned after the war.” I took her hand. “It was a tough time, we had to use anything we had available just to survive. Hell, his hacking almost single-handedly funded our side of the war. He brought in hundreds of millions of dollars in the first year of the conflict. He’s got more money than he can use, more friends than you would believe, yet he chooses to live here with us because we are his family. That’s what a good kid he is.”
John and Angela were holding hands across the table from her. “We’ve been getting updates, he’s already in love with her and would do anything to make her happy. She is interested in him too, our daughter can tell. He’ll treat her with love and respect,” John said.
She looked at the two talking in between points. “He better, if he hurts her I’ll kill him if she leaves anything alive.” She looked down. “She’s my only family, I got pregnant at sixteen and kicked out of the house. I had to move in with my best friend, luckily my Grandmother took me in. I finished high school and got through college on scholarships. I got my degree, then law school while she was at school or day care. I joined the FBI when she was eight, and worked my way up. She’s never had anyone other than I and her Great Grandma, the rest of the family disowned me.” She paused and wiped a tear away. “I’m thirty-four, and until Gunny here forced his way in I thought I’d die a lonely old woman.” He leaned over and kissed her tenderly. “She hasn’t dated either. I need to talk to him soon; she was raped when she was fourteen by a man I had dated briefly. Ever since, she’s had trouble trusting boys and she doesn’t like to be touched.”
“He will understand, and help her,” I said. “I can talk to her as well. I was raped and left pregnant when I was eighteen; my friends drugged me and one of the boys left me pregnant.”
Her face curled up in anger. “Did he go to jail?”
“Nope. I killed him.” I showed her the scar on my left thumb. “I tore his throat out with my teeth when he got too close, then I bit my own thumb off to get out of the handcuffs and escape. If she needs someone to talk to, I’d be happy to help.” The conversation turned lighter, and dinner was served out by the pool. Craig joined us, having returned from a trip to town to purchase more furniture.
The kids eventually got tired and were ushered off to bed; it wasn’t lost on us that Josh walked her back to the teen girl’s bunkhouse with Jane. We had moved on to adult beverages by now, and Gunny and Rose finally started to talk about the other things going on.
“So, I wanted to update you on the search. It hasn’t taken long, the men responsible admitted to it and were proud they had taken care of the ‘problem.’ They turned over the evidence, according to the information they were given, Al and Ker had made contact with the American Mob and were leaving to become contract killers. They had bank transfers, emails, everything. They burned you to prevent your group’s existence from becoming public and since you were going rogue.”
“Where did they get the evidence?”
“From your group’s trainer… Trevor Madison.”
Al started to rise, his chair twisted and bent under the strain as he fought off a shift. I wasn’t much better; Craig had to bite my mark and rub my side to calm me down. Trevor had found and trained Black Ker into the dangerous weapon she became, and had visited Quantico a few times to help me learn to use my Panther. I had trusted him, and it cut deeply.
“Who knows the real story,” Al asked.
“Just Lisa and I. We decided that it was better if everyone continued to believe you both were dead. Trevor went off the grid a few weeks after the team didn’t come back from Mexico. No one has seen him since, nor have we seen Black Ker. We figure they were planning to go out on their own, and used the CIA to destroy all links back to the Government. We’ve worked with the FBI and Justice Department to clear your name, Ella, so there are no active warrants on you. Al, you’re still dead. However, until we can locate Trevor and whoever he is working with, you’re both not safe coming out.”
I let it all sink in; we were safe from the Cartel, now from the Government but still had to hide. I couldn’t let too many people in the Packs know either; Trevor was a werecat, and might be working with packless wolves or corrupt Alphas. “I guess we’ll just stick around here until we can go back home,” I said.
“I agree.” Al pulled Marge onto his lap. “I’ll just have to stay home and make sure my mate here doesn’t over-exert herself.”
“There’s one more issue,” Rose said. “We had our lawyers look into the applicability of Pack law to these men. For Al, quite simply, it doesn’t apply since he wasn’t a panther until after he was attacked. For you, Ella, it is more difficult. When you were recruited you were human, they had no way to know you were a panther. Even so, sending you off and later releasing your photo is not against the law.”
“Even if it puts me in danger?”
“They didn’t lie, or take out a contract. You did the hit, they just let the Cartel know who did it.”
I sulked for a moment, I wanted more closure than that. “So in the end, the CIA guys were the orchestra, not the conductor.”
She nodded. “Yes, that is what we concluded. We are giving them administrative sanctions; suspensions, reassignments, letters of reprimands. That’s all we can support. As for your imprisonment, we agree it was not justified but under the emergency powers of the President, almost anything was legal. We determined that the twenty million settlement was an adequate and fair redress for everything. I have the paperwork and the check here if you agree.”
“I have to check with my lawyer.”
“Go ahead, we emailed it to him earlier. He’s waiting your call.” I did so, and a few minutes later signed the papers and accepted the check. I tucked it away, maybe the girls and I could take a little shopping trip and blow some of this mad money soon.
With that, we said our good nights and went off to our rooms.
Our time in New Mexico came to a close almost a year later; we left Gunny, Rose, and the Spencers there because they weren’t ready to leave the country quite yet. Rose had become a panther when they mated a few weeks after they arrived, and resigned from the FBI. Josh and Charlotte were very much in love, but we were making them wait until she was 18 before she could mate and change. She was debating panther vs. wolf as we left.
The island had been cleared of lost ordnance, and we started making plans for expansion. We were talking about returning the hotel to a tourist destination, while building a compound for the Pack on the north end. We still had to be careful about what we posted on social media and what we said, but there was a lot more internet access than we allowed before. We still kept posted on the happenings back home, occasionally face-timing with Renee and Robert, or Derek and Amanda.
We were shocked when the news came out about Black Ker assassinating a Luna, and the nationwide panther-hunt for her when she escaped capture. Derek assured us there was nothing we could do there to help, so we stayed home and watched.
When the news came that she had been arrested and would face trial, we booked a plane. I figured I might not dispense the justice, but I would see it being carried out and that was enough. Craig stayed behind with the kids, and Marge with their baby boy Curtis. We flew to New Mexico first to pick up Gunny and Rose, then flew to Denver. We arrived at the Pack shortly after the trial started, and left knowing justice had been done.
There was no more reason to hide with Trevor and his backers dead. I met with the new Pack Alphas at Telluride, who were absolutely thrilled to see me alive. We got a promise from them to visit over the winter, plus we saw many other friends and acquaintances. I promised to see them all at Wolfstock III next summer, assuming the triplets were able to travel by then.
Yes, I was pregnant again, and I’d never been happier.
When my parents died, all I could live for was revenge. I found neither joy nor satisfaction in it.
Vengeance leaves you hollow; it was only through forgiveness that I experienced the greatest blessings in my life. I had survived, I had overcome, I was a better person and Alpha because of it.
It was time to go home to my family and my Pack.
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