COAL

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Where Is She?!

Coal

Kill him!

Tear him apart!

Limb from limb. Until there are no identifying pieces left!

My Wolf raged in my head, his words ringing in my ears. I’d heard everything Aatos said. He wanted Ryder to go back to his kingdom with him—over my dead body!

I salivated for his blood.

The bastard vampire turned, finally realizing his end was near.

I saw the telltale signs, his body shifted position, equally ready to fight.

“Wait!” the female vampire yelled.

I was shocked when she darted in between us. Maybe she had a death wish. Fine, I’d be happy to take care of her as well.

She glared at the male vampire. “You’re not helping! We have a job to do here. You may report to my father and not to me, but let me remind you...he’ll be pissed off if you fuck this up!” Her eyes blazed furiously.

Her father?

Her father was this elusive king in question?

What did that make her? A princess?

Aatos kept his eyes trained on me, and replied through his teeth, “I suspect I don’t have a choice in the matter. In another second, he’s going to be all wolf, and you’re going to need to get out of my way.”

The female faced me and spoke urgently, “Yes! We’ll give your little Wolf safe passage into Queen Raine’s territory.” She flipped her head back around to Aatos and continued snarling, “No conditions. No bargaining. No need for your brother to come home with us.”

Aatos hissed his displeasure and clenched his fists.

She returned her attention to me. “Consider it a goodwill gesture...for the mutual benefit of both of us.”

“Tell me more about this Queen,” I asked gruffly. I still wasn’t convinced this was a good idea, but I wanted to hear what she had to say.

“Aatos spoke the truth. She is kind. My father is quite fond of her,” she said and then added under her breath, “too fond,” with a tiny shake of her head as if she couldn’t quite understand it herself, and then continued in a normal tone, “Queen Raine has a soft spot for pets and all other lost creatures, it seems. Her third-in-command is none other than a pet she rescued three years ago during an Alliance Meeting. It’s said he’s closer to her than a brother. He never leaves her side.”

My eyebrows went up. “How is it possible for the third-in-command of a vampire kingdom to be human?”

“He’s no longer human. He asked Raine to change him, and she agreed, even though changing a human is was highly frowned on, almost illegal, not quite, but almost. But none of that mattered to her. To hear my father speak of her, she’s quite impulsive and always follows her heart. So she just did it anyway.”

I blinked. This queen sounded like a female who took a stand for what she believed in no matter what anybody else felt. I liked that. I suspected Brinley would as well.

The female vampire, Savannah, gave a small smirk. “The motherfucker is as big as you are. He took to vampirism with finesse.” Then she hesitated and looked me up and down, her mouth curving into a frown. “Are you bigger than when we last saw you?”

Aatos answered for me, tone cool, eyes narrowed, “Yes. He is. Wanna tell us how that happened?”

I ignored their questions on my size and asked, “How will she contact you?”

“I’m assuming whatever is going to happen between you and your father is going to happen in the next few days—hopefully after we have our meeting with him—is that right?”

I just nodded.

“Okay, then we’ll still be here at this hotel. I’ll give you my cell number.”

I plugged her number into my phone. I’d have to get Brinley a phone of her own, but that was easy enough. She needed a burner phone anyway.

I had what I wanted. I looked to Savannah. “Thank you for this. I’ll make sure my father meets with you before he dies.”

She gave me a genuine smile, and I felt something shift in the air between us—an agreement, a newfound familiarity. I gave her a short nod and headed toward the door, looking back for my brother to follow.

Aatos grasped Ryder by the arm, stopping him from leaving. His voice was low and deep, “Wait...just think about it. I’m not asking for a commitment. Only that you give it a chance...give us a chance...and then decide.”

I hated to see the pain in Ryder’s eyes. I hated to realize how deeply he was affected by the vampire. He carefully removed Aatos’ hand from his arm and said flatly, “I’m sorry. There is no chance for us.”

Shockingly, the vampire appeared equally moved. His lips thinned, and he took a step away. He watched silently as Ryder, and I walked out the door.

When we got outside, I mindlinked to Ryder, ”Are you okay, bother?”

His face twisted. He whispered, “I don’t know what the fuck I am.”

My heart went out to him. “I’m here for you. I know it doesn’t help on the inside, but if you want to talk...about anything, no matter what it is...I’m here for you.”

Ryder nodded, lost in his own thoughts.

We rode in silence for several hours. Daylight turned into night, heightening my eagerness to check on Brinley and make sure she was okay.

Glancing down at the almost-empty fuel indicator, I ground my teeth together. I didn’t want to stop, but we had no choice. We still had forty-five minutes to go and would run out of gas before we made it if we didn’t fuel up now.

Pulling into the next station, I got out to pump the gas while Ryder went inside to collect a couple of sodas. He returned to the vehicle just as I was finishing.

Replacing the nozzle and gas cap, I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket and pulled it out.

Langdon.

Instantly, nerves fluttered inside my belly. Langdon wouldn’t call me—not unless something was wrong. Pushing the button to accept the call, I demanded, “What is it?”

Langdon sounded out of breath. “She’s gone! Alpha took her, and no one will tell me anything. You need to get here. Now!”

His words caused every cell in my body to feel like it was doused in gasoline and lit on fire.

“Fuck!” I roared as I jumped into the driver seat, fired up the ignition and slammed on the gas. The truck lurched forward, tire squealing against the pavement.

Ryder yelled, “Coal! What happened? Tell me what the fuck is going on!”

I couldn’t answer him. I couldn’t make my mouth work...because if I said the words, then they would be real and Brinley would truly be gone. My brain just wouldn’t accept that reality. I couldn’t live without her. I couldn’t survive without her in my arms.

Ryder must have given up trying to get answers from me because he snatched out his phone and called Langdon. I heard his side the conversation, “When did you last see her? How long ago? And Beta Ford...what did he say?” There was a long pause, and Ryder snarled, “We’ll make him talk. Just keep him there.”

Ryder didn’t bother to relay his conversation to me. He just spoke in a lethal calm, “We’ll get her back, Coal. No matter what it takes, no matter what we have to do.”

We made it back to the pack in record time.

I barely cut off the engine before ripping the door open and running into the packhouse. Langdon, Amber, Jax, and Daniel were all standing around Beta Ford.

The Beta glanced up at me, tone hard, “Coal, you know I won’t betray my Alpha.”

I jumped on him, my fist cracking into his nose. “Where is Brinley, motherfucker?!”

The chair he was sitting in was thrown back by the force of my assault. We both landed on the ground, with him beneath me. He tried to break out from underneath me, but he was no match for my strength. My fists continued to pummel into his face in a frenzied haze. Abruptly, I felt several hands trying to jerk me off of him. “Coal...stop! We need him to talk...don’t kill him!”

I growled at all of them a warning to stay back.

“Coal...if you kill him...you kill her too!” Ryder shouted directly into my head. My Wolf heard him. My head snapped around to find his face. My breathing was ragged, my eyes wild.

Ryder was right behind me with his hands stretched out pleading, “You need to stop...we need him conscious.”

Slowly, I got off of the Beta. He coughed and spit blood out of his mouth. They pulled him into a sitting position, propping him against the couch. His head lolled to the side, but he was awake.

I growled, “Where did he take her?”

Ford shook his head. “She’s an outcast. Alpha had every right to take her. He and he alone decides her fate.”

“An outcast?!” I roared, jerking my shirt over my head, revealing her mark at the base of my neck. “She’s no outcast, you dumb-fuck, she’s your future Luna!”

His eyes widened. He muttered, “He didn’t tell me she was mated.”

“And that makes it okay?” Langdon snarled. “Your Alpha hasn’t acted honorably by taking off with a young shewolf. Brinley would never have gone anywhere with him willingly, so is that the type of behavior you endorse?”

“No...” he coughed, spitting blood again. “I told him not to. He didn’t listen...he never listens, not when it comes to her.”

He wasn’t telling me something I didn’t already know. I crouched down by his side so that we were eye level. My voice dropped to a lethal whisper, “Look at me very carefully. I’m going to kill him. I’m going to be your Alpha...and if you don’t want me to torture you for the same amount of years he tortured her, then I suggest you answer my question. Where. Did. He. Take. Her?”

Ford’s shoulders fell in resignation. “There’s a cabin...a safe house about five hours from here.”

“Exactly...where?”

He gave us coordinates. Ryder keyed them into his phone, pulling up a map.

Langdon barked orders to Daniel, “Stay here...call me if anything happens. Also, call Alpha Wilder. Let him know what’s going on.”

We all piled into an SUV. It had more room to fit everyone and the capacity to go faster than my truck. I looked over to London on the passenger side. “How long I she been gone?”

He shook his head. “I’m not exactly sure. Not very long. Maybe about an hour.”

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