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Beyond the Were War

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Chapter 2: Lasting Damage

Cartel Safe House, North of Los Cruces, NM

No one would look him in the eye as he made his way out of his vehicle and down to the basement of the house. It was the first time Juan Hernandez had been to this location, which was only used in emergencies. He had dozens of such safe houses across West Texas and New Mexico, chosen so he was never more than an hour away from one. The houses were normally filled with families, relatives of those he employed, as cover. They got to live in the house under the condition they vacate immediately if they got a phone call with a code word, and they never attempt to enter the basement room with the code key on it. Only Ramon and the two bodyguards knew where the houses were.

Ramon Guzman, Juan’s security chief, led the way downstairs and left the two bodyguards to watch the front and back of the house. If Juan was pissed at what happened, Ramon was already plotting revenge. He opened up the door to the medium sized room then stepped aside to let Juan past. Inside was a room about 12x12 feet with a desk, cabinets and some cots. Ramon immediately opened one cabinet, lowering the shelf which turned into a desk and then opened the upper cabinets which exposed the satellite phone system and routers. The room wasn’t much, but from here Ramon could contact his intelligence and security forces and Juan could direct operations of his drug empire. They could stay here for months if needed, long enough to outlast any police manhunt or cartel war.

Juan sat down heavily in a recliner on the far side of the room. They had been only ten minutes from the safe house that the DEA had raided, a house that was not supposed to be a target for anything. They had carefully kept the house separate from the drugs, the human trafficking, and the other cartel businesses. Only a few select people knew about its location, and the guests he invited out for the sex parties were brought out in paneled vans so they could not know where it was. It was his haven, his place to relax and indulge in his sadistic tastes.

He felt violated.

They had taken away his prize possession from him, the only woman he found who could take everything he could dish out and come back for more.

“I’m bringing comms back up now. The codes have all been changed, so even if they crack the security on the gear at the house, they won’t be able to track it. Give me ten minutes and I’ll have everything back up and running. Why don’t you pull up the news and see if they are talking about the raid.”

Juan grunted, his fingers pinching the bridge of his nose. They had “gone black” on communications as soon as the alarm on the safe house was triggered in the raid. All cellphones, radios and other devices were destroyed as part of the emergency procedures they implemented. They didn’t even use burner cellphones; there were too many ways for them to be intercepted or traced. The government may be incompetent, and its officials corrupt, but the computers collected everything. He was glad that they combined the old fashioned use of couriers, safe houses and limited access over those who trusted the technology. The house should have been so far off the grid that it wouldn’t be noticed. When he found the person who screwed up or betrayed him, they would pay dearly. He turned on the news; it was the lead story, but only mentioned the four dead people inside.

“There’s no mention of Maria. Their standing orders were to execute all prisoners if the house was breached. I need to know if she’s dead, and if not where they are hiding her. Lean on our contacts in the DEA, FBI and local police. I also want to verify those four are really dead. It wouldn’t be surprising if one of the deaths is being faked, and that’s our guy.”

“I’m on it. While we are at it, we will monitor their families and I’ll turn our investigators loose on their activities and histories. If one of them so much as finds a $20 bill in a parking lot, we’ll find out.”

“Get one of our people to the morgue, too. I want fingerprints from the corpses to confirm they are our men.”

“Boss, how far do you want to go on this?”

“I want anyone involved dead by sundown. I want Maria back. I don’t care what it takes, just get it done.”

Gila Pack Infirmary, New Mexico

The light worked its way through Maria’s eyelids, disturbing her long rest. She was sore and tired, but also warm. Warm... why is the basement warm... wait a minute, sunlight?

She opened her eyes slowly, it took a while to focus. It wasn’t the basement. She was in a bed, in a room with tiled walls and a window which let the bright morning sun in. She looked down at her hands, her right hand had a needle and tube in the back and there was a plastic clip on her left index finger. It lead to a machine by the bed that was making a soft beeping sound. Maria had learned to hide the signs of waking up during her imprisonment, not allowing her movement or breath to tip her captors off that she was coming to. It was a habit that was hard to break, so she did her morning inventory.

This was another habit she had started to go through her body and see what was hurt and what was not. She focused on her head, then face, down to the neck and shoulders. She could feel bruising on her left cheek and her neck had a sharp pain, she could feel a bandage over it. That was different, normally they wouldn’t use those supplies, they would just stick the skin together with super glue. It wasn’t like they cared about the scars they would leave behind.

Her arms and hands were in bad shape. Lots of cuts she could feel. She slowly tensed and released her muscles, noting the aches and the sharp pains without changing expression. Moving down, her chest was similar, she could feel the tightness of the wrap and the sharp pain when breathing of multiple broken ribs. It was when she concentrated on her torso that she felt the warmth and weight of something across her belly.

A trick she had learned was to moan and move a limb, feigning tossing and turning while still asleep. Using that, she rolled a little onto her right side as her arm moved down to her waist.

The weight stayed in place as she rolled, and when her hand got close it was grabbed. Opening her eyes, she was looking into the eyes of a young man, naked and by the feel against her hip fully engorged. She screamed and scooted back, in the process losing her balance and falling painfully to the floor on her back. The man reached for her, missed, then jumped off the bed to kneel next to her.

NEVER AGAIN, she thought! Letting out a growl, she drew her legs up against her chest and kicked as hard as she could at the body leaning over her. It hurt like hell, but he went flying across the room. It sounded like a watermelon on concrete when his head smacked hard against the wall. He slumped to the ground and didn’t move.

She tore the IV out of her hand and looked around. It looked like a hospital room, but it wasn’t a real one. It was more like a room that was used for it from time to time. She opened up the small closet, there were some clothes- a T-shirt, sweatpants, sweatshirt and socks. All seemed to be about her size so she put them on. There weren’t any shoes but she found the creepy naked guy’s shoes next to a chair. They were big, but she could tie them tight and they were better than nothing.

Making her way to the window, she looked out. It was just after sunrise, and no one was in sight. She could see mountains and scrub in the distance, and in the valley below there were some trees. She opened the window and climbed out, thankful she was on the bottom floor. Whatever this place was, she was getting away from it. Looking back, she saw the man from her bed still unconscious and bleeding a little from the back of his head. She felt guilt for some reason, and almost went back to help him, but the need to get away was stronger. As quickly as she could, she made her way across the yard and into the cover of the trees. Her body ached and she was weak, she needed to put some distance behind her before they found out she was gone, or she was a dead woman.

What the Cartel did to those who crossed them didn’t have to be explained to her. She had seen too many people suffer horribly in that basement before their pleas for death were answered. No, she would kill herself before they could get her again. Setting a path to the north, she pushed herself forward and ignored the pain.

Gila Pack House

Doc and Wendy knocked anxiously at the Alpha’s office door. They weren’t looking forward to this visit. Ever since Maria had been rescued, there was an anger in him that was barely repressed. With his new mate still recovering, it was a volatile situation to be bringing him more bad news.

“Enter.” They opened the large mesquite paneled doorway into his spacious office, stopping before his large wooden desk with their heads bowed respectfully. Alpha Robert Hastings was catching up on paperwork, there were several piles of folders on his desk. When he saw who it was, he opened up his mind link with Renee who was resting in their room; he needed her as the Pack’s Alpha Bitch to know about the needs of the women of the pack.

“Alpha, I’ve had a chance to review the files the DEA sent us on Maria’s medical history. It... it’s not good. They had her for two years, and the files detail the repeated physical and sexual abuse she endured that whole time.” Doc’s eyes were focused on his Alpha’s chest, he could see the anger starting to come forward, his respiration had increased, his grip on the chair rails was enough to turn his knuckles white, and claws were starting to form and dig into the wood. “They knew she had a wolf inside her, and they used chronic low doses of Wolfsbane to suppress it by putting it in her food.”

“How suppressed?”

“Enough that she never shifted. The first entries state that her father is human, her mother was Were, but like many hybrids she didn’t shift at an early age. They were careful not to overdose her on it, they didn’t want to kill the wolf inside her.”

“Why not?” Robert sat back, knowing the answer and hating what it meant. “They wanted her to heal like a wolf, right?”

Wendy spoke up. “Yes, they kept meticulous records on the injuries she suffered and how long it took her to recover. They got it to the point they could beat her half to death on a Sunday and she would be recovered to do it again the next weekend. They were actually proud of the adjustments they made, the faster she recovered the more they got paid. They developed a regimen of drugs, feeding schedules, and medical treatment for this.”

“How much damage are we talking?”

“It was pretty consistent week to week,” Doc said. “She would be brutalized sexually, there was vaginal and anal tearing most weeks. Most of it was plain beatings, though. Broken ribs, other bones from being kicked or dropped. Her jaw was broken half a dozen times, about the same for skull fractures. They didn’t even document how many deep cuts or whip lacerations, they just took pictures every day to watch them heal up.”

Robert’s head ached with the news, and he knew there was more to come. “Permanent damage?”

“We don’t know yet. There are cases out there I’ve heard of in other Packs where werewolves used wolfsbane doses to temporarily prevent shifting, even high doses to kill the wolves inside for those who couldn’t handle our dual personality. It isn’t recommended, the side effects varied widely. In any case, it was nothing of this level of detail and duration. Then there is the fact that she hadn’t shifted yet, so I think we’re in uncharted territory. Honestly, after two years of this I have no idea how her wolf was able to break loose.”

“And we don’t know when she will shift back,” Wendy said. “Usually the Alpha influence will cause the shift to occur, but she wasn’t raised Pack and might have been too weak to do it. The wolfsbane in her system could also be causing problems. We just don’t know.”

“So what is her prognosis?”

“We don’t know. She could make a full recovery, she also might never wake up. I’m contacting Pack doctors around the country to see if any can help. We’re way outside my experience. I also have concerns about the sex cocktail they were giving her.”

“What the hell is a sex cocktail?”

“As best as I can tell, it’s a combination of Rohypnol, the date rape drug, mixed with high doses of progesterone and several other chemicals we use to assist older wolves who want to go into heat. Based on what they describe in the notes, the injections cause her to go into a short but intense heat cycle within about four hours, and the other drugs break down any inhibitions she might have. Essentially, they turn her into a supercharged sex machine, one that will ‘fuck anything that moves and a few that don’t’ as the notes say. They would give it to her before large parties where she was the entertainment, and it would last for more than twelve hours. Dozens of guys would use her in one night. They would do this every month or so.”

The chair chose that moment to experience complete failure as the arms shattered in Robert’s hands. He threw the chair across the room where it broke into pieces against the stone fireplace. They all took a few minutes as Robert struggled to control his breathing and force his wolf back down. When his eyes returned to their normal color, he sat on the chair to the side of his desk. “Side effects?”

“We don’t know. We would never give a patient this high a dose, it’s irresponsible and has probably caused permanent damage to her ovaries. I don’t know if she’ll ever be able to go into heat naturally or bear children. Of course, all this pales in comparison to the mental damage that has been done. We have no way of knowing how much this repeated abuse has affected her. I expect she will need a lot of therapy to return to anything resembling a normal life.”

Just then the door opened, Renee was pushed into the room in a wheelchair by her foster daughter Michelle. Her torn Achilles was still immobilized as it healed. “Thank you dear, can you go down to the kitchen and ask them to bring some snacks and tea up to the room? I need to speak to the adults for a while.”

“Sure Mom, can I go play then?”

“Yes, but stay with the other children.” She waited until Michelle had closed the door before she spoke up. “She is to be the mate of a Pack member, that makes her my responsibility. I think we need to bring Caleb up to speed on this. As her mate, he will be the one best able to help her recover.”

Robert frowned. “He’s going to have a hard time hearing it, but you’re right, he needs to know the minefield he has to navigate. We’re all going to have to be involved in this, the Pack needs to come together around her. Where is Caleb now?”

“He’s sleeping in her bed in wolf form,” said Wendy. “She was having vivid nightmares and would jerk the IV lines out, it got worse if we restrained her, but she calms down with him by her side.” She tried to mind link him, but got nothing. “I can’t reach him, he must be asleep. I’ll go down and get him and check on Maria while I’m down there.” She quietly left the room, leaving a still nervous Doc with two pissed off Alphas.

Not much was said in the next few minutes as they all struggled to keep their wolves at bay. The silence was broken by Wendy’s mental shout: “Caleb is hurt and Maria went out the window!”

Robert’s command blasted through to all Pack members. “We have a she-wolf who has escaped from the Pack infirmary, all warriors to the borders, all trackers to the main house!” There was a flurry of activity, both mental and physical, as the Pack members rushed to meet the threat.

Renee looked up. “Robert, she’s scared to death. She isn’t a threat to us, we are a threat to her. We need to be careful in how we handle this.” He thought about it and nodded. Renee sent out her own mental communication to the combined Pack, since they had mated and her pack had agreed to combine with his, they had gained that ability with each other’s members. “Maria is frightened of us, so she is not to be confronted. If you see her, report in and stay out of sight. She is not a threat to the Pack, so be ready to provide assistance if requested. Each patrol should have medical supplies, clothing and a blanket available.”

Robert got up and turned her wheelchair towards the door. “Let’s go make sure Caleb is all right, then we need to have that talk with him.”

Renee looked up at him and beckoned him down for a kiss. “He needs to be, I don’t know how we get her to return if it isn’t for her mate.”

El Paso Information Center

Ft. Bliss, Texas

Enrique Mendez was on his second day waiting for activity to resume and he was getting restless. He knew the members of the Soccoro Cartel had ‘gone dark’ after the local DEA agents had raided a safe house, and from past events he knew that they would change everything dealing with communications when they did so. He was counting on it.

Enrique had been assigned to the drug war since he graduated from MIT with a Master’s degree in computer science. He joined the National Security Agency because he knew what it could do, and he was damn good at his job. The NSA gathered information for all areas involving national security, and that includes the drug trade. He worked harder than anyone, because it was personal.

The Butcher had killed his parents while he was in high school. His father was a Major in the Mexican military, his mother an American he met during training with the DEA in Quantico. His Dad was good at his job, and one day he left his house, his wife at his side, and was cut down by Cartel assassins. Enrique wanted revenge, but he wasn’t strong or brutal, he was smart. The computers were his weapon. He didn’t want to just see Juan Hernandez caught, he wanted the whole organization brought to justice, from the lowest level messenger to the very top.

Enrique had recognized a few years into his intelligence career with the National Security Administration that it was foolish to try and tap the communications of those in the cartel at high levels. They had too much money, too much technology and too many people who they could put in the way.

His strategy was slower but more effective. Instead of targeting from the center out, he worked from the outside in. They would identify the low level members, the retailers, the local distributors. Then he would work his magic with the metadata.

Metadata is the voluminous amount of information available and collected by government, private companies and public sources. Pick any person in the country, and the right digital sleuth can put together an amazingly accurate profile of what that person is, what they do and who their friends and associates are. People don’t realize what something like Facebook gives to people like him. Your friends, your likes and dislikes, location data, relatives, groups you belong to, games you play- it all can be used to build an accurate profile of you. Combine that with the associations you have, and their associations, and you have even more. people who can use sophisticated programs to sift through the reams of data to find out more about yourself than you realize. If Facebook had existed in the American Revolution, almost all the Colonists would have been identified and tried for treason before the Boston Tea Party even occurred.

Such is the power of the profile.

The effectiveness increases as the amount of data goes up, and the amount of data becomes unlimited when you work for the NSA. Why? Because the NSA collects EVERYTHING. Every email. Every phone call. Every transaction. So much data they needed to build a huge data center to hold it all near Salt Lake City. All there for him to mine, and mine he did.

The data showed him not just the organization, but their habits and tendencies. He used these tendencies to build a spiderweb of connections that spanned the whole Cartel, a web that trapped those at the middle of the web. They may use burner phones, sophisticated scramblers and hidden data, but the NSA supercomputers could still find them. He had phone numbers on alert and sophisticated voice recognition algorithms in place for key lieutenants and lower level members, and by noon he had started to get hits. Enrique’s excitement built as the information started to come out. The Cartel was out for revenge, and was putting together a tactical team to retrieve a woman who had escaped from them. He didn’t get why, just that Juan demanded she be returned to him and it didn’t matter what the cost would be. It was bound to be a lot, because the series of phone calls intercepted showed them getting a big team together. Over forty mercenaries, multiple armored vehicles, heavy weapons and armor plus a helicopter.

All for one woman.

It didn’t make sense until the Cartel mole in the Albuquerque DEA office was intercepted describing where the target was. It was a werewolf pack, the Gila pack to be specific, and that made it a very difficult raid indeed. You had to be stupid or bold to take on a Pack, and Juan wasn’t stupid. The strike was going to be in two days.

Enrique left work late in the evening, the knowledge of what was going down spinning in his head. He finally had enough information to pass to the DEA about the Cartel mole, but he didn’t want to. Cutting out one person who was selling out his country wasn’t enough. No, he wanted a more permanent solution to his problem. He wanted revenge, and revenge is a dish best served cold.

He headed to the airport and caught a plane to New Mexico. When he got to the rental car lot, he used a burner phone to dial a number he had stored before he left. It took a few rings, but she answered. “Hello, this is Linda Remington.”

Gila Pack Infirmary

New Mexico

Robert didn’t like using his Alpha power to hold a wolf back, but he was forced to. Caleb had awoken when Wendy found him, and after his scalp was stitched up he was ready to go after her, but then his Alphas arrived and had a long talk.

Caleb had passed through shock, horror and blind rage long ago as the story of what had happened to his lovely young mate was told to him. What they had done to her- he would not rest until he had torn each of their throats out and watched their life bleed into the sand. His wolf was in full agreement, that was why only an Alpha command was keeping him from shifting.

Renee had seen enough and was sick of his growling. She rolled forward in her wheelchair and without changing expression slapped him so hard he almost fell off the chair. “ENOUGH!” she roared. “There is a time for revenge, but that time is not now. Your mate, the one who completes you, is OUT THERE right now. She’s alone, she’s frightened, she has no idea where she is and she trusts no one. While you sit here thinking about what YOU would like to do to them, she’s in pain.” Caleb sat back up, the anger in his eyes replaced by pain. He and his wolf knew she was right. His first responsibility would always be to keep his mate safe.

“Where did she go?”

“She ran north, but she is still on Pack lands. She is injured but resting right now. We have a patrol nearby that is keeping an eye on her.” Renee put her hand over his, helping him to calm himself. “She needs to come back, but I doubt if she will do so willingly and we don’t want to push her. You are her mate, you need to go to her and convince her she is safe with you, and safe returning to us. Once she is here, we can help her.”

“But how? She doesn’t know me.”

“You are her mate, her wolf will be on your side. Your scent will call to her, even if you are just nearby. You have to be patient. This won’t be like those other matings you’ve seen, she is going to be a challenge for you.”

Caleb sat back, looking far older than his age as the enormity of it all hit him. “Will she ever be back to normal?”

Robert put his hand on his shoulder. “Not without you. You need to be there for her, without her mate I’m worried about her.”

Caleb ran his hand through his hair and started to get up. “Alpha, Madam Alpha, may I be excused? My mate needs me.”

Renee smiled. “Of course. We have a medic and a jeep outside, they will get you close to her and they have clothes and blankets, plus some food. Take all the time you need, but bring her back here with you.” Robert sat by her side, hugging her around the shoulders as they watched him leave. “It’s a lot to ask of him, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but he will do his best with her. Now, what do you say I carry you upstairs and show you how much I’m willing to do for my mate?” She laughed, and he was just about to scoop her up in his arms when Doc and Wendy came in.

“Ah, Madam Alpha, since you’re here I’d like to check the progress on your leg.” Most of the other damage had already healed, but the leg injury was bad and he wanted it immobilized long enough to heal fully. Robert moved to sit behind Renee as she sat at the edge of the hospital bed; even though they were fully mated, and Doc and Wendy were mated, he was still apprehensive of another male coming near his woman. Especially when he was touching her leg. Doc looked at him for permission and he nodded, wrapping his arms around her waist while he watched. The immobilizer was removed and he checked her range of motion and soreness. “It looks good, you can resume walking and low impact activities, but no running or shifting for another two days.”

“Other activities?” said Robert.

Doc laughed. “That’s right, new mates. Don’t bend her into a pretzel and go slow.” Robert grinned and swept her up in his arms, carrying her quickly through the pack house and kicking open the door to his room.

“Do you feel up to this, love?”

“I feel kind of grungy. You know what I’d like? A hot shower and a long soak in the tub.”

Robert made a left into the large bathroom, setting her gently on the vanity as he started to fill the jacuzzi tub. Renee started to get up, but one look from Robert stopped her. It was a look of both dominance and lust. “No, love, it’s time for me to spoil you.” Stepping between her parted legs, he teased her lips and neck as his fingers made quick work of her shirt and bra. Moving his hands down, he let his fingertips graze down her sides, the tingles of the mate bond setting her on fire. She tried to press into him, but he removed her hands from his shoulders and set them on the counter. “It’s my turn, you just relax and enjoy.” His fingers moved around to her back, his nails lightly scratching as they traveled back up. She arched her back, her firm breasts seeking the hard chest he kept just outside her reach. She whimpered in frustration, wanting his hands on her breasts, on her everywhere, but one look from him was enough to still her. He was looking at her in wonder, he was practically salivating at all that was before him.

Robert dropped his hands down to her waist, she was wearing loose cotton pajama bottoms and bikini panties. He leaned forward to possess her mouth as his hands moved inside the waistbands, then they shifted around and down until he was lifting her butt off the counter. He pushed her back slightly, allowing the clothes to shift down before he carefully divested her of her remaining clothing. She shivered at the cold stone on her bare skin, so he lifted her up. Her hands wrapped behind his neck as her legs linked behind his back. He moaned into her mouth as her wet sex ground against the obvious erection in his pants.

“You’re wearing too much,” she said as she slid down his body to the floor. Turning her back on him, she walked into the large limestone shower, making sure her hips swayed in an exaggerated fashion. She turned on the shower and stepped in, but left the glass door open. Reaching for a washcloth, she let out an “oops” as the bar of soap fell to the shower floor. Her muscled backside still facing him, she slowly bent forward, exposing her swollen pussy to him with predictable results. She looked back to verify she had his complete attention, then gave her butt a little wiggle; she couldn't bend enough yet to pick up the soap. “Robert, can you give me a little help here?”

Robert let out a howl as he tore the clothes from his body, his control being tempted far beyond what he was capable of. His erection led the way to the shower as he jumped in and closed the door behind him. He pounced on her, his strong arms lifting her back up as he pressed forward. Renee caught the wall of the shower with her hands, a smile on her face as she felt his need through the bond. He pushed between her legs, bending his knees until his large erection was positioned at her entrance before surging forward. “YES!!! Fuck me!” Renee screamed his name as he filled her completely. She felt him reach around to flick her protruding clit as he took her hard and fast.

Gentle sex was fun, but she wanted to be dominated today, not coddled. She was an Alpha and she wanted to be taken like one, by one stronger than herself. He pounded up into her, his thrusts hard enough that her feet lifted off the ground as his groin slapped into her ass. She came hard, losing her strength in her arms as her face and breasts flattened against the wall. Robert didn’t let up, he was panting with the effort as he fucked her into her second orgasm. His knot started to form, and he pushed it home as she screamed again. The added sensation on her vaginal walls and G-spot spiraled her into yet another round of screaming orgasm. Robert felt the need, but he also wanted to make sure his mate was well and completely loved before he allowed himself his release.

Just before it started to get painful, she heard his growl begin. He lifted her clear of the ground, holding her thighs apart as her feet wrapped around the backs of his legs. She was pinned to the tile as his hot come poured into her. He bit down onto her shoulder and that pushed her to the peak, immediately she was screaming out her fourth orgasm. Her body turned to jelly in his arms, and his legs were shaking from holding her up.

“Fuck that was hot.” Robert was breathing hard as he licked the blood off her shoulder. He pulled her upright and held her back tight to his chest. His knot was still engaged, so he held her in one arm as he turned off the shower and walked over to the jacuzzi. Stepping down into the sunken tub, he started the jets before sitting on the bench, letting her relax against him.

Renee enjoyed the feeling of closeness she had in his arms. They didn’t say anything for twenty minutes, Robert was idly caressing her as she came down from the high. The emotions and sensations they felt were shared through the bond so no words were necessary.

Of course, when Renee tried to spin around on his dick so she could face him, that set off all kinds of delicious feelings inside her. She grinned and started to ride him slowly as his hands reached up to caress her hanging breasts. She had her man, she was going to take advantage of him. Leaning down to kiss him deeply, she moaned as his knot multiplied her pleasure. Robert was caressing her breasts, his thumbs flicking her erect nipples, as he reveled in the feel of his mate.

A mate he never expected he would find, but she was HIS now and he would never let her go.

Gila Pack Territory

Near the northern border

Caleb exited the jeep carrying the bag of food, clothes and first aid gear. Using the Pack bond, he got an update from the border sentries who were keeping an eye on Maria from a distance. She was sleeping near the edge of the mesa; she had stopped running when she came to the cliff face and was too tired to find her way around. He asked everyone else to stay out of sight while he tried to get her to trust him.

He worked his way over the small hill and saw her sleeping form ahead. He didn’t want to scare her, so he stopped a good distance away and sat down on a rock so he would seem less threatening. “Maria.” She stirred but didn’t wake up, so her tried again. “MARIA! It’s Caleb. I’m here to help.”

Maria’s head popped up and she looked at him, shocked that the man who was in her bed earlier had found her. “No... it can’t be...”

“Maria, I don’t want to hurt you, I just”

“NO! I can’t go back. I’ll die before I let him take me back!” She scrambled to her feet.

“Maria, please”

Maria turned her back on him and ran straight for the edge of the mesa. It was at least a hundred feet down to the rocks below, it would be enough. Caleb was shocked into action when he realized what was going on, he sprung forward, shifting into his wolf form for the speed, fear filling his mind as he realized he wasn’t going to catch her. He could see her just a few yards ahead, she was gathering herself to jump, when her wolf pushed forward and she shifted.

Her wolf tried to stop, her claws scratching at the sand and rock below her, but she had too much momentum. Caleb lunged for her as she went over the edge in slow motion.

If she died, he was going to die with her.

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