News spread of Titania’s physical state like a wildfire. It brought a renewed surge of violence as Duskfall defended their recovering Alpha’s honour while being challenged by the four packs. Alpha Lumiere was the only Alpha to remain neutral as everyone battled for the title of Duskfall– a pack widely known for its determination, strength and now resilience against the current epidemic.
Challenges were thrown daily and Eóghan, Garth and Angus all struggled to keep the wolves at bay. As soon as one challenge finished, another began. Fatigue, blood, and steely grit was all that filled Duskfall. Order and respect thrown out the window as wolves toppled over each other to snag the title of Duskfall’s Alpha.
Alpha Alfonso watched with glee as each day brought Duskfall further and further to its knees. Even with his cane, he strutted around Duskfall grounds with an air of arrogant confidence. With Duskfall’s upper ranks distracted with the sheer volume of challenges, curtesy of Alfonso’s deceitful whispers and Titania’s recovery, he was weaselling himself into a prime position. One of power with all other Alpha’s on his side.
The perfect revenge for the misgivings of a woman Alpha and the weakness that had been brought upon the rest of them. He’d take her title for himself.
But not before destroying it first.
News of Titania’s survival wasn’t what he had expected from Nathan but his pawns were falling into place. The had eyes and ears in the pack, especially with the deaths and risks from Titania’s rescue that related to all of the packs. It gave him the voice to speak of the fallen– to avenge them. All while serving his own purpose.
As he sat with his Beta outside in the spar rings, Mother nature giving them a day of pause from her winter onslaught, they talked in hushed tones while watching the challenges for the day. “There goes another one,” his Beta motioned to the failed attempt from a French man. “At this rate, we’ll not have an Alpha.”
“Give it time, weakening them day by day will give us a window. Patience is key. We’ve just got to wait until they’re at their worst.” Alfonso’s eyes regarded the Duskfall males, “they will fall, it’s just a matter of when.”
“Not long. Nathan did say that Titania’s just shifted. It could mean she’ll die within the next few days or be recovered soon. Are we better going for the jugular now? Do we have the time to wait?”
Alfonso snorted, narrowing his eyes onto the doubt within his Beta’s tone, “She’ll die soon regardless of her recovery. We’ll kill her as she sleeps.” His Beta’s eyes widened, “And when she’s out the picture, her wolves are mine. I’ll challenge them myself.”
“I see,” was his comrade’s response. Thoughtful eyes dashed to the wolves as they clashed with their opponents. The lag within some of their movements was obvious and while concealed, he could spot the exhaustion leaking from them. “When?”
“As soon as we find out where she’s hidden. Rally the support here and make sure they’re on our side. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that we can’t be too careful.” His past betrayals came to the forefront of his mind as Alfonso’s hands clasped together, readying his trusty cane. “And get Nathan out the cells. We’ll need him.”
Alfonso’s cane smacked his Beta’s neck, causing him to splutter. “Think about it. What would make a better demise for her highness? A peaceful sleep or being killed by her supposed moon-bound fated. We need to make a statement…Something that says that she can’t rule again…”
A dark chuckle emanated from the vengeful man as he finished, “It’s only fitting for the wretched bitch.”
The Duskfall wolves could feel each pair of eyes burn through them as they fought each challenge, especially the Spanish. Each one waiting, assessing, and scheming. Keeping up a tough exterior while stretched to their limits meant the three wolves defending Duskfalls hierarchy were both physically, mentally, and spiritually drained.
It came to no surprise that Eóghan was exhausted as dinner time came and went. The three Duskfall males retired to the empty dining hall. Their challenges had unfortunately continued past supper but luckily Isla, the main cook, had leftover cured deer and sweet potato mash for them. A treat considering the human cardboard that had dominated their meals for the past four months.
Angus filled his mouth greedily with food, “I bleed more than I get to eat now. I’m not even that highly ranked!” His sad eyes met his meal, “How I’ve missed you.”
“So bloody dramatic.” Garth rolled his eyes at Angus, “Stop looking at it as if it’ll kiss you.”
Angus stole a potato off Garth’s plate, a food covered smile the only response to Garth’s scowl. While the two harmlessly bickered back and forth, Eóghan’s mood darkened. His bones and soul ached at the audacity of some of the wolves that had challenged him the past week as he’d grown close to many during training and their time at Duskfall. Now they spat that respect back in his face.
“We will not lose to the little shits that think we’re weak because of Titania’s recovery,” he gowled. “It’s not for much longer. If we can’t do this, then we don’t deserve to be Duskfall wolves.” He added as an afterthought, his gaze focused upon his forkful of spuds.
Angus’s head nodded with his words. “Agreed, still we’re only three wolves against what… at least fifteen per day?”
“More surely…Today it was at least five to one of us.” Garth supplied.
Eóghan sighed, “I know… but we’ve got no choice but to keep going.”
With a glance to his superior, Angus observed the forgone expression that adorned him. “You ok? I don’t mind doing patrol tomorrow if you want cause Leja-“
“No, it’s not that,” Eóghan paused, scratching the itch within his beard. “I just… want the best for her y’know and all this has meant I haven’t seen her in days… Brett’s updates aren’t exactly detailed.”
Both Garth and Angus shared a look.
“What?!?” Eóghan stared harshly at them both, “don’t give me that look. If we didn’t have so many challengers, I’d spar yous’ both to a pulp right now.”
“Sure,” Garth responded with a sly smirk; gleaming eyes filled with mirth. Angus’s own eyes lit up at his brother at the recognition. “She’s taken right, don’t get any hopes up…” he trailed.
A roll of Eóghan’s eyes met the pair as he shrugged them off. “Fuck right off. Men and woman can be friends without any romance involved.”
Neither males were convinced as they failed to cover their glee at the increasing blush of their Beta’s cheeks.
“You can’t leave the woman alone. Brett, I get but you…” Garth waved a fork at him accusingly, “you remind me of a bird with a broken wing following its rescuer.”
The temperament of Eóghan’s wolf was starting to worsen. Fatigue set deep within his bones and his canines flashed warningly at the pair. The wolf signalled his dislike for the turn in topic. While his packmates didn’t know the internal confusion behind his own sexuality, he wasn’t one to proudly shout it from the rooftops: not yet at least.
Distractions were a wonderful thing to distract from home truths and reality.
“Right, I see where this is going, I’m gonna do the paperwork that you’re too lazy to do.” He eyed Garth, “Then bed, don’t forget what will happen tomorrow. It’s only gonna get worse.”
Eóghan left the two males to their strife chitter-chatter droning on into the night. His feet autopiloted into Titania’s old office – all while the feeling of eyes on his retreating figure never left him.
Titania’s hand moved slowly in front of her eyes as she watched it slowly; the morphine fuzzing the lines of her skin as she waved it back and fro. The entertainment was ten-fold as the drugs emphasised her reactions.
Brett emptied the catheter as she continued with the perusal of her hand. The limb felt foreign to her.
Her morphine intake had levelled to allow her wolf and her valuable time to heal, but her tolerance increased as the wolf fought the drugs. Doctor Craig noted the atypical response, becoming lost within the breadth of her reactions.
Upon further observation, Craig struggled to pinpoint her resistance to just one factor. Not without extensive testing, which continued to concern the middle-aged doctor.
“Stay still for one second.” Titania’s head fell to the left as she stared at Brett. “Why?”
“Because I’m fixing your bandages and giving you your medicine.”
“But why?” Her beady eyes regarded him carefully, his answer important to her query.
“Because you need it to… “
He turned his body to hers as he took in a breath and straightened his face, trying hard to conceal a puff of annoyance at her childish line of questioning.
“You need it to heal…”
Her high pitch tone met his almost instantly and he winced, regretting his choice of words. “But why?”
“For sleep and so you can leave this cabin.”
She paused, wide blue eyes locking his exhausted ones in wonder.
Believing she was done, he turned back around and finished her personal care. Four seconds later, and the two dreaded words escaped her lips. Lips that were turned upwards in a wholesome grin; her face light and free from worries. While he appreciated how carefree and content she looked, in that moment, all he could do was fist the equipment in a tight grip. A tell-tale drip signalled the bursting of the bag as the yellow liquid splashed over the floor.
Brett ground his teeth. The sooner she returned to her normal self the better, he thought. He was unused to dealing with small children and her whiny tone only irritated him, even with his growing feelings for the woman.
His wolf snorted at such behaviour but Brett pushed it down, knowing that it was the morphine, and not Titania, talking.
Despite the whacky and pup-like behaviour, Brett diligently tended to her and patiently answered her directionless mutterings as she floated in and out of consciousness. Luckily for Brett, she slept like a sloth.
Two weeks had passed, and the drugs did wonders for Titania’s injuries: but not Brett’s sanity. He had left Duskfall’s rising riots to Eóghan, Angus and Garth while he aided their fallen leader through her recovery.
He participated in the odd event and remained order by subtly trying to exhaust the challengers through runs, excessive training and establishing dominance with the wolves. A few choice words followed by his fists seemed to momentarily gain clarity for a few, but with Titania as his priority, his influence did not pack the punch despite his reputation.
Titania reverted from her relaxed, giggly state to her composed and cohesive self as Doctor Craig took her off the morphine; deeming it safe to do so after two full weeks.
She came around, a hand palming her forehead and her signature scowl signalling the return of the Alpha female.
“What the?” She observed the tubes attached to her inner elbow and cringed as her head screamed, seemingly smashing her cranium against her skull. “Where? What? Oh God…”
Brett provided her with an icepack to which she gratefully accepted, allowing the cool touch to repress the heat throbbing through her head.
She took a second and eyed the beautifully rugged man that stood in front of her. Dark bags framed his eyes and his usual buzzcut hair was thick, enough to stick up haphazardly as it grew in.
“You’re in Duskfall. Try not to move too much. You’ve got your antibiotics and vitamins in the IV.”
Titania’s eyebrows furrowed but she complied. Expectantly, she eyed Brett top to bottom, noting the intense emotion that lay behind his grey eyes.
“Why do I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck?”
Brett watched as she took in her injuries, her eyes lingering on her elevated leg. He gave her a minute as she processed her surroundings but from the vacant look in her gaze, he could tell she remembered very little.
He handed her an apple as he brought a chair closer to the bed. “I guess it’s best to start with what you remember last.”
She pondered his question for some time as she tried to sort fact from fiction. Her memories hazily flashed behind her eyes as the last of the drugs numbed her system. Her fingers dug into her temple as she forced herself to think. What were drug-influenced dreams and what was reality? As she managed to pick a memory floating within her head, she brought the apple to her lips.
“Thanks.” A couple of bites later she said, “I remember running. Always running and being free.”
Brett scratched his jaw in thought. “Yeah, you could say you were.”
A pointed brow encouraged him to elaborate. “Uh…” he hesitated at the ferocity of her gaze, he wasn’t used to the looks she was giving him. “You were attacked and now you’re in a cabin.”
“Well fuck me, Brett. I never would’ve guessed that. Has anyone ever told you how amazingly detailed you are in your explanations? Cause you had me fooled.”
His eyes sparked at the clear sarcasm from Titania. He hmphed as her hand ran down her face.
He sat back and growled, “Maybe I won’t tell you anything then, you can figure it out for yourself.”
“I didn’t ask to wake up to your highness giving me one-sentence answers,” she retorted. “You got any painkillers?”
“Doctor orders, sorry. And your highness?!? You’ve got some cheek…”
He levelled his gaze with her and decided to leave out the snippet of her more than demanding nature over the past three weeks. Conceding with a sigh, he said, “Nothing.”
Moments passed in a stalemate as she munched down on her apple. Brett struggled to remove his eyes from her; the contrast from her feral self to now was astronomical – bizarre even.
She remained calm under his scrutiny but felt she was almost a museum exhibit to him. Her mind was foggy but not enough to miss the wonderment within his eyes, swirling deep and distinct and her breath caught within her chest.
“What aren’t you telling me?” Spit it out.”
Her demand had power, power that hinted at the feral wolf within. Brett’s body stiffened momentarily but relaxed seconds after. Her voice sending jolts through his system.
Pinching his tongue, he controlled himself before responding. “You went feral, we couldn’t find you for over a month. Alpha Jared attacked you and now you’ve been recovering here in a hidden cabin for the past two and a half weeks.”
She wasn’t surprised at his admission. She felt different. Highly strung and her wolf inside was more volatile than she remembered, feeling the cages that once confined her had weakened considerably. Although, she left those questions out as she focused her attention to the name that haunted her.
He knew what she was referring to as her eyes became hard. “Yes.”
“Who? Was it painful?”
Brett nodded, the hard lock of his jaw and tilt of his lips showcasing to Titania the answer she sought.
“Eóghan knocked him out and I tore him apart, bit by bit.” Brett’s eyes flashed with his wolf, reliving the adrenaline from the attack. The wolf deserved worse.
Disappointment graced her features but as soon as it came it went. “No action for me then.”
“You were injured, we had to prioritise you with a quick kill, trust me, we all wanted more.”
She laid her head back on her pillow, her eyes closing momentarily as she processed the death of her ex-bondmates father. Justified and righteous but he was her kill and with that came a harsh snarl from deep within. While the trauma continued to haunt her despite the years away from the male, Quinn and his family would always be a part of her life.
You could never truly escape the demons of your past.
“Good, guess there’s always next time.”
Pain laced her tone as she mourned the closure she needed from her past, believing that killing her once cruel ex-bondmates father would’ve done the trick.
“There’s always others…”
Her eyes snapped to his and he realised then that he’d sunk himself.
“What do you mean by that?”
A gulp made its way down Brett’s throat as he pondered how to tell Titania of the betrayal, uproar, and disorder in the pack she’d founded from nothing.
Thank-you everyone for your comments, they really get me through my writing slumps! Also huge thanks to my amazing editer x
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