Protect pup! My wolf, Knox, kept yelling at me.
What? I asked him, confusion crossing my face, What are you talking about?
We must protect this pup, under any circumstances, he answers me.
Why? I ask him, clearly not understanding the need to protect one small child.
It’s important. You must trust me, he tells me, clearly hiding his reasons.
Alright, I tell him to calm his agitated behavior over my hesitance to automatically agree with him.
“Alpha Axton,” a voice pulls me out of my daze. I move my eyes to Luna Layla.
“Layla,” I greet her. Her face and clothes are covered in dried blood. Mud plagued her skin as she clutched the child closer to her when she saw my immediate fascination with her, “Come in.”
I hold the door for her as she hesitantly enters the house. Walker leads her deeper into the house and back to my office. I follow behind her, staring into the blue eyes of the little pup she held as the pup stared at me with the same fascination.
“Right in here,” Walker says to her as he opens the door and waits for both of us to enter.
“Please sit,” I tell her. She immediately takes a seat, placing the child on her lap.
I came around the desk and sat in my chair as Walker took the seat next to her. Before either of us could say a word, the door opened again and my Gamma, Reid, entered.
He didn’t take more than five steps in before he plastered a grimace on his face the second he saw me. Most thought he should be my Beta. He was stronger and bigger than Walker, but his gentleness towards those in need made him a perfect Gamma. His job was to protect the Luna, but there was no longer a Luna to protect.
His dark hair covered his eyes, but I knew what they held. Anger.
Ever since I lost my mate, he has been different. They had been as close as siblings. He had been one of the first to step up in the hunt to find her. But after six months of searching, he came back changed. He was no longer the same man that left to find her. He refused to be in the same room as me for more than five minutes without making an excuse to leave. He seemed as angry with me over the loss of our Luna as I was. As I became darker and crueler, he became even angrier with me.
He closed the door silently and stood in the back of the room, holding his contempt with me in silence.
I drew my eyes away from him and back to the matter at hand, “Can you tell us what happened?” I asked Layla, trying not to feel the sting of seeing her again.
She cleared her throat before answering, “We were attacked by rogues. Madden and I were at the pack house when the first warning signal sounded.”
Her head dipped as she tried to hold back the tears that wanted to flow, “What happened next?”
“They came from everywhere. They were attacking everyone, not just the warriors. Women, children, they went after all of them,” she said as a single tear escaped her eyes.
Before she could lift her hand, the little girl in her arms reached up to her cheek and caught the fallen tear. Layla gave her a small smile as she stared down at the little girl and whispered quietly, “Thank you.”
The little girl just nodded slowly back to her and went back to staring around the room in wonder.
“Is this your daughter?” Walker asked her, trying to get her mind off of the attack for a second.
“This is my Aunt Layla,” the little girl spoke out before Layla even had a chance to say anything. The girl’s laughter jingled out as Walker started to mess around with her, allowing her to escape from any horror she witnessed.
“What is your name?” he asked her.
“Zea!” she yelled out loudly. I smiled slightly at her hearty response.
Out of the corner of my eye, I swear I caught shock cover Reid’s face as he started to take a step toward Zea. But the second I turned to look at him, his features returned to his blank composure as if nothing had happened.
I was confused by his actions, but decided to let it go for now.
“Zea, do you want to go play a game?” Walker asked her. The second she heard the words, she was nodding her head violently at the idea of fun, “Alright, let’s go.”
Walker picked her up from Layla’s lap and left the room with the little girl. Layla watched nervously as they left, as if afraid of what would happen to her.
“I’m going to send some pack members to your territory to drive the rogues out,” I look back to Layla, picking up the conversation again.
“No!” she says automatically, “As much as I wish for this, just a few pack members will not be enough. These rogues will tear apart anyone you send.”
“I’m sure we can handle it,” I said reassuringly, “I will send some men over to help with the rogue problem immediately.”
She shook her head violently, standing up to make her point clear, “You don’t understand. It was as if they were in a frenzy. It was if all they wanted was one thing.”
Her eyes were cold and haunted by the memories she witnessed, “Blood.”
After Layla’s declaration about the rogues earlier, I gave her a guest room for her and her niece and sent them to bed. I promised her we would talk about it after she had gained some rest from the ordeal.
Her story baffled me as to why a werewolf, even one as low as a rogue, would want the blood of pack members. Rogues could do nothing with the blood of those they had killed, so what was truly going on?
I sat in silence in the pack library, away from the prying eyes of any other pack member; as I scoured the pages of old pack history books. There had to be something in these stories that described what Layla saw. Frenzied, red-eyed rogues after blood had to have been seen before.
After looking for almost two hours, my wolf and I were as frustrated as ever.
“Ugh!” I let out as I threw the book I was currently looking through at the wall near the door, the pages shattering on impact.
“Sorry,” a small voice whispered. I whipped my head to the quiet voice that spoke out to me.
A pair of blue eyes stared up as me as mine connected with the little girl. The one Layla had brought with her, Zea.
“I didn’t mean to disturb you,” she said, hesitant about intruding.
I gave her a slight smile as I walked around the chair in front of me to stand before her, “It’s alright.”
She nodded her head slightly before looking back to the book I had shattered against the wall. Confusion covered her tiny features, “Why did you do that?” she asked.
“Um,” I was at a loss at how to answer her.
“Did the book do something wrong?” she asked, clearly confused by my behavior.
Running my hand through my hair out of habit, I thought of a way to explain an action that was not exactly one easily explained. After a second of thought, I knelt in front of her, so we were on eye level, “Well you see, the book did nothing wrong.”
“Then why did you throw it?”
“I was very angry with myself because I am having trouble solving a problem,” I tell her.
“What kind of problem?” she inquired. The curiosity in her eyes reminded me of my past.
“The one your Aunt Layla has brought to my attention.”
She nodded her head in understanding. She looked to be no more than five or six years old, yet she seemed to understand everything I said without any difficulty. After a moment, she looked back at me and asked, “May I help you solve the problem with the rogues?”
It was a bit shocking that she knew what was happening back at her pack, but I could respect a child who was mature enough to not break down in the situation, “Very well.”
She shook her head up and down as she walked past me to the table I had been sitting at. Grabbing the first book that she came across, she pulled if off the table and headed over to one of the plush chairs. Pulling herself up, I watched as she opened the book and began to scour the pages for information about the attack she saw.
Constantly taking glances at the small child, I walked back to where I was sitting before and began to go through another one of the books I had placed on the table. It was only five minutes before Zea spoke up.
“Have you thought about the magic people?” she asked. I put down my book to look at her. She was watching me as she pointed to a picture in the book she had picked up, “This book says magic people like blood.”
“Warlocks,” I tell her.
“Warlocks,” she repeated, “Is this what you are looking for?”
I went next to her and gently took the book from her and began to read the pages.
“This is exactly what I was looking for,” I told her, smiling at her.
She smiled back to me before jumping up from her seat, “Well my job is done then,” she shouted happily as she skipped out of the room, hollering back to me, “Good bye Alpha!”
I laughed slightly as I watched her leave.
She is a perfect pup, Knox commented.
I was a bit shocked at his sudden input, Where have you been? I asked him.
Around, he said secretly, I had things I had to do.
Like what? I asked him.
I can’t tell you yet, he answered cryptically, You aren’t ready yet.
I was confused by his secrecy towards me. Knox never kept things from me since we were the same person. He was protective and possessive, but never secretive. I started to wonder about all the things he would keep from me.
My thoughts were interrupted by Layla’s voice, “May I come in?”
I stared up at her, taking in the woman I had met so many years ago, “Of course.”
I gestured to the seat across from me and we both sat down.
“How are you feeling?” I asked her.
She gave me a soft smile, “Better. How are you doing?”
“I’m fine,” I answer automatically.
“Of course you are,” she said, nodding her head but biting her lip as if to try and hold back what she wanted to say, “I would be too if I lost my mate. Oh wait, I have,” she snapped.
“Don’t give me that bullshit Axton,” she scolded me, “I remember the first time I met you. It was the Christmas party you threw for your mate.”
I smiled slightly at the memory of how happy my mate looked when she came down those stairs to see all of our family there to celebrate the holidays with us, “It was a great day,” I breathed out.
“Yes it was,” she said, “You were the happiest person I have ever seen. All it took was for you to look at her and you would instantly have a smile on your face.”
“Things change,” I said, my cold tone overshadowing all the memories she was trying to make me think of.
“Yes they do,” she says coldly. I was a bit confused over her sudden harshness, “Some things are just not fated.”
“Why are you here?” I snapped at her, annoyed at the disrespect and hostility she started to show me without a just cause.
“I was told you would protect us. I needed to make sure Zea was safe?”
“Who is she?” I asked, wanting more information on the little girl my wolf was begging me to protect as if she was our own.
“She is my niece,” Layla said quickly, but I caught a bit of hesitation as her voice quivered in the slightest way that I almost thought I had imagined it.
“Why is it I don’t believe you?” I questioned her abruptly.
“Believe what you want,” she said coldly, “What have you found out about the rogues?”
I could tell she was trying to change the subject, but I went along with it for now. I knew I would get to the truth soon enough. She was sure to slip up and then I would know the answer I wanted, “I believe they had help from a warlock,” I told her, handing her the book I got from Zea.
“Warlocks,” she said. I watched her reaction closely. She seemed deep in thought as if she was thinking over the possibility when something seemed to dawn on her. The second she put together the pieces, fear struck her, “This is not good.”
“Do you know which warlock is after your pack?” I questioned her.
She shook her head, “It isn’t a warlock. He’s a rogue and he isn’t after my pack. He is after one person in particular and now he has her.”
“Who?” I asked, confused on why a warlock would attack an entire pack only to get one lone she-wolf.
“Once he finds out it is her, he will kill her,” she rambled as she started pacing.
I walked over to her, placing my hands on her shoulders causing her to stop her pacing, “Who? Who is the rogue after?”
She gave me a sullen look before answering, “Zea’s mother.”