I don’t ever want to go through a day like this again.
Eight hours in the car, holding Jessie’s limp body in my arms or her head on my lap as we drove north to Scotland. We were checking in with Doc Connall every hour, and so far he was baffled. We stopped quickly at an apothecary store and he had us buy a blood pressure cuff, while Brian loaded up on snacks and drinks for the drive. Her vital signs were all good, she was resting, color was better, but she just wouldn’t wake up.
Doc didn’t understand what was going on. We had her medical records, so Brian spent some time reading things to him over the phone.
Finally, we were turning in to the long driveway heading up towards the Highlands Pack house. My eyes popped when it came into view. It was a castle surrounded by smaller and more recent stone buildings. We drove past the castle to a building off on its own; a man in scrubs was waiting outside with a gurney. “That’s Doc Connall,” Charles said before he stopped the car.
Brian got out and opened the back door, and between the two they loaded her limp body onto the gurney. Doc pushed her in, and Charles stopped us at the door. “She’s in good hands. The Alpha Heir wants to talk to you. Get back in.” We stayed there until I watched the door close. I watched Jessie’s feet hanging over the edge of the gurney as they turned the corner into a room.
The short drive back to the castle was tense. “What is so important we need to talk to him right now?”
”No idea,” Brian replied. “We’ll find out soon.” Charles walked us into the castle, up a staircase and down a hall to a large office. The space was well lit, round in shape, obviously the turret to the left of the entrance of the castle. The ceiling had to be twenty feet up.
“Welcome to Cluny Castle,” the young Alpha heir, Sean Milne, said as he walked over with drinks from the bar. “Please, sit, we have much to discuss and it has been a long day.” (This is a real place, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cluny_Castle )
I looked around, there was another man seated on the couch I didn’t recognize. “I’m Gamma James, and you’ve already met Theta Charles,” he said with a grin.
“Theta… no, he did not mention that. Larry Andersen, warrior of the St. Croix Pack, and my fellow warrior, Brian Carberry.” We all shook hands and at the Sean’s gesture we sat down, holding our whiskey glasses. I took a taste, it was excellent. “I must confess I’m a little nervous here, our charge is to protect Jessie and one of us should be with her now.”
Sean nodded. “We won’t keep you long, and she’s having X-rays and labs run now. I need more information from you; Charles was busy driving and didn’t see what happened.”
“I don’t know what I can tell you, really,” I said. “We were driving through the countryside, Jessie was looking out the window. A car pulled up and slowed, next thing I know there’s a shot and the window shatters. I reached for Jessie, but she had thrown her hands forward as she screamed. The car was rolled onto its back and slammed into the guardrail. Jessie went limp, I thought she was hit but I found no blood.”
“Charles, you never touched the car?”
“No, Alpha. It was a straight section of road, nothing going on. Like I told you, it was like the Goddess reached down and blew the car over.”
Brian leaned forward. “One more thing, Alpha. I looked out the window when the glass in back shattered. The entire car was lifted off the ground, then it was like it was pushed away from us as it rolled. It wasn’t natural.”
“Patrick was right, then.”
“I can’t think of another reason why it could happen. She tapped into the powers that Father Kempechny passed to her before he died. She may not know or be able to control the powers of her witchcraft, but it was able to act to protect her.” I looked at Brian. “What else is she capable of?”
“I have no idea,” Brian said.
“I have a friend who is head of the local coven; I’d like to give her a call and have her come see Jessie. She’s your charge, though, so I didn’t want to do this without your agreement.” I was a little surprised, we were guests in this Pack, but Sean was making it clear we were in control when it came to Jessie. It didn’t matter to him that she was Beta John’s mate; until they mated, he respected the arrangement his father had made with our Alpha to watch over her.
“What does the doctor say,” I asked.
“He cannot find any physical reason for her lack of consciousness,” Sean said. “She’s resting comfortably, but he’s run out of tests he can run with the equipment here. He agrees with me that it probably isn’t a physical injury causing this.”
We had to take a chance. “I would appreciate your help in making the arrangements, Alpha Heir,” I said. “If she has this power, she needs to learn to control it. If you trust this witch, bring her here.”
“I will contact her immediately. Meanwhile, I’ve asked for a cot to be placed in her room, and a room here at the Pack House is available for you as well.”
I looked over at Brian. “I’ll take first watch, you get a shower and some sleep and relieve me later,” I said.
We all shook hands, and Gamma James escorted me out. “Your bags have been brought to your room, and there will be a change of clothes in the bathroom attached to the clinic room Jessie is in. I’ll have the kitchen send over some food for you.”
“Thank you, Gamma.” I had to ask. “Tell me, what do you all think of Beta John having a human mate?”
“We trust Luna knows what she is doing,” he said. “The wolf is never wrong.”
“True, but in this case, I can’t figure it out. First human, now a witch, when do we see a wolf out of her?”
“I trust the Beta will figure it out. He’s got lots of time to think about it in prison.” He laughed a little as we walked across to the clinic. “Poor guy. He gets out, only to be deported while his mate is still in the States.”
“We will do all we can to help John without exposing our nature,” I said. “She’s scared enough already, and now we have to explain her priest was a witch.” And Idea came to me. “Do you think the Father could have bound her wolf with magic? Hidden it so deep she can’t shift and we can’t scent it, but it is still there to reach out to John’s wolf?”
He didn’t say anything, I could see he was linking. “It’s as good a theory as any. When the witch comes tomorrow, we will ask.”
“Whatever the Coven asks for, if we can help, we will.” I opened the door, I could smell her scent in the building.
“Our Pack will take that burden; you know how delicate relations can be between Packs and Covens, and I doubt they will want to involve others. In the end, it is John who benefits, so we will pay.” I reached the room, looking in she was sleeping still.
The monitors were all beeping away, and the nurse looked up at us. “The cot is set up, there’s a chair there and the food will be here in a few minutes. You have time to shower,” she said as her face scrunched up a little. I guess all that travel gave me that ‘not so fresh’ smell.
“Thank you.” An hour later, nothing having changed, I laid down on the cot and went to sleep.
I was mentally exhausted after spending all afternoon talking about law, politics and leadership with the former Lunas. The women were sharp as hell, wise and patient; I had no doubt a detailed report on my strengths and weaknesses would be compiled from these interviews. I was tired of sitting and talking, my wolf wanted out and my human side wanted to hit someone. I was more comfortable in the ring than the conference table.
“There is one more part of the assessment left,” Prudence said as she gathered her notes. “A combat test, to be administered next. You will spar in human and wolf form. My mate informs me they have a next and a senior Beta, along with two Alpha heirs, who have volunteered to spar with you.”
“All at once or one at a time,” I asked, thinking about the Kstovo initiation.
“One at a time. Come, we need to take you to the gym.” I smiled as I got up, at least I’d get to have some fun. Walking into the gym, I grabbed a pair of shorts and went to the locker room as I ignored the crowd forming around the sparring area. When I came out, the Council and the Alphas, plus a number of other lower ranking members, were waiting for me.
Konstantin came over to me and clapped my shoulder. “I volunteered to be your second,” he said as we walked towards the crowd. “Standard rules apply, fight to yield or cannot continue. No shifting, no lethal blows.”
“Sounds fun. What’s the order?”
“As the person being evaluated, you get to pick the order of opponents and the fighting form. And guess what- Yuri’s beta, Shura, is one of the four. He’s a champion boxer, so you should fight him in wolf form even though he’s a big fucker that way too. Pick him last, the evaluation only goes until they have an idea of your skills, so if they are satisfied you won’t have to fight him.”
I looked over at the four men; Shura was the scariest, a true heavyweight boxer with a lifetime of experience. The other Beta was more my size, while the two Alpha heirs were a little bigger than me. “No. Dad always told me to pick the biggest, meanest fucker and fight him first. You’re still fresh, and he has no idea how you fight.”
“If he hits you flush, it’s over. Use your speed and don’t box him, use that fancy shit you learned,” he said.
I handed him a wad of cash. “See what kind of odds you can get on me winning in the first minute and take them.” He smiled at me, linking to some of his Pack mates. I walked into the center of the sparring area, turning to face the Council and bowing my head. “Thank you for this opportunity to demonstrate my skills,” I said to them.
“Next Beta Patrick, these men have volunteered to spar with you. The bouts will alternate between human and wolf forms, and continue until we are satisfied that we have evaluated your skill levels. Fights are to yield or unable to continue, no lethal blows allowed. Are you ready?”
“Yes Council Chair.”
“Then choose your first opponent in human form.”
I looked over at Beta Shura, he was leaning against the wall like I was not worth his time. “I call out Beta Shura.” He looked shocked, then he smiled as he walked into the ring. I stole a look at Alpha Viktor, Mischa was by his side and I winked at her. She smiled and mouthed “I love you” before I turned my eyes back.
The betting was going fast and furious behind me, werewolves loved to fight and this looked like a mismatch of epic proportions. Standing next to him shaking hands moved the betting line even farther from my favor. Shura just looked at me like I was a fool. “I vill break you,” he said.
“Go for it.” Council member Hans was the referee, and he gave the signal to fight. I took a boxing stance, hoping to draw him into thinking I was fighting his style when I wasn’t. I danced around him, tossing a few jabs he swatted aside. He had both a size and reach advantage, and all the confidence in the world.
Instead of a fist, I extended my left fingers, held tight together, and used the extra distance to jab quickly at Shura’s eye. I didn’t catch it good, but it was enough to get him to turn his head away. Stepping forward with my right leg, I brought my left up to kick him in the nuts while he was focused on my hands. He groaned and bent over, and I took advantage by bringing my right knee up to his ribs twice in a row while I held his hair with my left hand. I heard them breaking, right before I brought my right elbow down hard on the base of his skull and knocked him the fuck out.
There was a collective gasp in the audience as the big man crashed to the ground. Alpha Hans pushed me to where Konstantin was waiting, then went down on his knees to check Beta Shura. He lifted his arm and it dropped back to the ground. “He’s OUT,” he said.
“Did you even break a sweat?” Konstantin tossed me a towel and I wiped my face off.
“Nope.” I opened my arms as Mischa jumped into them, and I swung her around before kissing her deeply as her Pack members whistled. “Like that?”
“You were amazing,” she said. “Twenty seconds.”
“And twenty-to-one odds,” Konstantin said with a big smile.
“We both bet big on you, my love. We knew you could do it.” Mischa hugged me again.
“Thank you, baby.” I watched as Beta Shura was loaded onto a stretcher and carried off, a very pissed off Yuri following him to the clinic. I dropped my shorts and immediately shifted into my grey and black wolf, nuzzling up against Mischa before trotting out onto the sparring area again. The three remaining challengers were waiting for me; I picked one of the Alpha Heirs, and he shifted into a sleek grey wolf a little larger than me.
“Fight is until unable to continue or yield. If one of you gains a grip on the other’s throat, I will call the fight. Understand?” We both nodded our heads. “Have a good clean spar. Fight!”
We circled each other, I’m sure he was a little more nervous after seeing my first fight. He charged me, and I spun away to my right, his teeth cutting my left flank as he went by. I continued the motion, leaping onto his back and biting hard on his spine just above the tail. He howled in pain as my teeth crunched his spine, causing his rear legs to collapse on him.
I jumped back as his teeth spun back towards me. With both back legs disabled, he laid down and exposed his neck, unable to continue. “Winner, Next Beta Patrick.” I trotted over to my shorts, shifting and pulling them on before going back out into the ring.
The Council members were discussing things as the rest of the audience tried to figure out what was going on here. I’d just cut through two opponents like a hot knife through butter. Finally, Chair Francois walked towards me. “We have completed our evaluation, Patrick. Thank you, gentlemen, but we will not need your services tonight,” he said as the two remaining men visible relaxed. “The farewell feast begins in an hour. I look forward to seeing you and your mate there.”
I showered, changed back into my clothes and walked out. A crowd was waiting to congratulate me and talk about my fighting styles, but I quickly moved on after thanking them. Konstantin handed me a wad of rubles, smiling as he handed another to Mischa. I took Mischa’s hand as her family and Pack followed. I had no doubt in my mind I had proven myself to be worthy to be by her side as Pack Alphas.