The Only Way
Beta John’s POV
I was handed a box and told to go into the room and change. Inside was all the stuff I had worn to trial; the suit, the watch, my wallet and keys. The only thing they didn’t give me back was my passport; the Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer waiting outside was holding that. I quickly removed my orange jail coveralls and canvas loafers, tossing them in the bin, and got dressed.
I signed a few more forms and was officially no longer in the custody of the Minnesota Department of Corrections. Agent Johnson was waiting for me, he had taken control of the prisoner and would be transporting me to the airport where he would watch me get onto a plane bound for London. Alpha Esca had taken care of the arrangements, buying me a first-class ticket back home.
I was still a prisoner, so he had me in leg shackles and my hands were cuffed to a chain around my waist. We walked out the door and he placed me in the back of the van. Metal bars separated me from him as he got in and started up, and the doors wouldn’t open from the inside. He took off the shackles before closing the door. I buckled up and settled in for the short trip. “For what it’s worth, I wish you had killed him instead of beating the shit out of that guy,” he said after we got onto the main road.
“It cost me a lot,” I said.
“I hate rapists,” he said. “My daughter goes to UW-Madison, so I’ve been following the stories on the attacks there. It’s too bad he didn’t learn to keep his hands to himself after what you did.”
“Some guys just don’t learn,” I said. “He touched what he shouldn’t have, and I reacted without thinking.”
“Was she your girlfriend?”
“Not yet. Dislocating her shoulder while pulling her out of the way isn’t the best way to ask her out on a first date. I was going to ask her, one of the guys in my party knew her.”
He eased the van onto the main road. “That sucks. Have you apologized?”
“I tried but she was given an order of protection from me. I can’t contact her without breaking my parole.”
“Time to move on, then. You’re young, you’ll find another woman. England has some pretty women.”
“Scotland has beautiful lasses.”
“I bet.” We talked the whole way to the airport; we passed through security and had an hour to wait for boarding of the flight, so I took him to O’Gara’s Irish Pub. “Neither of us can drink, you know,” he said as he took a seat in the replica Irish pub.
“I’ll survive, I just want some decent food before I get on the plane.” I ordered about three servings; the Reuben Sandwich they are famous for, beer battered fish and chips, and a double order of Buffalo Wings while he ordered the French Dip on a separate check. I dug in to the wings as soon as they showed up.
“Damn, you can eat,” he said as I trapped the meat between my front teeth, pulling the bone out and setting it on a plate.
“I can’t let you buy me food, it’s against the rules.”
I just laughed. “The food’s already there, just have some.” He took a half-dozen and tried them, then the sandwiches arrived. I didn’t slow down as I plowed through that food too. Finally, the table filled with empty plates, I wiped my hands and sat back. “That was a whole lot better than jail food,” I said. I paid my bill and we hit the bathrooms before going to the gate. He flashed his badge at the ticket agent, she would board him first. He would go as far as the end of the boarding ramp and remain there until the plane pulled away from the terminal and was in the air.
“Thank you, Agent Johnson,” I said as I shook his hand.
“Stay out of trouble, John.” My Alpha had delivered my bag to the jail, and he gave it to me as I walked into the plane and took my seat. I opened it up. Inside was the latest book by JoFlower called “Heart of Stone,” and I laughed as I read the jacket. Werewolf fiction was hot these days, and her books were some of the best. It also had an iPad in it. I took it out and powered it up; it had been preloaded with some movies. I looked through and saw a folder in the book section called “Jessie.” Opening the folder, her face came onto the screen.
I started reading, oblivious to us pushing back from the gate, barely noticing as I was pressed back into the seat on takeoff. The file was everything my Pack had on Jessie Donato and what was going on with her and the danger she was in. I read the filings her lawyer made in Moscow court, and the ruling that had just come down yesterday confirming her status as the only known descendent of Yevgheny Zubkov. The newspapers were full of speculation as to the location and status of Natalya Klishnina, but they all agreed that her claim would rightly win over that of his brother Yuri. Yuri stood to lose three billion rubles from the estate if she lived.
Her lawyer told the court that Natalya was in hiding after multiple attempts on her life, not so subtly calling out Yuri for trying to kill her. She had to stay alive until the estate was transferred to her, the articles said. At that point, if she died her own will would control the estate and Yuri would be locked out forever.
It took all of my willpower and the Alpha command to keep from shifting on that plane as I realized just how much danger she was in. I had been told of the bombing, told that she was safe with the Kstovo Pack. I did not learn until now what had happened after she arrived. A letter from Alpha Esca covered the high points. She was in a car with Larry and Brian from the St. Croix Pack and Charles, our Theta, when a car opened fire on them. They escaped, but Jessie’s mind shut down and she lapsed into a coma again. The Alpha had entrusted them to Larry and Brian to return her home safely.
He didn’t know where they were and was to have no contact with them. It was for the best, he said, their Pack and others were being watched. The last thing in the file was the poster that Yuri was distributing to crooked Packs and Mafia chiefs around the world. It had her real name, passport photo, current address, and a promise to pay a large reward plus earn the favor of the Russian Mafia if she was found and killed.
I read through it again, finally turning it off as the meal came. I felt helpless, and as her mate that was tearing me apart. My spot was next to her, protecting her, yet I was flying farther from her with every minute.
When dinner was cleared, I sipped my beer while looking through it again, this time taking notes. Then I started to think about how I would hide her and protect her if I was able to get to her. Flipping the page, I wrote down as many ideas for places to hide with her as I could think of.
I filled up three pages before I stopped.
Then I went back through them, lining out all but five.
I put those five on new pages, with good/bad on each side, and started breaking them down.
By the time I gave up, I had no damn clue how to keep her safe, and it drove me nuts. Go somewhere on your own and get caught, you have no backup and she dies. Go somewhere around people, someone gives her up for the money, and she dies.
Then I started to think about how I could even get her to talk to me again, and that three pages of ideas went nowhere as well. I’d hurt her, I’d scared her with my sudden violence, and her eyes told me she was still afraid of me. Then there was the whole immigration thing; I couldn’t get a visa back to the United States, and she couldn’t leave without risking being killed. I shoved my pen and paper back in my bag, put some music on the headphones, and slept for the rest of the flight.
Arriving in London, I passed through Immigration and caught a short flight up to Aberdeen. Charles met me at the curb, and I gave my friend a big hug before I hopped into he car. “By Luna its great to be back,” I said as we pulled out. I could see the mountains in the distance. “I can’t wait to let my wolf out and run again.”
“Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time,” Charles said with a laugh. “There’s a welcome home feast followed by a Pack run tonight. Alpha Esca figured you needed it.”
“How is Jessie doing? I appreciate all the material you gave me, but I have… I HAVE to know she’s safe.”
“She is safe and protected, and only one person is in contact with Larry and Brian as they protect her.”
“You’ll never know. Sometimes, you just have to trust your Pack and Luna until you can do things yourself.”
A few minutes later, we were pulling into the castle and the whole Pack spilled out to greet me. I hugged and kissed everyone I’d missed, most of all my Alpha and Luna who had done so much for me while I was stuck in America. I transferred my allegiance back to them from Alpha Stan. “Thank you so much,” I said as I cried into Luna Eleanor’s shoulder as she hugged me.
I didn’t have the same place on the run as when I left; Jack had taken over my spot as the Alpha’s Protector with his mate Sarah next to the Luna. I was in the next rank back, with the other Betas, the rest of the Pack behind us. We ran hard for an hour before returning to the castle under the light of the quarter moon. I returned to my room and went straight to the shower. When I came out, there was a Ziploc bag on my pillow with a pillowcase in it. “Thought you’d sleep better with this. -Eleanor”
I opened it up, the scent hit me like a ton of bricks. Jessie. The pillowcase must have been hers from when she was recovering here.
I woke up about noon the next day; I hadn’t felt that good in months. “Beta John, please come to my office,” I heard over the link.
”Yes Alpha, five minutes.” I quickly dressed and went down the hall of the Alpha’s wing to his office, right across the hallway from the Luna’s office. I knocked and went in, wondering if my nose was messing with me. It wasn’t. “Patrick!” I rushed across the room and embraced him. “Thank you. Thank you for protecting her.”
“I did what I needed to do, John. She’s an amazing woman, I know you two will be happy.” We sat and he caught me up on the latest things out of Russia; Yuri was becoming more and more desperate to kill her as the courts approached a final decision that would leave him with nothing. He told me about returning to Russia to be a Beta in the Moscow Pack, and the real possibility he and Mischa might become Alphas soon.
“That’s amazing,” I said as he finished. “But what are you doing here?”
“I’m here to train you,” he said. “Your mate needs two things; she needs her mate with her, and she needs protection. You’re training so you can do both.” Alpha Esca opened a drawer and handed him two things. The first was a big dog vest that said “SERVICE DOG” on both sides. “Here’s the deal. You can’t get back into the United States any other way; I’ve got paperwork here from Doc Connall stating Jessie has seizures that can cause her to lose consciousness and has a service animal to detect the onset and help her. All that is true, she’s blacked out once since her head injury. As a service animal, you are allowed to fly on a plane, go into restaurants, escort her anywhere in the United States. We’ve got your papers, training records, veternairy records all set. You just have to stay in dog form and learn how to act like a service dog.”
“Will she know who I am?”
“She can’t. You know she’s still afraid of you, but this way you are close enough to let the mate bond work. You get a chance to be around her all the time, to learn about her, to help her. I’m going to tell her you are one of my protection dogs who I cross-trained to be a service dog for her. I will teach her commands for how to direct you to attack a threat. She can never know you are far more than just a wolf hybrid with a lot of training.”
“She doesn’t know about us?”
“No, we’ve left that to you. There is one thing she did on her own, though.” He told me about how Father Kempechny was a witch, the power he passed to her as he died, and how she used the powers to save them all when they were attacked on the motorway. “She has power, but little training. If it happens again, she could pass out and be helpless for days. All it takes is a single shot and Yuri wins.”
I growled, there was no way under the Moon that my mate would be taken from me. “What do you need me to do?”
“Shift so I can put this on. Your training starts now.” He was holding a collar, it wasn’t a tough dog collar. It was aqua blue in color, it had silver studs, and the name ‘CUDDLES’ was stamped and painted in silver on the side.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” I said.
“Nope. Who doesn’t like a service dog named Cuddles?”
I looked to my Alpha for help, but he just shook his head. “If I didn’t owe you so much I’d kick your ass for this,” I said as I pulled my clothes off and shifted into my silver-grey wolf.
“I know,” he said as he fixed the collar to my neck.
“Beta John, you are forbidden from shifting unless commanded by an Alpha to do so, or if shifting is required to save the life of you or your mate.” I felt the weight of the command go through me. “Behave and learn, the longer this takes, the longer your mate is without you.”
I pressed my head against his thigh, thanking him for his help.
“Come on, Cuddles, it’s time for puppy school,” Patrick said with a little too much levity. I growled and followed him out the door.