How in the HELL
I must have been dreaming, that was the only explanation.
I saw her die.
I broke as my mate was taken violently from me.
This can’t be real.
I felt the tingles on my cheek, I smelled her scent as I lay there on the bottom of the boat. I opened my eyes, her jean-clad thighs under my left cheek, her boots against the seat opposite us as she sat on the deck of the boat, holding my head in her lap. We were moving again, bouncing through the water. I moved my hand up, placing it over hers. “Pinch me,” I whispered.
“This isn’t a dream, John. I’m here. I never left.” I sat up, she was still there. She squealed as I pulled her into my lap, my face buried in her neck as I took in her scent. My wolf was bouncing around in my head, he knew it was her, he could feel her wolf. I moved back, cupping her face as I looked into her eyes. Her eyes were full of pain and love, and I knew mine must be the same.
“How?” Such a simple question.
“I used my powers of illusion,” she said softly. “That wasn’t me.”
I pulled her close, kissing her deeply, not wanting it to end because in the back of my mind I was still thinking this was a dream. If it was, I never wanted to wake up again. Having her in my arms was my new normal. “Watching you die broke me,” I said.
“I’m sorry,” she said as she cupped my face, her forehead dropping down close to mine. “I couldn’t tell you, the video had to be beyond questioning. Yuri was on the other end. He knows I’m dead now, and that’s the safest I’ve been since he learned of me.”
The motor slowed, and as I looked up I could see we were approaching a dock, the LED lights along it softly glowing. “Where are we?”
“My cabin,” Alpha Sven said. His Beta jumped onto the dock, tying the bow to the pole as Sven tied the stern to the end of the dock. Sven tossed up some bags and handed his Beta a big cooler. “Come on, we’ll explain inside.” He walked to the front and stepped onto the dock, I got Jessie off my lap then followed behind. I boosted her up, then jumped up myself. I could see no lights, just the outline of the shore and the tiny lights from homes across the lake. Since there was only a little light from the moon behind the thin clouds, I picked Jessie up and carried her as I used my wolf vision to follow the trail up the bank. We passed through the brush and trees until we came to a small cabin. As we approached, a motion sensor turned on the outside lights.
He took the padlock off the door, then opened it and turned the inside lights on as we followed him off the narrow deck with the hammock and chairs. The cabin was cozy, maybe five hundred square feet; a kitchenette, table with two chairs, and a couch facing the central fireplace. “You’ll be staying here until I come get you, when it’s safe to move you again,” the Alpha said. “This cabin is only known to myself, my mate and my Beta. It’s on a small island, just a few acres in size, in the middle of Eagles Nest Lake Number One.”
“It’s the most remote hiding place I can think of. The cabin isn’t much, the electricity is just for lighting. Your phones have been destroyed, there are no computers here or internet access. You’re completely cut off, unless you swim for shore or flag down a boater, neither of which I suggest doing. You are far enough into the lake that your scents should not be picked up if you stay on the island.” He moved into the kitchen, where the cooler had been placed. “There’s meat and milk in here, and enough ice to last for a few days if you don’t open it too often. This bag has food, that one your clothes and toiletries from your car.”
“You need to get rid of the car,” I said.
“It’s being driven to a chop shop in Duluth by two of my men,” he said. “By tomorrow it will be parts and scrap. Don’t worry about the St. Paul Mafia finding out.” I looked at him in shock. “They were after the reward for killing Jessie, they were the ones that witch was working with.”
“All for twenty million dollars,” I said.
“They worked cheap,” Sven said with a laugh. “The sink is connected to a rainwater collection system from the roof, it’s fine to drink. It has solar hot water heating as well. The range uses liquid propane from a tank outside. The electricity uses a solar panel and a small windmill to charge batteries.” He walked into the living area. “This television has a DVD player. There’s a few movies in that cabinet, but any time you two aren’t screwing you should both be doing this.” He took out the Learning Russian DVD’s that Larry had bought for Jessie in Duluth. Jessie was blushing at his comment, I was trying to figure out if an hour a day was enough to learn Russian.
“How long are we going to be here?”
“Until it’s safe,” Jessie said. “Sven is helping us out; he’s going to get word to your Alpha that you are alive and safe, and to my lawyer. The longer we are thought to be dead, the better. We don’t want to walk out of here and run into some gangster who didn’t get the word,” she said. “There’s another reason I’ll tell you later.”
I smiled and kissed her. “So, I’m trapped in a one-bedroom cabin, all alone with my beautiful mate?”
Sven sighed loudly. “I’m going to have to air this place out for a month when you’re gone,” he said with a smile. “One of us will come by each week with supplies and news.” He showed us quickly how the fireplace worked, it was set up to heat the cabin with an enclosed firebox like a woodstove. Pipes carried heat to the bedroom as well. “There’s wood in the shed outside, a chainsaw is in the tool shed along with a hand splitter. You need a workout, clear the blowdowns from that storm this summer,” he said.
“We’ll take care of your place,” I promised him. This was working perfectly for me; all I had ever wanted was time alone with my mate, to get her to love me and agree to be mine forever. I would have paid him to leave us here.
“I know you will. There’s fishing gear in the shed too, the walleye and panfish are pretty good eating up here. Just keep yourselves alive, your girl is important to us as well,” he said as they walked out the door. We waved goodbye as they headed down the trail to the boat.
“Just how long was I out of action to allow you to become buddies with the Alpha?”
“Long enough,” she said. “Come on, let’s get you fed. Pissed on hot dogs and beans weren’t good enough, huh?”
I rolled my eyes. “How did you know about that?”
“I was watching the whole time,” I said. “I told the Alpha to have the guards goad you, the madder you were at them, the less you would focus on me. We needed you in a rage, to convince everyone that you were my mate and you watched me die.”
We washed up at the sink, then I started putting the food into the cabinets while she pulled some steaks out of the cooler. She set them on the counter, turning the heat on a cast-iron pan before grabbing a can of green beans and putting it in a saucepan on the other burner. She put a little oil on the pan, then seasoned the steaks. “How do you like your steak, Cuddles? Or should I look for some Alpo?”
“Very funny,” I said as I put the boxes away. “Rare, just cooked enough so the center isn’t cold.”
“I’ll do mine first, then.” The room filled with the smell of her cooking as I finished up. There were beers in the cooler and another case on the counter, so I pulled some cold ones out and set the table with plates and silverware. I turned the lights in the living room off, allowing the fire to cast a glow on the room. While she cooked, I went into the bedroom and unpacked our clothes into the small dresser. I was glad the bed was king-sized, it took up almost the whole room. A small bathroom with a shower was off to the side, I hoped the solar heater worked.
Of course, I’d taken LOTS of cold showers since I first met Jessie.
I came back out just as she was plating the steaks. I kissed her, then we sat down to eat. “Care to tell me what happened while I was out?”
She ate slowly as she told the story. Alpha Sven had talked to Alpha Yuri the day before, he knew exactly who we were and what he wanted done with us when we showed up. “We’re lucky because he HATES Alpha Yuri. His aunt was mated to a Beta in that Pack, her mate was killed because he didn’t agree with Yuri’s push of the Pack into the Russian Mafia, and she killed herself shortly after. He had to think quickly; you had been in town, people may have seen you, and all it would take is one Pack member saying something and Yuri could find out he was harboring us. Yuri would gladly wipe them out if he did. Instead, he sent us to the cells.”
“And knocked me out.”
“You were being a little uncooperative with his theater,” she said. “Anyway, he had them pull me out and lock me in the interrogation room with him and his Beta. He laid out what was going on and we put our heads together to think of how we could turn things in our favor. It was when I did this to him that we had the idea.” She reached across the table, taking my hand, and a moment later I was looking at a mirror image of me in the opposite seat. She looked exactly like me, clothes a match. “The magic is very convincing, you even sound and smell like the person,” she said in my own voice.
“How long does it last?”
She changed back. “As long as I keep focus on it. I held it for over an hour, me looking like him, and we decided that was enough. The rogue across the cells from you was waiting execution; he had raped a woman near Alexandria, and Sven’s pack tracked him down and caught him as he tried to run north to Canada.”
“They didn’t turn him over to the police?”
“And say what? That they traced him by smell, tracked him across a hundred miles of woods and they know it was him because they could still smell her blood on her? Yeah, right. They were holding him for the Alexandria Pack, instead he called and told him the rogue had died in the cell. No one will miss him.”
“So you made him look like you, and you looked like the prison guard.”
“Exactly. That wasn’t the best part, though.”
“Really? Fooling the world wasn’t good enough?”
She laughed. “The reward was $25 million. Sven came up with an idea for more. He called Yuri and told him he had me, but I’d offered half of my inheritance if he would protect me until I could collect. He then told Yuri that he’d kill me that night for three hundred million, cash, transferred within eight hours to his Swiss account.”
“You’re shitting me.”
“Nope. The money came in just before they pulled ‘me’ from the cells. I now have a numbered Swiss account of my own with a hundred and fifty million in it. Sven and his Pack are rich now, too. They just can’t do anything with their wealth until Yuri is dealt with.” My jaw dropped. “Of course, he had to do a lot to come up with that much cash so quickly. That’s why we want to delay the court proceedings for a few months. The longer he has to wait, the more financial trouble he is in and the more desperate he is. I don’t just want to get the inheritance that is rightly mine, I want to destroy him in the process.”
I just stared at her. “Well, lass, you’ve got the smarts and courage of a great Luna,” I finally said. “I’m proud of you. You’re right, if I had known what was going on, I couldn’t have gone through with it.”
Our meals done, I could see the fatigue in her eyes. “Go get ready for bed, honey. I’ll clean up and join you in a few.” She stood up, kissing me deeply, then walked away with a sway of her hips, pulling her shirt over her head as she walked through the door and closed it. “You’re going to be the death of me, woman,” I complained as she laughed.
There was warm water, and I quickly washed and stacked the dishes. When I knocked on the door, she didn’t answer. I looked in, she was in bed, snoring lightly. I took my shower, putting on a pair of cotton shorts before getting in the other side. I pulled her to me, spooning her with my arm over her hip, and she wiggled back into me. “I love you, Jessie,” I said before I fell asleep.