Death is Mercy
Three Days Later
“Miss Jessie, are you going to leave us too?”
I looked down at the little girl who was hugging my leg and smiled. Picking her up, I carried her back to a chair in the Pack daycare and set her in my lap. “You want me to stay with you,” I asked as she buried her face in my shoulder.
“You nice,” she said. “Momma said you will be Luna soon.”
I patted her back, looking around at the other three and four-year-olds in the room. The police had kept us out of our Pack House for thirty hours after the attempted murder of the entire Moscow pack and guests. The children were mostly ignorant of what had happened, the staff and their parents trying to keep things as normal as possible. The youngest slept through it all. We were all relieved when we could move back in and get back to normal.
“She will be a Luna if she wants to be,” John said as he crawled over to me, but I could barely see him. The boys in the room decided to wolf-pile him, but he was too strong to bring down, so they were hanging on to his arms, legs, and shirt. “This country is all new to her. She grew up in America just like I grew up in Scotland.”
“I do love you all,” I said as I set the girl down. “But, you need to learn how to take down a big strong Alpha.”
“Can you teach us?”
“When strength fails,” I said as I got down on my hands and knees, “пощекотать его (tickle him!)” The children squealed and started tickling his stomach, one even pulled a shoe off to go after his feet. I joined in, and soon the little Pack of young boys and girls had John rolling on his back begging for mercy.
“Call them off!”
I just tickled him harder. “They love you, and they are having fun with their Alpha.”
“I’m not their Alpha… yet.”
“I’m finding it hard not to be.” I raised my hands above my head and let out a victory howl, the other children joining me as they danced around their fallen prey.
“Children, time for class,” Katya Semulskaya said as she came back into the room. The children groaned in disappointment but got up and went back to the tables as their teacher took over. “Thank you for watching them,” she said.
“You’re the best, and I love being with the pups,” I said as I moved my hand over my belly. “I can’t wait until our little ones are in your class.”
Her eyes got wide, I hadn’t said anything official yet, and this slip-up did not go unnoticed. Katya was about my age and unmated. We had bonded quickly during our visit, and I considered her a friend. I was already plotting to bring her to America so she could look for her mate there; Alpha Yuri hadn’t let the lower-ranked women seek out mates because he might lose them if their mates were equal or higher rank. “I look forward to that,” she said as I let her go and turned for the door.
“Goodbye, little ones,” John said. “We are leaving for Kstovo for a few days.”
“Be good little boys and girls, and maybe I’ll bring something back for you,” I said. They all said goodbye as John pulled me through the door. As soon as we were alone in the hallway, he pulled me into his chest, and I wrapped my arms around them. “Sorry,” I said. “I haven’t even talked to you about this yet.”
“You’re the Alpha Female, and it’s your blood right if you want this Pack,” he said. “You would get no argument from me if you decide to take the spot. I like it here. I think you and our baby could be happy here.” He kissed my head as the tears started to flow. “I want us to get married back in Minnesota, though. We can have another party here, if and when we take the Alpha position. I want all our friends to have a chance to celebrate.”
“I can’t say anything now. We haven’t even sent off the dead yet.” The seven men killed in the attack on Polina were still in the morgue; they were part of an open investigation. We planned to burn their bodies in three nights, giving us just enough time for this trip.
The police found Polina’s body. We had turned over edited video recordings showing her entering the Pack House with the explosives, and leaving via the freight elevator. The police tracked the explosives used to an Army Colonel, who turned out to have extensive black market dealings. The only loose end was Elizaveta Klimova. The police had a warrant out for her arrest since the video showed her helping Polina. They would never find her. She was already in Bavaria, at the European Council Headquarters, and we would not be giving her over.
“Come on. We have a few things to do, and the car will be ready soon.” I took his hand as we went to the clinic. Ivan Ivanov, the security officer who had lost both legs and an arm in the blast, was in a bed. “How is he,” John asked the nurse.
“Better since your help this morning,” she said. “He was awake and talking an hour ago.”
“He’s already asking when he can go back to work,” Sashenka said. Ivan was an orphan, but his fellow wolves weren’t about to leave him alone. One of them had been with him the whole time.
“I wish I could have done more for him,” I said. I had used my magic to reduce the swelling in his brain and heal what I could, but I couldn’t grow his limbs. I laid my hands on his head, and they began to glow as I sent more healing power. When the glow stopped, I pulled back my hands. “That’s all for now. He needs to rest.”
“Thank you, Luna,” Sashenka said.
I kissed Ivan on the forehead. “Stay strong for him,” I said. “When he is ready, I will take him to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and get him the best prosthetics we can. He will walk again.” John led me out, and we stopped at the Alpha offices to let them know we were leaving. Luna Abrianna was swamped with the preparations for the funerals, while Alpha Javier was busy with the aftermath. The whole Pack was unsettled. “I’m sorry we have to leave, but my friends need us,” I said.
“Don’t worry about us; we can handle this. You need to delegate as an Alpha, or you’ll work yourself to death,” she said with a smile. “When you get back, I’ll train you.”
She’d been so helpful to me since I had been here. I learned a lot about being a good Luna just from watching her interact with people. “Thank you. Thank you for being here for them,” I said as I fought back my tears.
“It’s what an Alpha couple is there for, Jessie. It’s not just giving orders and politics; it’s about keeping the family together.” We said our goodbyes, then went back in the elevator and down to the parking garage. Three vehicles filled with warriors were waiting for us, our bags already loaded, plus one more I didn’t expect. “Larry, what are you doing here?”
“I’d like to come with you,” he said. “I need to talk to Konstantin, in person.”
“Of course,” I said. We got in, and Larry sat in the third row behind us. I gazed at the security, the bulletproof glass, the man riding shotgun with a submachine gun by his side, the escorts. It was hard to believe I was driving a piece of shit Ford Focus to my waitress job six months ago. Now I needed armed security because I was one of the richest women in Russia. Now I was a handshake away from being in charge of over five hundred people and a fortune in properties and investments.
It was heady stuff for a girl who didn’t even finish college.
I relaxed onto John’s shoulder as we drove out of the city. Larry didn’t say much, but I could sense how nervous he was. I knew something was wrong. “Larry, we’re friends and Pack mates, first and foremost. Nothing you can do or say will shock or hurt us, so just come out and say it.”
He lowered his head, looking at his hands for a moment before he looked up. “I want you to forgive Elizaveta and join me in a plea for mercy. I’m a mess right now with her being in the cells. I don’t know if I can survive them executing her.”
I looked at him closely, seeing how his clothes hung loose, and his face was gaunt. His eyes were the worst, what was once full of life and mischief was now filled with pain and loss. He was a ghost of what he had been a week ago. “You realize that John was almost killed, along with two close friends. I just left the clinic room where a man your age is recovering from losing all but his right arm and will face a lifetime of pain and struggle. When we return, we will attend the funerals for seven brave men who died trying to stop Polina’s madness.”
He nodded, shaking as the sobs racked his body. “Your mate didn’t just get men killed by helping Polina. No, she walked out of the Pack House, turning her back on the people she grew up with, and walked away. No warning, no second thoughts. If she hadn’t met you on the way out, I’d be dead right now. You would be dead. John. Patrick. Mischa. Alpha Stan. The Council. The entire Moscow Pack, including women and children. Children, Larry. The same children that John and I were playing with before I left, innocent children who deserve a chance to live.”
He was sobbing loudly now, breaking down in front of us. “Liz warned us,” he finally said.
“Yes,” John said, “And I am forever grateful to you for finding her and chasing her down so we could stop Polina, but that was never her intent. She confessed after she got caught, Larry. It wasn’t because she suddenly grew a conscience. She confessed because she hoped it would disgust you enough to kill her or let her go.”
I crawled over the seat, taking him into my arms as he broke down. It wasn’t his fault, NONE of this was on him. He was a good man who was getting screwed over by Fate on this one. Luna would have been kinder to him if she let him die before finding Elizaveta. Now, having marked and mated her, they were irrevocably tied together. When she died, something none of us could or would stop, he would be devastated.
I couldn’t let him be lost to the madness, not after all he had done for me. “We will be there for you, Larry. You will get through this, somehow.” He kept crying on my shoulder until he finally fell asleep. I laid him on the seat, covering him with a blanket before going back to sit with my mate. I hugged him, my wolf whining at the mere thought of losing him. When he had told me goodbye and to take care of our child, I felt like I was going to die too. “You’re the werewolf, tell me we can help him.”
“It’s not easy,” he said. “Their wolves bonded, and you can’t take that back. In most cases like this, the surviving wolf gets put down because it goes crazy. The only other option is to kill his wolf, and hope his human side survives.”
“What a shit sandwich he got served,” I said.
“She may have been a good wolf once, but not now. I read her confession. She wanted to save her brother, but the cost was more than she ever thought. She’d been betraying her Pack for years. The Alpha could have executed her just for that. It’s no wonder she had an escape plan in place.”
“What if they don’t execute her?”
“That won’t happen, Jessie, there are too many crimes for her to live, and her guilt is not in doubt. Mercy for her is a quick death.”
I didn’t understand werewolf justice. “Humor me. What if she doesn’t get the death penalty.”
“She’d have to be imprisoned, probably for life, in the Council cells in Germany. Her wolf would go feral from the isolation.”
“And if she was eventually released?”
He snorted. “Right after monkeys fly out of my butt?” I smacked him. “Alpha Javier already exiled her from the Pack. With what she has done, no pack in the world would ever take her. There is no happy ending for these lovers, Jessie. Their mating was doomed from the moment they looked in each other’s eyes.”