“Father? Thank you for calling, I have so many questions.” My mind was reeling, here was the one person who knew my mother, who helped her in her darkest times.
“I know, my child. There are many things you want to know, but these things should not be spoken about over the phone. You said you wanted to know more, and things have recently changed. If you travel to your hometown, I will take you to her and explain to you what you need to know.”
I thought about it, I had no passport, but I did have some money now. It would cut into my college fund, but something in the back of my mind told me I HAD to find out the truth about her. “It will take some time, Father. I have to make arrangements, get a passport.”
“That is all right, the dead aren’t going anywhere.” He gave me his direct phone number, he was still at a church in my mother’s hometown. “Call me when you have tickets, fly into Moscow then take the train to Sergiyev Posad. I will show you what you seek then.”
“I will, Father. Can you… can you tell my father’s name?”
“Not yet, Jessie. Better to wait.” He was being evasive, so it couldn’t be good. Of course, my father was a rapist and a killer, so I shouldn’t expect much. I thanked him again and he hung up the phone.
I didn’t have Internet at the small cabin in the woods, but I did have phone service with unlimited data. I got busy, looking to see how much this little trip would cost me. I searched the Delta Airlines site, they had direct flights from Minneapolis/St. Paul airport for a little over two thousand dollars round trip. I cringed, thinking about a twelve-plus hour flight crammed in Coach, between a fat old businessman and an overweight woman who used too much bad perfume. Add in hotel, cab, food, and this trip was going to push over four grand, easy.
How much was it worth to find out about my real parents? Did it really matter?
I was distracted by a knock on the door. I got up, looking out the window I could see Patrick was there, and he was holding a pie. I didn’t care if the person at the door was Freddy from Friday the 13th, if he had pie for me, I was letting him in. Patrick was nice, though. I opened the door and smiled at him. “Patrick, what a surprise!”
He held out the pie. “Mom was hoping you’d stop by so she could give you this. She knew you wouldn’t have much here while you settled.”
I took it, it was a spiced apple pie, and smelled heavenly. I closed my eyes, just the smell of it made me feel better. “It smells amazing,” I said as I took a step back to invite him in.
“If you don’t mind the company, you can help me eat my ice cream.” He pulled his arm out from behind his back, he had a quart of Kemps’ French Vanilla in it.
I giggled a little. “You don’t have to bribe me, Patrick, I would have offered you a slice,” I said as I walked the pie to the small table. “But I’ll take the ice cream.”
He took his boots off and left them by the door before coming to join me. “I had to bring something too.” He stepped past the boxes that were stacked by the door, everything I had brought back with me. I pulled out some plates, forks and a big spoon; he sat his big frame at the table as I set it. I was glad I had met him, he was becoming a good friend, but there was no spark between us. I didn’t feel the same way with him as I did when I thought about John. I had some friends who were looking for a nice guy, I resolved to introduce him to a few when I got settled in.
“You didn’t have to come all the way out here to eat pie, I’m sure your mom has more.” I saw a flash of embarrassment on his face. “You didn’t.”
“Pies don’t last long in our house, Jessie. Mom had to label this one and threaten violence to keep this one safe.” I could just imagine those big guys fighting over the last piece at the dinner table; with just Mom and I, we never had that problem. I cut us each a slice, then he covered it with a big scoop of ice cream. I knew I’d have to run an extra couple miles to burn it off, but it was SO worth it. I moaned in pleasure as I tasted the pie, his mom was a great cook. “I thought you might want some help unpacking, the pie was mostly so I could have more.”
“I don’t have that much, really,” I said. “What do you know about getting a passport?”
“It’s not that hard. You get photos at a drugstore, go to the county offices and fill out the application, then wait six weeks or so to get it.”
Six weeks? Crap. “Any way to get it faster?”
“Well, you can pay more to put a rush on it. If you really need it fast, I think you can go to the Consulate in Chicago, show them your tickets, and they can do it overnight.” That sounded a little better, but I didn’t want to go to Chicago. “What do you need a passport for?”
“I want to find out more about my real parents,” I told him. We finished the pie, then I went and got the letter from the Father that gave me all the information I had. He read it, then read it again. “I wrote the Father back, and he called me. He is willing to tell me more, but not over the phone. I want to visit my mother’s grave, too. She gave her life for me, I want to thank her in person.” I dabbed the Kleenex to my eyes and started to break down. He reached for me, but I ran to the bathroom instead. I took a few minutes to gather myself, washed my face, and then went back out. He was still reading the letter. “I’m sorry, I get a little emotional.”
“It’s all right, you’ve gone through so much these last few weeks,” he said as he pulled me into his lap and wrapped his arms around me. “Let it out.”
I did. I laid my head on his shoulder and bawled my eyes out, letting go of all the emotions I’d bottled up.
I held her as she cried, trying to ignore her body pressing into mine as I tried to stay in the Friend Zone. She wasn’t mine, she was John’s, and I was here to protect and help her. She fell asleep in my arms, totally exhausted physically and emotionally. I put her on the couch, covering her up with the quilt that was hanging over the back, and went back to the table.
I looked at the letter from the Father again. Taking out my phone, I took photos of each side, sending them to my father and my Alpha along with a quick text about how she was thinking of visiting him to get answers. My father was first to respond. “Don’t do anything, don’t let on you shared the information. We promised the Highlands Alpha and Beta John we would protect her, and if she runs off to Russia that will be difficult.”
I thought about it. “What if she wakes up and buys a plane ticket? She asked me about how to get a passport.”
”Good, then we have at least a few days to weeks to prepare. If she wants a passport, help her out. Right now, it’s important to be her friend, to build her trust. Keep visiting, ask her to help you with your work. If you can, get her involved in her schoolwork, hopefully that will distract her long enough we can figure this out,” my Dad said.
“I’m going to send this to Alpha Esca with my observations,” my Alpha said. “He knows the European Alphas, he may be able to find out who her father is before she does. There are only so many gentleman’s clubs in Moscow at that time, we can narrow it down since the Father said her real father owned one.”
“Yes sir. I will make sure she is protected, and help when I can.”
I could tell from her breathing and heart rate she was deeply asleep, so I had another slice of pie and more ice cream before covering it and putting it away. I was getting antsy, so I turned out the lights and left her a note saying I went home, and to call me if she needed to talk. Locking the door behind me, I drove home. Mom could see on my face how upset I was. “Go run it out,” she said. I nodded, pulling my clothes off and leaving them on the chair by the door before shifting into my grey and black wolf. Taking off for the woods, I ran hard, heading to our territory boundary. A full circuit was a good twenty-two mile run, and I needed every inch of that to get my head straight again.
Alpha Esca’s POV
I looked at the letter that Alpha Stan Larsen had sent me the photographs of, reading it again. He was right, the key was figuring out who the owner of the strip club was. It didn’t say which one, and it was two decades ago, but it was still a good lead.
I sent a text to Alpha Viktor Kirolinko, asking him to video chat with me. His Pack was located in Kstovo, well east of Moscow near the Kerzhenskiy Gosundarstvennyy Prirodnyy Zapovednik, a huge nature preserve. Located in the mountains and deep forests a good six-hour drive from Moscow, they had blended in to the local population for a thousand years without being noticed. With over two hundred adult members, it was a large Pack as well. Viktor was not a close friend, but we had known each other for decades and he had my respect as a good man and Alpha.
I didn’t have to wait long; the popup came up on my computer as soon as I had sat down. Accepting the call, I saw him sitting in his office, his Beta by his side. “Alpha Viktor, thank you for allowing me the time.”
“It is no trouble, Alpha Esca. How is your Beta? John, wasn’t it? That unpleasantness at the summit?”
I grimaced a little. “He’s still in jail, he pleaded guilty to the assault of that vile man and has at least eleven weeks until he can be released, IF he can behave himself.”
Viktor just laughed. “I heard the story, the man deserved the beating. He should know better than to pinch the ass of a woman who is a Beta’s mate. I’d have killed him if he did that to my mate.”
“Actually, Viktor, his mate is who I am calling about. The St. Croix Pack is protecting her until my Beta is out of jail and can claim her. The Beta’s son has taken the lead in protecting her, and she recently told him that she is adopted. Her mother is dead, killed by her father, they were both Russian.” His eyes lifted as I continued. “Her mother worked at a gentlemen’s club in Moscow; one night the owner took her and raped her, leaving her with child. He killed her when she went back asking for help for their daughter. I’m asking your help in finding out who owned strip clubs in the Moscow area in 1996.”
Viktor had turned white as a sheet; I was getting nervous as he started talking to his Beta, his eyes growing wide before he practically ran out of the room. Finally, he turned back to me. “Alpha Esca, I don’t need to do research to tell you the answer to this. All of the clubs in the Moscow area are run by the Russian Mob.” He looked down at the desk. “And the head of the Russian Mob in Moscow then was Alpha Yevgheny Zubkov.”
My jaw dropped. “Alpha Zubkov? The one who was just killed, whose Pack is falling apart?”
“Yes. By Luna, this is a mess. This woman, you said she is human?”
I nodded. “Every report I had was that she smelled human, but what we can’t figure out is why she has a wolf mate. Everyone knows that mates are between wolves, so she has to have one.”
“Her father is an Alpha, no wonder he killed his mother. You can’t have rivals running around, and his own mate would have killed him herself if she had found out.”
“He was mated?”
“Yes, he kept it private and few ever saw her. She died in childbirth, taking their son with her. That was about fifteen years ago, and to my knowledge he never took another mate. There was no heir to his Pack, no one came forward to claim it. You realize what this means?”
I shook my head, too many things were running through it to concentrate. “No.”
“It means that wolf or not, she’s heir to the Pack and her Mate will be the new Alpha.”
“I cannae believe it,” I said as I rested my head in my hands. “She is determined to travel to Russia to find out the truth about her parents. She’s going to walk right into that mess.”
“More than that, they’ll kill her and she won’t know why. She’s in real danger if word of her gets out.”
Fuck me six ways to Sunday and back again. My Beta sure knew how to make my life hell. “Thank you, Viktor. I don’t have to tell you this needs to stay quiet.”
“Of course, Esca. Let me know if she decides to visit, my Pack can help with her protection.”
“Thank you. Goodbye, my friend.” I cut the video and let my head fall to the desk. I needed to have a drink, then I needed to call Alpha Stan back and let him know. It was going to take all of us working together to keep her safe and in the dark about what was going on.
John’s little mate was turning out to be a major headache.