The Love of a Sister

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Chapter 2

"That foolish boy!" Costi said as he slammed his fist into the side door. It broke the long silence that had settled over the van since their escape.

Joana was cuddled safely against her mother as they drove through the darkness. She kept her eyes on the window and watched the trees pass by with her sharpened night sight.

She was still clinging to the pendant, her fingers felt numb... but she didn't care. She was fully focused on the Alpha bond. It reassured her that her father was still alive.

He would be okay... he was strong, he would kill them all... and then they'd go home, and it would be safe again.

She'd crawl back into bed, and he would tell her all the usual bedtime stories... he would even have a new one from this adventure, but he would edit out all the really scary parts, just like he always did.

Joana felt her mother suddenly tense.

Joana glanced up at her. The look on her face made Joana's insides twist.

"Mama?" Joana asked quietly. Costi immediately glanced back. Adelina's face had gone white, and she looked like she was going to be sick.

"No-" Adelina said, just before Joana felt it.

SNAP.

It was like a twig had snapped inside her chest, and the weight of what it meant hit her like she'd been struck. Joana couldn't breathe. The car screeched to a halt, and a stunned silence settled over them.

Castel was dead.

Her father was dead.

_

Joana sat on the carpet, cross-legged as she watched the tiny TV screen in a small hotel room. They'd been there for almost a week now while her grandfather and their enforcers tried to gather up everyone from their pack who had managed to escape the massacre.

They hadn't found many...

Her friends, her cousins, aunts and uncles... most of them were dead.

Joana accepted it, and yet... she felt nothing but numbness in her little chest. Joana thought it was weird... but maybe her body wouldn't let her feel sad, because if she felt how sad she really was, it would kill her.

Even at four years old, she understood that death was permanent. She would never see them again...

She would never see her father again.

Joana heard a soft sob come from the adjoining room. She glanced over at the doorway with a frown.

She sat quietly for a moment, but she didn't hear it again. She glanced back at Egnel, he was on the bed napping. Joana pushed up and carefully moved over to peak into the room.

Adelina was laying on one of the beds. She was facing away from her. By her body language and movement, Joana knew she was crying.

Seeing her mother cry... it broke through a bit of the numbness. After everything, her mother had yet to cry.

Joana had never even seen her mother cry...

Joana glanced to Beryx, her mother's personal enforcer. He was sitting on the bed beside her, his face solemn. Joana moved over to the bed, and Beryx quickly stood to let her take his place.

Joana circled around the bed and crawled in beside her mother to nuzzle in against her chest. Adelina pulled her in close against her, and broke into full on sobs.

Joana couldn't help it, the numbness shattered, and Joana felt her own heartache spill forth into every space inside her chest.

It felt like she was falling apart, and Joana let herself. She choked out her first sob, and buried her face further into her mother's chest.

She let the tears of anguish fall, and they sobbed their hearts out together.

She cried until she had nothing left, and it wasn't until she lay their miserable and exhausted, that she noticed how wet the bed was between them.

Joana sat and glanced down in confusion. Whatever it was, it was concentrated between her mother's legs and it smelled strangely sweet. Joana glanced up at Beryx.

His face had paled, he turned and quickly left the room.

_

"It's too soon!" Adelina shrieked as she lay on the bed sobbing. Joana stood holding her hand. Her small eyes were wide. Four of their caretakers were there. They were all at a loss.

"Please Alpha your pup is coming, I know it's early... but there is nothing we can do now, you need to push." A caretaker spoke gently. Joana looked at her mother. Her eyes were glazed and she looked frantic.

Panicked.

She wasn't cooperating.

It had been eight hours. Eight long traumatizing hours.

"Mama..." Joana said as she crawled up onto the bed with her again. Her mother's eyes flicked to her.

Joana put her small hands on either side of her face.

"Please listen to them." Joana said firmly. All of her efforts so far hadn't worked, but Joana knew she had to keep trying. Adelina's crying only grew worse just before she shrieked again from another contraction.

Her eyes looked to the window. Joana hated how far away her expression was.

The weight of her own heartache slammed into her at seeing her mother this way. Joana looked to the caretaker that stood at the base of the bed. Her eyes were worried.

Very worried.

"Alpha if you don't have this pup now, the pup will die. And than you will die. Do you hear me?" The caretaker became more forceful. Adelina just sobbed harder. Joana grit her teeth and grabbed her mother's face again.

"Mama! Listen to them!" Joana growled. Adelina startled a bit. They locked eyes, and her mother started to study her face as if she hadn't seen it in a long time.

"Papa and I won't forgive you if you let his pup die! And we really won't forgive you if you leave me alone!!" Joana growled as tears began flowing down her cheeks. She was holding in the sobs. Adelina's face turned even more pained.

She looked at the caretaker.

"Please Alpha, you need to push on the next contraction." She begged. Adelina stared at her for a moment, before she numbly nodded.

Joana sat there beside her mother through every push. She felt like she had gone numb.

She wished her papa was here...

The infant wail snapped her out of her daze. Joana numbly watched as the wet pup was placed on her mother's bare chest. Joana stared at the tiny face that was scrunched in fury as it screamed it's heart out, especially as the caretakers began to wipe it down.

There was a tuft of brown hair, just the shade of her papa's.

"Your pup is strong Alpha... you needn't have worried," the caretaker said with relief.

Joana couldn't take her eyes away from the babe. She stared for what felt like forever, before she tore her gaze away to look up to her mother's face.

She was still crying, but she didn't look upset now. Her eyes were on the pup with absolute joy.

Joana felt more tears slipping down her face as she reached out and touched her new sibling's little head. The pup's wails began to dim.

"What is it?" A furious growl from the hallway startled her. Joana's eyes snapped to the door as it was thrown open. All the females in the room bowed their heads.

A fierce growl came from her mother as she pulled her pup closer to her chest. If her mother wasn't so weak, Joana knew she would have shifted.

Joana stared at her grandfather in shock.

"I said what is it?" Her grandfather snarled. The caretaker looked uncertainly at the pup. Her mother's scent was too strong. They couldn't catch the scent of the pup yet.

"I... I haven't checked yet." The female stuttered. Her grandfather had been furious every since their pack fell. Frightening even. He started to move toward the bed but Joana instinctively pushed off it and blocked his way.

It gave the caretaker enough time to gently turn the infant over.

"It's... it's a female. I'm sorry Alpha." The caretaker said. Joana watched the expression on her grandfather's face turn even more furious. He cast a sharp glance at her mother, before he turned and slammed the door on his way out.

Joana felt herself shaking as she glanced back to her mother. More tears were flowing down her mother's cheeks. Joana slowly moved back to the bed and stared at her new little sister.

She couldn't help but smile.

"Papa was right." Joana said with a slightly broken voice. Adelina emitted a slight sob as she put her hand out to Joana. She crawled back up and let her mother pull her into a hug. Joana gently put her hand on her new little sister again.

"Leila... Her... her name is Leila." Her mother said amidst her sobs. Joana smiled through her tears as she leaned down and kissed her tiny head.

"I will always protect you... little peanut," She whispered against her tiny ear.

____

Grief was a strange emotion. Even as time passed, Joana flitted in and out of being crushed by it. Some days, it was easy to forget that he was gone. She was so focused on other things. But other days, it was hard to breathe knowing she would never hear his voice again. Never feel his strong warm arms around her again.

Never hear his laugh. Never see his smile.

She missed him.

But what really pained her, what really hurt the most, was watching her little sister grow; crawling, walking, and finally talking, with the knowledge that she would never know him.

Joana told her every story, used every silly joke, described every small detail of their father to Leila. Joana was always talking to her, she was determined to make Leila know him.

Joana felt guilty sometimes, that she got time with him and Leila didn't. Joana could see how much alike they were. Leila reminded her so much of their papa, she had his playful rebellious nature.

But... whenever she talked about him, Joana had to do it away from her mother's ears. Even at six years old, she recognized her mother was not herself.

Most days she barely got out of bed, and it was usually only to feed Leila until she'd grown old enough to wean. Their caretakers did most everything. Joana took to caring for her sister while her mother rested.

And she rested a lot.

Joana truly worried for her mother. It felt like she was watching her wither every day.

Her grandfather had taken back the pack, what was left of them. He had no choice. She knew her mother was in no position to lead.

Joana was used to being a certain way with her father, so it came as a startling change that her grandfather's rule was so much different. So much harsher.

Her grandfather spoke so ill of her father for letting her be so wild, it infuriated Joana and made her act out against him all the more. He was often harsh, overly harsh, when she disobeyed him or talked back, something her father often handled with his calm gentle nature.

Her father never hurt her.

But her grandfather was not her father.

Joana hid the injuries from her mother well. Not that it was hard, she had become an empty shell of herself. It started to anger Joana that she barely noticed them. That Leila didn’t have a father or a mother.

She started to feel hate toward her mother, and she hated it even more that she did.

So she made sure her mother didn’t know what her grandfather did to her. She told the caretakers not to bother her mother with it. Her mother was already not herself.

And the constant moving did not help. They stayed with a pack for a few weeks to a few months, then they were on the move again.

It never stopped.

It was never safe. They were always vigilante. Her grandfather often said no one could ever be truly trusted.

When Leila was just over a year old they stayed in a pack in Argentina. Joana had a very vivid memory of it. They were sitting at the Alpha's table eating dinner when the Alpha brought up keeping Leila for his son.

Joana panicked and looked to her little sister playing on a mat with the Alpha's son nearby. She wanted to snatch her up, especially as she heard her grandfather inquire what he would give for her. She knew that voice her grandfather was using. He was serious. He was considering it.

"No." Adelina's hard voice almost startled her. Joana looked to her mother in shock. She had been mostly silent for so long, it was strange hearing her voice.

"We thank you for your generous hospitality, but my daughter is not available for trade. If you'll excuse me. Joana come." Her mother spoke angrily as she scooped Leila up and left the room. Joana quickly followed.

It was a relief to her that her mother was still in there, deep down. It was such a rare bout of emotion she saw from her. Joana wanted to cry with joy.

Joana thought it meant she was back to herself. That she had her mother back. But it didn't. Her fierceness faded again.

And it stayed that way for another year…

…until her mother walked in on her grandfather ‘disciplining’ her for talking back to him.

The trance her mother had been in snapped. She became every bit the mother wolf Joana remembered her to be. She threatened Costi that if he ever touched either of her daughters in anger again, she'd rip his throat out herself.

With the fury Joana saw in her, she truly believed she could.

She sat on the bed as her mother gently cleaned her wounds. Tears were pouring down her mother’s face and Joana swallowed the lump of emotion that was forming in her throat.

“How long?” Adelina asked shakily. Joana glanced toward the window. She didn’t know why, but anger began to bubble up beneath the surface inside her.

“How long?” Adelina repeated with a growl. Joana looked back at her with a glare.

“I wasn’t keeping track.” Joana answered with a hard tone of her own. She was only seven, but she felt so much older now. Adelina frowned at her.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” She asked with a shaky voice. Joana swallowed hard and glanced down.

How would she answer that without hurting her more?

Apparently she didn’t have to.

“I’m so sorry…” Adelina choked out as she yanked her into her arms to hold her tightly.

“I’m sorry.” Adelina repeated again and again as she nuzzled into Joana’s hair. Joana felt the first tear slip free and once it started, she couldn’t stop it…

They cried together for a long time.

“I’m so sorry… I couldn’t see beyond my own heartache. I haven’t been a mother to either of you. I will do better, I promise. Never again will I leave you.” Adelina said fiercely.

And just like that... Joana had her mother back.
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