Laying To Rest
Alpha Rori’s POV
Temporary Orlando Clubhouse
I was sitting with the other Ladies for the service as Chase sat on the podium with the other leaders. He was only there because he had to talk about Nate.
We were packed and ready to go to the airport as soon as the service and burial ended. Ron was sitting behind me as my protection; Chase knew there weren’t other Packs around, but it was a sensible precaution. His protector, our new warrior Vic Knightly, was sitting near the back entrance.
The service was very emotional, and I spent most of my time comforting the other Ladies. The front row was all the immediate family, so I wasn’t close enough for that, but this affected everyone. All I could think about as the service was wrapping up was the memorial wall I’d need to do for the rebuilt Clubhouse. Tripod verified my mural had burned in the fire.
The replacement would need to be much longer.
“ALERT everyone, a panther just entered.” Vic’s mental warning to us had my neck snapping up; I took a deep sniff as I looked around. There was an older man, Hispanic, and he was a big guy. He moved with a liquid grace of a panther, that was for sure. He was wearing jeans, biker boots, and a windbreaker. He got up from his spot and started to follow him towards the front. The man looked back at him and smiled. “He knows we are here.”
“Stay on him, I doubt he’ll try anything with all these humans around,” Chase said. “Ron, watch her back. If anything happens, you get Rori out of here and back to the car.”
“I’m not leaving you in a fight,” I said with a growl.
“And I’m not risking you and our children,” he replied.
I had to relent; my wolf agreed with him. “Fine.”
The man got to the corner of the stage, where some of the Brotherhood stopped him. When his windbreaker came off, and his Sons of Tezcatlipoca cut was visible, the Club reacted. Chase joined the men circling him, as Vic moved to support him. “Chase, if he starts trouble, you have to get him off-camera and out of there without shifting,” I said.
“I don’t think that will be necessary. He wants to speak at the service.”
I couldn’t believe it. “Is he the only one?”
“Yes. I think we should let him talk. Maybe we can defuse the situation before it gets out of hand. The last thing we need is a riot on national television.” I saw him lean towards Crankshaft; he nodded and let him pass. Chase followed him as he walked to replace Tripod at the podium, staying between Manilo and the Presidents. They had no idea what they were dealing with; Manilo didn’t get to be an old man by being weak.
I listened to him talk about peace, and my stomach flipped at the things he was saying. “Do you think he means any of this?”
“Their Club doesn’t forgive or forget. If he’s saying anything, it’s for public consumption. He’s here to divert attention and gain intelligence, and now he knows the Brotherhood has werewolves in it.”
“It won’t take long for them to track us back home,” I said with a sigh. “Ron, get word back to Teri. The Pack goes on lockdown immediately, full patrols. Have them run defensive drills, and inform Oxbow of the threat.”
“On it, Alpha,” he said.
The service ended without instance, and Vic didn’t even have to make sure Manilo left without incident. Director Grimes and his team bundled him into a Suburban to talk. Most of the Ladies left with their old men, while we ended up at the back of the procession with the other cars.
Vic stayed with Nate’s casket, volunteering since he didn’t know the men. Beta Ron had gotten to know Mongo and some of the others during his visits to our Pack lands. The burials went quickly, all of them in the same area of the cemetery. I leaned into Chase’s side the whole time, my grief overflowing as my friends went to their final resting places.
Everyone gathered back at the bikes, saying one last goodbye as the Chapters escorted their charges back home. The visitors who were staying around were heading back to the Clubhouse, while we headed to the airport. By now, the Clubhouse was set up for the biggest wake the Club had ever seen.
I had expected to be alone as we followed the hearse to the airport, but three dozen of the Brotherhood rode with us. The pilots were waiting, and his casket was carried inside and secured. The four of us settled into the leather seats, exhausted from the day. “What do we do now,” I asked the others.
“We go to Oxbow and bury Nate. We can warn them while we are there. We missed the run for Connie; I don’t want to miss this one,” Chase said. Pack runs were the way our wolves reinforced our unity, kind of like the way the Club rode fast in tight formation. I was looking forward to it.
“Tina understands the danger, and they are taking measures. The people in the outlying homes have been brought to your house or the other houses on the Point, closer to the safe rooms. We’ve doubled the patrols and have brought more cameras online, especially on the lake. Those not needed for Pack operations relocated to Oxbow Lake, and Oxbow is patrolling our outer borders for us.”
“Good,” I said. “My aunt and uncle will protect them. How long do you think we have?”
“I doubt if anything will happen before morning. It will take that long to get people assembled and get flights to Minnesota,” Ron said. “Less time if they send the Jaguars. Two or three of them could mess things up.”
“That’s why you use the shotguns,” Vic said. “Fighting big cats one on one will get people killed. Make sure no one is without a pistol, and a shotgun or rifle is nearby. Nobody goes outside in groups of less than four; any fewer is an invitation.”
“Agreed,” Ron said. “We may not be able to stop an attack, but we sure as hell can be ready for it.”
I had an idea. An evil idea. “Tell the Omegas not to clean out Heather’s room. Seal all of her clothes in plastic bags and keep a bag down by the media room.”
“It’s about controlling how and where the attack comes.” I leaned the seat back as we reached cruising altitude, tucked into my mate’s shoulder, and promptly fell asleep.
“Baby, we’re landing,” Chase said as he moved my head off him. I looked out the window; it was well past sunset in the frozen North. The moon reflected off Lake Superior as we made our descent into the airport. “Who’s meeting us?”
“Teri, Brent, and Laura. Alphas Michael and Margaret, plus both Nate and Connie’s parents will be there. We will spend the night there, staying the night after the Pack run.” I was glad we were finally laying Nate to rest by his mate’s side.
“Our orders, Alphas?”
“Ron, you go home to your mate. We’ll be fine at Oxbow.” He smiled; he couldn’t wait to get home to Teri, his Japanese mate. They were still in the honeymoon phase of their mating, and maybe they’d be one of the lucky ones who get pregnant early. It was easy to forget for me since I had the blessing, how tough it was for everyone else. True mates often tried for fifty, even a hundred years before a heat would take. That kind of heartbreak was something I couldn’t imagine.
“My orders, Alphas?” Vic didn’t have anyone to go back to, hell, he’d barely unpacked before leaving for Florida.
“I will leave it up to you, but I think you should attend the Pack run with us. It will give you a chance to meet our neighbors, and maybe you’ll find someone you are interested in.”
I laughed inside as I saw him fighting not to roll his eyes at me. “I’m here to protect my Alphas, not to find a woman,” he said.
“Well, you’re an attractive, mature, unmated male in an area with a surplus of unmated females. I’m sure your dance card will fill up quickly,” I teased.
“I promised my daughter I’d watch my granddaughter Gina, so Celeste and Ted can join the hunt. I’ll be having a nice, quiet night.”
“No ‘Bad Grandpa’ moments? Too bad,” Chase teased. “I bet your daughter already has someone in mind. She’ll probably have her stop by to ‘help out.’”
“Thanks, Alpha. My life isn’t hard enough without having to dodge the ladies?” Wolves have a different way of looking at things; they don’t date to find their mate; they date for fun until they meet their mate. Once you’ve known the fullness of the Mate bond, everything else seems inconsequential. I still held out hope for Vic and the older Omegas in my Pack. Choice mates did happen, and maybe he would get lucky.
The landing was smooth, and when the door opened, the four of us moved the casket to the door and handed him off to the waiting wolves. We stood respectfully at the bottom of the stairs as he was moved to the hearse. When the door closed, Margaret turned and hugged me, then hugged my mate. “We watched the service, and your words were perfect,” she told him. “Thank you.”
Ron went back with Teri, and we hitched a ride with the Alphas. We followed the hearse directly to the Pack cemetery, where the Oxbow Lake Pack and friends were waiting. Connie’s grave was next to the hole that Nate was lowered into. I held Chase’s hand as we filed past, taking a handful of earth and tossing it down. “Your sacrifices will not be forgotten, my friends,” I whispered as the dirt hit the top of his casket.
The Pack gathered back at their Pack House, where clothes were pulled of before we all shifted into our wolves. “No argument from your wolf?”
“No, dammit. Still too early to know.” I shook out my rust-colored fur and rubbed against his body. Despite being a more dominant wolf, his Alpha genes and male sex meant he was much larger than me. Michael howled to gather the Pack, and we moved near to him. As family and guest Alphas, we would run just behind them. The rest of the Pack gathered in the clearing, and we all took off down the trail.
The moon and the clear sky made it easy to see the trail. We ran a few miles west, deep into the woods that formed their territory, when he picked up the scent. “I love the smell of fast food,” I said to my mate.
“Smells like three bucks and ten does,” Chase said. “Good thing since these Minnesota deer are so tiny.” He grew up hunting mule deer, not the whitetails we had here. We didn’t have the Pack bond, so we followed the Alphas as they split the hunters into three groups. The deer were quickly surrounded and bolted, right for us.
“It’s their land, let them take down their deer,” Chase told me. We helped to herd them until Michael took down the largest buck, then the other hunters took theirs too. The Alpha’s huge wolf sat back and howled, the Pack joining him.
Some of the Pack members were carrying knives and ropes, and it was minutes until the deer were field-dressed. Wolves took huge sections in their jaws and started to run back home; our wolf nature doesn’t mind raw meat, but it’s better fire-roasted and seasoned. Chase grabbed a rear quarter, and I led him back. Two hours later, our bellies stuffed, we fell asleep together.
“ALPHAS, WE ARE UNDER ATTACK,” Coral sent to us. I jumped out of bed, catching the time. It was six in the morning, still well before sunrise, and we were miles from home.