Rori King’s POV
Arrowhead Alpha’s House
Coral came in and sat with me as we fed the babies after their afternoon nap. “Did Three Tequila make it out all right?”
She nodded as she picked up Hope and sat in the comfortable glider next to mine. “Ron and the boys trailed her and watched until her plane was in the air. They didn’t detect any tails, and she managed to get there without sliding off the road.”
I laughed at that; I remembered from my time in Florida how inept Southern drivers are when it comes to driving on snow and ice. What we in Minnesota wouldn’t think twice about, Florida drivers would stay home for days to avoid. “Are they back yet?”
“Nope. The lockdown meant the Betas had a long list of items needed from town. They’re making a Sam’s Club run in Duluth and loading up both the trucks. He did say they were having a good sale on Porterhouses and Prime Rib roasts, and they are running holiday sales on turkeys and hams. He authorized exceeding the normal food budget to so we could stock up on meat. The Pack could use a good feed.”
“You’re right.” Cheryl finished nursing, so I handed her to the nanny as I waited for Mark to finish. “We need to do something about Heather. Three Tequila went through a lot to warn us; we have to get that to Greg. We just don’t know where he is.”
There was a knock on the door, and Keith came in, kissing his mate and his daughter before sitting in an extra chair. “Coral and I talked about this earlier. I think I have a plan that will work for that,” he said. He pulled out his iPad, which displayed a highway map of Minnesota. “The last we heard of Greg and Heather, they were southwest of Wadena, and he said he was heading south. I doubt if he wanted to spend all day driving, so I’m betting he’s somewhere in Minnesota or Iowa.”
“We don’t think he’s in a big city,” Coral said. “Too many people who might recognize her and too expensive long term. Better to stay among small towns, pay cash for a room, that kind of thing.”
“Makes sense,” I said. “What are these shaded areas along the highways?”
Keith pointed at the light blue one that followed Highway 10 towards North Dakota. “I set the width of these shaded areas to twenty miles, the effective range of mental communications for normal ranked Pack members. If we sent a Pack wolf along the highway and he’s in the shaded area, we should be able to talk to him and give him the warning.”
“Since we only use the Pack bond, there’s no possibility of our the government or the Sons picking up our communications. We can find out their status, address and pass along the warning, all while driving down the road normally.” He pointed at the next line down. “If they aren’t along Highway 10, we go down Highway 210 south of Wadena to Fergus Falls. If not there, Interstate 94, then Highway 12, then Highway 212 and so on. We keep running cars east and west until we pick him up, moving south with each run.”
I looked at the map. There was a lot of overlap on the routes because things didn’t always go neatly east-west in the land of ten thousand lakes. “That’s a lot of driving. How long would it take?”
“It depends on how many wolves we put on it. If we sent four out, they could make a sweep out and back in a day. They would clear down to Interstate 90 the first day, the second they could clear the rest of Minnesota and into Iowa. We can keep this up until we find him. If we send two, twice as long, eight or ten we could do it in a day.”
I burped Mark and handed him off. “I like the idea, but I don’t want anyone leaving the Pack alone. Pair up one warrior with one Omega, and send four teams out. Make sure they understand that they are only to turn around when they get to I-29 in the Dakotas; we don’t want anyone stopping and drawing attention to the area Greg is at.”
Coral nodded. “We send two cars together down to the Twin Cities, the other two head west towards Brainerd. That way they can watch for trail cars. If there is any sign of danger, they are to high-tail it back here.”
“Pick the teams. The message is simple; Heather was recognized; Greg needs to keep her out of sight and off the grid. Get their address and ask if they need anything. Once we know where they are, we’ll send a driver past every Saturday afternoon to check on them,” I said.
Coral put her hand on her mate’s arm. “And tell Greg that if he needs to get out of there, call the Pack Security line and say ‘eject eject eject.’ We’ll send warriors to get them.”
“You’ve been watching ‘Top Gun’ again, haven’t you baby?”
“Of course, the sequel is coming,” she teased. “What else do we need to do?”
“We need to let the Pack relax a bit,” Keith said. “Tempers are getting shorter. Christmas is next week and the kids are out of school for two weeks. With the lockdown, we can’t go to town or visit people. I had to break up more arguments today than I normally do in a week.”
I nodded towards the Pack House. “Is the pool back up yet?” We’d drained the whole thing when the Werejaguars attacked; Roadkill had insisted on cleaning and repairing some items before he refilled it.
“He said it would be heated up to normal by dinnertime,” Keith said.
“So, we’ve got a ton of steaks coming, the pool room is back in business, and we miss seeing our friends?” They nodded. “Simple solution. Beach party at the Pack House all day tomorrow. Start things about ten, go through lunch and dinner and into the night for the adults. Slumber party for the young ones in the basement; having everyone here will make security easier. I’ll call my aunt and uncle and invite Oxbow to come down, that will make it a real party.” Oxbow didn’t have anything like our indoor pool complex, so I figured we’d get a good turnout from our neighboring Pack.
Keith smiled wide at this. “We can set up the grills, maybe have some games and tournaments to lend some excitement. I’ll make sure we have plenty of beer and drinks, too. We have the ice fishing houses on the lake; we can have a fishing tournament if we want.”
“We can put Christmas movies on the big screen in the pool room, and football in the dining hall.” Coral thought of something. “Heck, we could turn the morning into a decorating party, get all the trees put up with the kid’s help.”
“I love it,” I said. “Work with the other Betas to see what needs to happen and set up signup sheets for help. We’ll tell the Pack at dinner.” The babies were all sleeping now, so I left them with the nanny and the warrior and walked out with my sister-in-law and her mate. Keith went off to talk to the kitchen workers. “The first thing Luna Margaret is going to ask is if they can bring anything. What should I tell her?”
“Snacks and desserts,” Coral said. “We can handle the meats and sides, and those are easier to transport. By the way, you know that Mom is coming tomorrow, right?”
My shocked face gave my answer away. “Chase didn’t tell her to reschedule?” He was supposed to talk to her and get her to change her flight since he was going to be out of town.
Coral just laughed. “You think she would give up time with her grandbabies just because her son isn’t here? That’s just more snuggle time for her!” I groaned and sat back in my office chair as she sat down. Colletta had a rough past year; her husband almost tore the family apart before he went feral and we had to put him down. She’d been moving between her three son’s Packs, helping each of the new Alpha pairs adjust to the job. “She flies to Duluth at 1:20 tomorrow. Keith and another warrior will go pick her up.”
“I’m worried about her being here while we are under lockdown from the threat,” I said.
“To her, that’s another reason to be here. Another Alpha blood to defend the Pack, that’s how she thinks. She won’t be anywhere else when her three little grand-pups are in danger.” Werewolf mothers and grandmothers were extremely protective of the children, and an Alpha blood extended that to the entire Pack. Colletta wasn’t technically a part of our Pack; she was still a member of her original Pack, the Cascade Pack, now run by the unmated Alpha Carson, and helping him as a pseudo-Luna. “Her room is ready on our floor, and Keith and I will handle it. You handle the party.”
“Fine,” I said. Coral hugged me before she left, she had her own work to do. I picked up the phone and called Luna Margaret, the sister of my father, who died when I was a year old. “Good afternoon, Aunt Margaret,” I said. “Did I catch you at a good time?”
“Nothing much else to do in this cold,” she said. “How are the babies doing?”
“Almost ready for solid food and weaning,” I said. We caught up on things for a few minutes before I got to the point. “Margaret, our Pack is a little down from the threat and the lockdown. We decided to have a beach party at our pool tomorrow, from ten in the morning until late at night. We’d like to invite you and any of your Pack members who would like to attend.”
She gave a little squeal. “Oh, that would be great! We could use a diversion too. What can we do to help?” We talked for a few more minutes about food, security, activities, and logistics. “I’ll announce it to the Pack tonight and give you a call later with the count. This is going to be so much fun!”
“We’re thinking that with it going so long, we’ll be able to rotate out the people on security duty or other support so everyone gets to have some fun.”
“We’ll do the same,” she said. “I have to leave a few people here to keep the lights on, but I’m sure almost everyone else will be coming.” We eventually hung up when I got the message the babies were up and wanted their dinner now.
I’d asked the whole Pack earlier to eat dinner together, so the dining hall wing was full when I walked in with Coral, Keith, and our entourage of warriors and nannies. I spent a lot of time before dinner was served reassuring and comforting my Pack. Beta Ron and his team had come back from Sam’s Club earlier, the freezers restocked, and the shopping needs addressed. Over dinner, I talked to everyone about the security situation, which remained unchanged. “Right now your Alpha is out there helping the Federal government in their effort to wipe out the Sons of Tezcatlipoca,” I told them. “You’ve seen the news of the raids, but you also need to know that the leadership, the ones who are Werejaguars, are still at large. We have to assume they know or suspect that Chase and I are part of this since one of their Presidents scented us at the Memorial. While our Alpha does his work, we need to remain safe and secure here. The lockdown rules will remain in effect, maybe for weeks.” There were groans in the crowd. “If this creates specific hardships, work with your Betas to see if we can find some relief. As you think of the restrictions, understand what the people threatening us are capable of, and why we are so protective of you all.” I let that sink in, building the drama for the fun part. “That doesn’t mean we can’t have fun. The pool is back, and Oxbow Lake will be joining us tomorrow for an all-day Beach Bash!” The Pack let out cheers at that news.
Coral and I laid out the plans, and they had sign-ups for shifts at the various activities and help needed. The mood picked up noticeably as we walked out.
That night, as I tried to fall asleep alone in my bed again, I prayed that Chase would finish up quickly and get back to us. The sooner the threat was gone, the better. I tossed and turned for almost an hour before I gave up; my wolf was acting weird. I turned on the light and got up. It had been a few days since I had let her out, maybe a good run would help me sleep.
I checked the babies and let the warriors know I was heading out, then went through the tunnel to the Pack House. The Security Center was quiet, and they were about to send out patrols. The Oxbow Lake pack was still patrolling part of our border in wolf form, so I brought one of the trainees with me to check that out while the others went for the snowmobiles. The tunnel came up well away from the lake, hidden by a hill and dense trees, so our shifts were unseen by the humans around the lake. “Ready to run, Vicki,” I asked the formerly enslaved wolf who had come to Arrowhead with the other Omegas.
“Nice night to run,” she said as she left her clothes in a cubby then shifted. Her wolf was larger than a true Omega’s; not the size of a born warrior, but long and lean like a tracker. I finished putting my clothes away and closed my eyes, calling for my wolf to come forward and take control of our body.
“Come on,” I told her in my mind.
“No. Pup.” I reached my hand down over milk-swollen breasts to my belly. I didn’t think it would happen until I had weaned the twins. I’d have the Oxbow Lake doctor verify in the morning, but my wolf wouldn’t be wrong about this. “Vicki, shift back and return to Security,” I said. “Something has come up; I can’t run the patrol tonight.”
She shifted back. “Aww, I was looking forward to this,” she said as she reached for her clothes.
“Plans change quickly sometimes,” I said. I dressed, and we walked back through the tunnels. I checked the babies before going back to bed.
Sleep didn’t come for hours, as my wolf and I reached out in vain for the mate we wanted by our side.