Price To Pay
Greg Barks’ POV
Arrowhead Pack, Two Days Earlier
Sally and one of the younger Omegas, Talia, had arrived at the safe house in Alexandria late yesterday with a panel truck. I’d cleaned and aired out the house and washed all the sheets until you couldn’t tell I’d been fucking Heather silly.
Vic had known immediately, and I was lucky to keep my job. I knew I was treading on thin ice, so I was going to be the perfect warrior and Pack member until I could openly court Heather again.
It didn’t take long for the three of us to load all the stuff I had purchased when I thought Heather and I would be here for months. The next morning, all my personal items were in my car, and they helped clean the house top to bottom. Both left for home before the owner arrived for the inspection.
I’d struck a deal, getting the deposit and six week’s rent back from the four-month lease. I gave the owner a sob story about the job here not working out and drove away about one in the afternoon. The drive was easy; another bright and cold winter day, and I got to the Pack about seven at night. I rolled the window down at the checkpoint as Bonnie came up, while Charlie walked up to the passenger s side. “The Alphas want to see you immediately,” Bonnie said. “Charlie will drive your car to the Pack House and bring your stuff to your room.”
“Sounds good, nice to see you again, Bonnie.” I tried to sound confident, but my gut was down in my balls somewhere. If the Alphas didn’t even want to let me unpack, it couldn’t be good news. I drove ahead to the Alpha mansion, pulling into the driveway and stopping. “Any idea why they wanted to see me,” I asked.
“Nope. Welcome back, Greg.” I got out and walked to the door. “Alphas, Warrior Barks reporting as ordered.”
“Come in, we are in our basement gym,” Chase replied. I entered the beautiful home and doffed my boots and jacket, leaving them on the hooks and rug by the door. I made my way to the stairs, waving at the nannies who were watching the babies play on the carpeted floor in the living room. I gathered myself before entering the big room, then opened the door and stepped in.
They were all waiting for me, and they weren’t happy.
Alphas Chase and Rori were glaring at me. Vic was with them, he didn’t look comfortable, while Beta Ron and Teri looked disappointed. Roadkill was in the boxing ring, and Possum tossed me a pair of MMA-style gloves. “Strip down and put these on,” she said.
Oh FUCK. I pulled my sweatshirt off, leaving the T-shirt, and pulled my jeans and socks off until I was in my boxers. Chase came up to me as I was pulling the gloves on. “Beta Coral trusted you with a person who was important to us. You are older, and we placed you in a position of authority that you weren’t ready for.”
I kept my eyes down, standing before my Alphas in shame. “I cannot apologize for falling in love with her,” I said.
“Maybe not,” Roadkill said, “But you dated and fucked a Steel Lady without getting permission from her Club guardian. The Pack has rules, and the Alphas will deal with that. I’m here to dole out the Club justice.”
“Get your ass in there and take your beating,” Rori said as she pulled her gloves on. “Roadkill gets the first crack at you since he’s the oldest member, but we all will get our chance.”
I gulped, knowing the beatdown was inevitable. There were two ways this could go, and both would end with me in the Pack clinic. I walked over to the ring, climbing up and standing in the corner. “Ten-count on a knockdown, just to let you catch your breath. I hope you aren’t a pussy because I’m going to enjoy this,” Roadkill said.
“Take your best shot,” I said as I walked forward, my hands at my side. Roadkill didn’t wait for a bell; his right hand flew like lightning towards my face. I avoided flinching, taking the punch hard on the jaw. My head snapped around, and I stumbled a little. The older man had a lifetime of bar fights and training; for a human, he threw a mean punch. I recovered and stood up again, hands still at my side.
“Fight, you little fuck,” he growled as he waited.
“No. I am at fault. I fell in love, and we made love. I accept the consequences, but I’m not giving her up.” BAM! A left jab broke my nose, then another right cross hit my jaw and sent me spinning to the ground. I reset my nose with my gloves, then stood up again with my hands at my side.
I had hoped that taking my punishment like a man was the right move, but it didn’t slow Roadkill a bit. He started working my body like a heavy bag, punches coming from all directions. I stayed upright, at least until a left hook broke some ribs. I was breathing painfully and spit blood into a bucket before pulling myself up in the corner to face him again.
It wasn’t him now. Chase was standing in the middle of the ring, and I knew the pain level was going to go up. Chase was younger and far stronger than Roadkill, and my body paid the price. Chase didn’t say a thing as he worked me over like the hanging beef in the original Rocky movie. He was calculated and accurate, his medical training allowing him to inflict the most pain without permanent damage. I lasted ten minutes before I was on the ground, unable to push myself back up.
While he was exiting the ring and Rori entered, I felt like I’d been run over by a truck, backed over again, then kicked over a cliff. It took me a minute to get back to my feet. If I hadn’t fought back with the others, there was no way I was going to do anything to my Luna while she was pregnant. “I promised Three Tequila I would keep her safe,” she said before a spinning heel-kick knocked two teeth out and left me on the mat again. I got up again, swaying a little. “I never thought I would have to keep her safe from my own Pack Warrior.” This time her left leg hit the side of my right knee, collapsing it with a loud pop. I tipped to the side just as her other leg smashed into my face, and the blackness came.
I woke up in a hospital bed, looking up at the painted ceiling. I tried to sit up, but everything hurt. “You’re awake,” a woman’s voice said.
“Possum,” I whispered through my swollen lips. It felt like my face had swollen like a balloon. “Your turn now?” She was a Steel Lady, after all.
“I’m a nurse, not a fighter,” she said. “You did well in there, and you were right to take the beating. You’d still be here, but you proved to them you loved her enough to pay the price.”
I closed my eyes as the pain from my ribs made it hard to breathe. “How bad am I?”
“You’ll live, but you’re not going to be comfortable for a while. The Alphas have ordered me not to give you painkillers while your healing kicks in. You will heal enough to fly out tomorrow.” She checked my vitals and left, making me wonder where exactly I was being sent. I prayed to Luna it wasn’t a flight back to the Denali Pack. Returning in disgrace to the Pack that demoted me to Omega, a long way from the woman I loved, would be intolerable.
I focused on my breathing as I went through the options in my head. I heard the door open and smelled Chase; he picked up my chart while I watched him out of the corner of my eye. “Heather told Possum that she loves you,” he finally said.
“I didn’t mean for this to happen, Alpha. She’s an amazing woman.”
“Club justice is complete, but we will still have to deal with the fallout. I talked to Mongo and Three Tequila and sent them a video of your punishment. He agreed with our plan for you; if you return and still want to see her, you’ll have to get his permission the Club way.”
Great, another beatdown. I’d take it, gladly, to get Heather back. “Where am I being sent, Alpha?”
“Despite the poor judgment and immaturity this demonstrates, Betas Vic and Ron believe you have potential as a Beta, and we agreed. Our Pack has the right to send a person to Beta Camp, and we have selected you. Your flight to Russia leaves tomorrow night from Minneapolis. You will leave here tomorrow at noon.” I just nodded; Beta Camp was tough, but it was an honor for a Warrior-level to attend. It meant the Pack thought you had Beta potential. It also meant I’d be spending three months in the woods of the Ural Mountains with almost no communications. “It will give the two of you a valuable cooling-off period. Falling in love with a human is not an easy path, Greg. It’s better to let her down easy now, instead of breaking her heart later.”
“I can’t give her up, Alpha. Now that it is possible to change humans, we can be together.”
He just shook his head. “You have no idea of what you would be asking of her. She is human, unaware of our nature, and it is death to tell her. I will not even consider it for a year.” He patted my shoulder, right on top of my broken collarbone, causing me to grimace in pain. “Rest up. I will allow you some time before you leave to talk to her. Your mate is out there somewhere, Warrior Barks. Your wolf wants his mate, not a human. Have enough trust in Luna to let her go.” He walked out, leaving me to my thoughts.
Possum came back in with my meal, mostly raw beef for the protein my body would need to heal. It wasn’t a big steak on a platter; I could barely open my jaw. Instead, a straw stuck up from a big cup that smelled horrible. “Steak puree with spinach, beans, and milk,” she said as she raised the head of the bed. “You should be able to eat solid foods again in the morning.
I think the dinner was more of a punishment than the beatdown. I finished it, barely holding it down, then Possum let me sleep until the morning.
I woke up, and Possum was there, helping me get up and walk to the bathroom. It hurt like hell, and my piss was bloody; Possum had to help me stand up from the toilet, and she noticed the color. “You took some vicious kidney shots, but that should heal. How do you feel?”
“Like I got my ass kicked for the woman I love.”
“I’ll bring you breakfast. Keep moving around. The motion will help with the healing.” She left me in the room, looking out the window at the woods behind the building. An Omega came in with a food tray, her eyes wide when she saw the bruising on my body. She left it on the table and walked out without a sound. Steak, eggs, toast, and hash browns; it hurt to chew, so I cut the pieces small. I felt much better as the morning went on.
Beta Ron came into my room at eleven, setting a bag by the door. “I packed for you, not that you’ll need much. You’ll wear their uniforms in human form, and most of your time outside will be in wolf form. Your tickets and passport, along with your wallet and debit cards are in the pocket.”
“You’re a lucky wolf, Greg. Some Alphas wouldn’t give you another chance, and I was second-guessing myself when I told the Alphas. Don’t waste this chance.”
“I won’t. I’ll make the Pack proud.”
“One more thing,” he said as he opened the bag. It looked like an artificial dog leg, and it was. “We had this custom made for your size, but we need to get it fitted before you leave. Shift into your wolf.” I did, which hurt like hell and left me panting on the sheets. He pulled a thin neoprene sock over the stum, then coated that with a Vaseline-like gel. Ron coated the inside of the prosthetic socket with a thin layer of a two-part, clay-like substance. “Don’t move. It’s going to get hot, but suck it up.” He pushed it into place and moved it until it was seated. It got warm, but I followed instructions not to move a muscle. A few minutes later, it had hardened, and he carefully pulled it and the sleeve off. “That will set completely over the next 24 hours. Put the neoprene sleeve on, there are extras in the bag, and it is a friction fit with the prosthetic. The paw and ankle are spring-loaded, so they work more like your other paws.”
“Don’t thank me; they will run your ass ragged at camp. At least with this, you have a chance to keep up.” He shook my hand. “Do our Pack proud, Greg.”
He left me to my thoughts, and an hour later, there was a knock on the door. It was Heather. “Come in,” I said as I sat on the corner of the bed.
Her eyes got wide, and she ran to me as she saw the black eyes, the bruises, and the sling on my left arm. “Greg? What happened?”
“Not everyone approves of me having relations with you without prior permission.”
Her eyes hardened, and she straightened up. “WHO. DID. THIS.”
“Roadkill, followed by Chase and Rori. It was a Club punishment, Heather. You’re a Lady and under their protection, and I took advantage of you. I deserved it. They sent the video of my beating to Mongo, and he was satisfied.” I pulled her into my arms. “Let it go, baby. I would take a hundred of these beatings to be with you.”
Her hand came up, gently touching my bruised face. “I was the one who seduced you, remember?”
“I don’t think Mongo cares about that. It’s over, and now I have to leave. That’s the other part of my punishment.”
Her eyes got wide. “What do you mean, you’re leaving me?” Tears started to form in her eyes, and it broke my heart.
“I’m being sent overseas for training, and I’ll be gone at least three months. There won’t be internet, or telephone, at least not often. The training area is deep in the forest. It’s a cooling-off period for all of us.” She shook her head, the tears starting to drop. “I was supposed to protect you and not get involved. I’m not sorry I fell in love with you, but I’m sorry that I have to leave you for a while as a result. I love you, Heather. When I come back, I’ll do things right. I’ll go to Mongo first and get permission the Club way. We’ll date, and we’ll have each other forever. Promise me you’ll wait for me?”
She couldn’t say it, so I kissed her hard and passionately until we couldn’t breathe anymore. I put my forehead against hers. “Three months is nothing in the context of our lives together, Heather.”
“Can I write you letters while you are there?”
“Every day. Give the letters to Ron, and he’ll mail them for you. I don’t’ know how often we get mail delivery, so don’t get worried if I don’t write back right away.” I kissed her again, stopping when there was a knock on the door.
It was Ron. “Time to go, Greg.” I gave her a chaste hug, grabbed my bag, and limped out the door. I could hear her breaking down behind me, and it took every bit of strength I had not to run back to her. If I did, I’d lose her forever.
My body healed with every hour that passed; I looked almost normal by the time I arrived at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport for the flight to Moscow. My travel arrangements sucked; a fourteen-hour trip over the Arctic, a six-hour wait, then a six-hour flight to central Russia to the frozen town of Ufa. Beta School was being hosted by the Beloretsk Pack, which was in the Ural Mountains north of Kazakstan. A wolf from the Pack met six of us at the airport, and we bounced over the poorly-maintained roads for three hours to get to their Pack House.
I was sore and tired and just wanted to sleep as we pulled up to the front of the Pack House. Grabbing my bag, I followed him in and froze. “She’s here,” my wolf said. “MATE IS HERE.”