The thoughts cause my heartbeat to become erratic. My lungs are slowly becoming deprived of oxygen. I can feel the panic overwhelming my body. I hold the bench from either side of my thighs as I try to breathe normally. Sadly, the thoughts my mind makes up forbid me from doing so.
Clay is the brother that Stefan never was; the thought of losing him brings back the memories of Diamanda’s death. I let out a whimper at the thought of going through that all over again.
“What is up with you?” I yelp when I see the third in command sitting next to me. I look into his eyes to find them completely cold. Still, I can tell that he is not asking because he is concerned. Nolan receives a glare before I look down at the grass under my feet.
As the silence returns, my panic resurfaces and so does Accalia’s. I keep imagining all the warriors finding out about Clay betraying them and the endless sick scenarios of what they would do to him.
“Your heartbeat is as fast as lightning.” It is a statement. I choose to not engage with him. The third in command made his opinion of me unbelievably clear; he does not get to change it especially when I suspect that he does so because he wants something.
“Personally, I think that you are worried about what will happen to you after your job in my pack is done.” Nolan tries to get a rise at me, he fails.
“I mean, you left your pack’s territory without asking for permission from your alpha; surely you knew the consequences. It makes me think that perhaps you do not want to go back…” The third in command talks for minutes, but I do not hear a word he says. I am occupied with my wicked thoughts.
I pull my legs up on the bench and I hug them in an attempt to comfort myself. My head rests on my knees as I close my eyes. It takes a few seconds, but I eventually manage to completely block out Nolan’s voice; it is like he is not even sitting on the same bench as me. One by one, I pull the poisonous thoughts to the back of my head. For a second my mind is clear; it is free.
Shadow? My eyes immediately open and they become glassy with tears.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Nolan asks when I practically yelp, but I ignore him.
Clay? Clay? I can hear you. Are you okay? I desperately yell through the mind-link. He does not reply.
Calm down Shadow, if he was able to reach us, then he is alright. Accalia tries to calm me down, but I can hear the panic in her voice. I ignore Nolan’s pleas as I get up and start running in the directions my wolf provides. She claims that she can sense him. If I can get close enough to him, I should be able to reach him mind.
We can shorten the distance between us and him, but remember we cannot get too close. We cannot risk one of the warriors catching our scent. Accalia warns and I agree; I cannot be careless no matter how much I want to see him.
Nolan is right behind me, he yells my name as if his voice will get me to stop or slow down. Even though his screams piss me off, Clay is my priority.
Shadow, do not get any closer, I can catch your scent. Clay’s voice appears in my head causing me to abruptly stop in my tracks.
Clay? Is that really you? A tear slips down my cheek.
I missed his voice.
Me too Accalia. My wolf does not get a chance to reply before Clay speaks again.
Shadow, you need to leave; it is not safe; all the warriors know your scent. I look around me as I to try to find a way to mask my scent only to find Nolan standing right behind me. The third in command gives me his best glare.
“Give me your shirt.” I blurt out.
“I am not giving you my clothes.” Nolan looks at me as if I have grown a third eye.
“You will if you want to help save your pack.” He scans my face to see if I am playing him. I know I hit a nerve because of his inability to actually fight or physically defend anyone; his wounds still have not healed which is utterly weird considering he is a werewolf. The third in command sighs and takes off his shirt. He hands it to me with spite.
For a few seconds, my eyes are fixed on Nolan’s, and for the first time I get a chance to examine his features. He has dark brown eyes, dark brown hair, thin lips, a long nose, and a long head. I rub the shirt all over me before putting it on. I hum in approval at my work.
Did that help? I ask Clay through the mind-link.
I cannot smell you anymore. What did you do?
Is that really what you want to talk about? Communicating with him from the spot I am in is almost as it was when we were in the Red Eclipse pack.
“What are you doing?” Nolan asks which makes me want to punch him, he is interrupting the conversation I have been waiting to have since I got here. Thus, all I do is growl at him.
How are you? Are you alright? I have no doubt that if he is standing before me, he would squeeze me in a hug.
Am I alright? I am not the one sleeping in the same place as the enemy! I raise my hands up in the air even though he cannot see me.
I am fine Shadow, I can take care of myself. So, how did things go with alpha Alexander?
He believes me, and believes that you are Nick’s friend. God, there is so much I want to tell you, but no is not the time.
No, it is not, because too have a lot to share. For now, however, you should know this: Alpha Oliver is looking for you.
What why would he do that? I thought he would be relieved to be rid of the woman who ruined his pack’s reputation!
I do not know, but he gave the warriors one of your clothes so they can distinguish your scent. The order is: if you are found, you are to be brought back to the Red Eclipse pack alive. Clay’s words cause me to let out an angry growl.
Does Stefan know about this? I ask in distaste at my brother’s name.
I have no clue. I can sense Clay’s frustration. After all, he hates Stefan as much as I do.
Can we please get to the good news? I beg even though I know better than to expect Clay to ever give me good news.
It turns out that am the only warrior who does not share the alphas’ belief regarding the Open Wound pack.
I see you still do not know what the definition of ‘good news’ is. I reply dryly.
Would you consider our location as good news? I can picture the smirk on his face.
Yes! I practically yell in my best friend’s head.
We are camping in ‘The Cave of The Dead.’
Wait, as in the cave where Alec threw the bodies of the six werewolves he killed?
Alec? That one word holds suspicion in it.
As I said, we have a lot to talk about it. Now answer the question.
Yes, the warriors see it as a representation of why this pack needs to fall.
That is morbid. Accalia silently agrees, the alphas are no better than Alec; that is our opinion anyway.
There is more. The way he says it implies that I should mentally prepare myself for what he is going to say next. Clay waits for a few seconds before he continues.
The plan is to unleash the gas by dawn.
Great, so there is a good chance that by tomorrow morning I will be a rotting corpse. I say it with an enthusiastic voice that causes Clay to growl at me.
I was just kidding, chill my friend.
Do not joke about your death Shadow.
I’m sorry. I say sincerely because I know how much this topic affects Clay.
It is okay, I know you did not mean it. Anyway, each of us has a bottle; we are to spread around the territory’s borders. If we shift right after we unleash the gas and run as fast as we can away from the border, then the gas will only weaken us.
Then what? Run all the way back to the Red Eclipse pack? I ask with dry sarcasm.
No, we will be too weak. Therefore, each warrior will hide in a specific spot until we regain our strength and then we will meet in ‘The Cave of The Dead.’
Hide where? I can feel my stomach drop at how thorough is the alphas’ plan; they thought of every detail.
I do not know; the alphas thought it would be safe for every warrior to mark a spot and not tell the others about it. That way if something goes wrong…
I get it, please do not sa… I hear a violent movement behind me which causes my focus to shatter. I look behind me to find Brook running towards Nolan while she screams his name. I glare at her and refocus on my best friend.
Clay? He does not reply.
Clay? Can you hear me? When I receive no reply, I feel fear consume my heart. It takes a few seconds, however, for my fear to transform into anger. I am about to yell at the she wolf who caused my focus to shatter but she starts talking before I do.
“It is Xander… he is… he is having an episode. I cannot find Chance… or Josh.” Brook gives me a weird look when she sees Nolan shirtless and me wearing his shirt. She is out of breath from the running. It is a sign of how out of shape she is; no werewolf should be tired after running a few miles.
“Where is he?” Nolan’s voice shows how worried he is for his friend. They try to fool me by trying to show that they are not mind-linking, but the way they look at each other exposes them. The third in command gives her a firm nod before he shifts and makes his way back.
Brook gives me a cold look before she too turns and leaves me alone in the woods close to the borders. I know that Brook’s look was degrading, but I have dealt with people far worse than her and Nolan.
I try to reach Clay once last time before I collapse on the floor with a cry. I thought that after hearing his voice and knowing that he is okay I would feel a little tranquil. However, I cannot shake the feeling that something is wrong. For all I know one of the warriors could have caught him talking to me.
Once the thought emerges in my mind I try to overlook it. Thus, it gets stuck in my head. I close my eyes as I scream bloody murder, the tears cover almost all my cheeks. I continue screaming and crying until I scratch my throat. Eventually I am sitting on the floor between two trees and letting out a hiccup every few seconds.
Shadow, Clay is alright. I can feel it, and I know you do too. Accalia says in a soft voice.
No, I do not.
Shadow, Clay is more than capable of protecting himself, he is not helpless.
I know that Accalia, it just…
What? What is wrong?
I am scared.
Many things. I do not go into details because I know that she knows the answer, she just wants me to say it. I do not have the courage to do that.
You do not have to be afraid, you are not alone Shadow.
Then why does it feel like it? Clay is so close and yet he is far away, and Nick… I feel like I am slowly discovering that I do not know him at all. I do not blame him for the secrets he had, but these secrets make me feel alone. I confess to the only person who understands every part of me.
You have me.
I know that idiot, I just…
I know shadow. I promise things will change for the better.
How can you be so sure?
Because we have each other. I smile at my wolf’s words. Even though Clay and Nick are my family, Accalia is the one who knows every single thought, emotion and desire that I have ever had, and she never judged me.
About an hour later, I enter Alec’s house to find everyone but him in the living room. I do not miss the glare his father gives me but I just roll my eyes and make my way towards the stairs. Most of them have made it very clear that if it was not for Nick and the danger their pack face I would not be welcome. I choose to take that personally.
“Where do you think you are going?” The older man blocks my way to the stairs.
“I did not know I had to answer to you.” I choose to act the same way I did back home, Ethan deserves nothing more.
You are still holding a grudge for the shoulder, are not you?
Yes I am.
Good; me too. Accalia replies proudly.
“Well, Nolan told us about the stunt you pulled. He had to follow you…”
“Nolan did not have to follow me like a dog. You do not care about my well being, so please do not pretend that you do.” My words take Alec’s father by surprise.
“You really think we feel this way about you?” It is Jocelyn who speaks this time.
“I cannot wait to leave this territory.” I mutter.
You do not mean that. Accalia says in a knowing voice.
I know! I huff.
“Shadow?” Joshua touches my hand and makes me look at him.
“Talk to me. What is wrong?” I can see that he is the only one truly concerned about me. Somehow I know that his worry for me does not come from the fact that I am his brother’s best friend, maybe it is the conversation that we had about our families.
“What makes you think that something is wrong?” I refuse to voice out my feelings in front of everyone. “Well, your eyes are red and swollen, and your voice is hoarse, do I need to go on?” The witch gives me a teasing smile. I tell him everything Clay told me, as I talk I do not bother to look at their reactions. Once I am done, I walk out of the house wanting to be as far away from everyone as possible for an hour or two.