Chapter THREE: Repercussions
“Put some muscle into it Ellis, you’re looking a little soft.” My father chastises for what feels like the thousandth time in the last five minutes.
It’s early the following morning, too early for Elijah, or anybody for that matter, to be busting my ass, but he’s doing it anyway, and has been doing it since he took over Max and I’s training last night. I still don’t know what state Tony is in, only that he’s still alive and recuperating in his bedroom having left the infirmary sometime during the early hours of this morning.
“That’s... One hundred... Alpha.”
I’m granted a brief reprieve from my father’s criticism by the arrival of Max in the gym. Today Dad has me working on my strength while Max receives some well needed cardio. I shake out my hands, the muscles in my arms aching as I turn to face my best friend. His face is slightly pink, his forehead slick with a light sheen of sweat. His chest rises and falls with each rapid inhale and exhale of breath. For a werewolf he is surprisingly out of shape. At least with Elijah training us, Max listens to him. And at least he’s trying to make amends for yesterday’s disaster.
“Good. Now go do one hundred more.” Elijah smiles smugly, the muscles of his biceps bulging as he plants his hands on his slim hips. I’m starting to think he secretly enjoys watching Max suffer. Especially given how much he’s wound Tony up recently.
“Seriously?” Max complains, his nose twisting up slightly with disgust. He crosses his arms over his chest as he squares off against my father. Wrong move Max. I scold him mentally.
“You’re the one who missed training yesterday, Max. It’s not my fault if you’re paying for it today.” Dad explains bluntly. “If you have a problem with my methods, I’ll happily accept your complaint as a challenge for Alphahood.”
I see the muscles in Elijah’s jaw twitch as he struggles to reign in his amusement. Max’s eyes widen in surprise as he recoils with horror. As amusing as it would be to see Max fight Elijah, I wouldn’t want to see my father wipe the floor with Max.
“I-I’m good, Alpha.” He exclaims abruptly, holding his hands palm up to my father in surrender. I know he’s only teasing, but Dad would happily smack Max down a peg or two, and I can’t say that Max wouldn’t deserve it. Some of the time anyway.
“One hundred laps, Maxwell, and pick up the pace this time.” Dad explains with a cocky smirk. Max sighs exasperated, but keeps his protests to himself as he races from the gym almost as quickly as he had entered.
“Dad, this is ridiculous, we’ve been training for six hours straight. Can’t we take a break?” I hate to complain, especially in front of my father and Alpha, but I’m starting to feel as though he’s taking things too far. It almost feels as though he’s punishing Max and I for Tony’s absence.
“Your grandfather made me run laps for twenty-four hours straight.” He snaps at me, his eyebrows furrowing with irritation. “Consider this an act of kindness, all things considered.”
I’m not sure if that’s a dig at me or Max, even though he’s not here to hear it. I don’t like the way he’s looking at me either. There’s a glimmer of resentment and sorrow just beneath the harsh and judgemental exterior.
“How is Tony by the way?” I scowl, crossing my arms over my chest as I square off against my father.
If looks could kill, I’d be a dead man. I hate having to use my brother as a weapon against my father, but after witnessing first hand how bad Tony’s condition has gotten I’m beginning to suspect he has less time than he leads either of us to believe. Our father is trying to be strong for the both of us. He makes training difficult to keep me focused on the future, and to push me to my limits both mentally and physically; both human and wolf.
“I’m not going to lie to you, Ellis, I’m worried about Tony.” Dad draws a deep breath and let’s it out slowly. His bravado deflating slightly. “He’s stubborn like me, you both are, but he’s pushing himself too hard.” He squares his shoulders as he continues bluntly, his moment of weakness forgotten in an instant. “I wanted him to take over your training because I thought helping you would help him. Then he gets into a contest with Maxwell, and-”
“Dad stop. I get it.” I cut him off quickly. Dad never let’s his emotions get the better of him, but the more he talks about Tony the sadder he appears to be. I don’t need him to say it, we’re all worried about Tony. What he’s going through is unusual for a werewolf. We’re supposed to be immune to all disease, but the attack on Tony made us realise just how vulnerable we can be if the weapon used against us is the right one.
“I’m worried about him too. He’s my brother. But you need to stop taking your frustration out on Max and I.” I feel my eyebrows furrow as I meet my father’s gaze head on. “We were never meant to be Alpha and Beta. You need to give us a chance to prove ourselves and beating our asses to a pulp isn’t helping.”
Elijah remains silent following my outburst, one eyebrow lowered as he watches me carefully. His jaw twitches slightly, I’m afraid he’s going to snap at me but he doesn’t. He seems pensive, as though he has something to say, but can’t seem to find the right words with which to say it.
“That’s... Another hundred... Alpha.”
Our stand off comes to an end when Max returns, doubled over and panting with a slight sheen of sweet gluing his fringe to his forehead. He wouldn’t be overheated if he took his hoodie off. I don’t understand why he hasn’t yet. He’s never worn one to training before. I don’t understand why today is any different. Its not as though he’s going to freeze or anything, it’s not that cold outside.
“One hundred more.” My father snaps with barely a glance at Max.
"Oh, come on!” Max mutters, wiping his hair back from his face before he races from the room.
“What the hell, Dad?” I throw my hands up exasperated. “Didn’t you listen to a word I just said?”
“I heard you son, but you need to remember that Max got beat by Tony yesterday who has dyspnea.” Dad’s lips twitch as he tries not to smile. “Maxwell needs all the help he can get at this point, else he’s not going to be much use as a Beta.”
I choke back a laugh. “I... Guess you make a fair point.”
“Of course I do, that’s why I’m the Alpha.” Dad replies smugly. “Now get back to punching that bag, Ellis. I don’t want you coming home with a blooded shirt again.”
I turn back from the punchbag as quickly as I turned from my father, startled by his words.
“Wait, you saw that?”
“Smelt it actually.” Dad shrugs his right shoulder nonchalantly. His expression unreadable as his gaze locks with mine. “That, and Cass told me about the wolf you sucker punched outside of the club.”
"Of course she did.” I pinch the bridge of my nose with the forefinger and thumb of my right hand as Elijah watches me intently.
“I can’t believe you did this, Ellis.” Dad practically screams at me, throwing his hands in the air in exasperation. “How many more times can I tell you? You can’t walk around starting fights with strange wolves. Especially in the Neutral Zone. You could have gotten into a lot of trouble.”
“I don’t suppose Cass mentioned that it was Zack who I punched?” I respond crossly.
“No, she didn’t.” The corner of Dad’s lips twitch slightly as he tries not to grin. He knows that Zack is a genuine troublemaker, and even though fighting in the Neutral Zone is forbidden, I think he’s going to make an exception. This time at least.
“That... That’s it...” Max pants as he runs into the gym for the umpteenth time. He’s almost tripping over his feet with exhaustion. “Another... One hundred... Alpha.” He leans his hands on his knees as he draws in several deep and desperate breaths.
“That’ll be all for now, Max.”
“Are you ser-?” Max begins to complain. “Wait? What? That’s it?” He recovers quickly as Dad’s words sink in. His right eyebrow rises and the left lowers as he stares disbelievingly at our Alpha.
“For now, but I’m not finished with you yet, Max.” Dad clarifies, a hint of warning in his voice as he turns to face Max.
“Uhh... Okay.” Max scratches the back of his neck with uncertainty.
“Take a breather, grab some lunch and I’ll see you back here in an hour.” Dad commands softly.
“Umm... Sure thing, Alpha.” Max runs his hand through his hair as he walks from the gym, clearly confused but he knows better than to question my father. Not unless he wants to run another hundred laps around the compound. He shares a brief glance with me, but I’m just as uncertain of my father’s motives as he is.
“You’ve changed your tone. What gives?” I question Elijah sceptically. There has to be an ulterior motive behind his dismissal of Max.
“You take a break too, Ellis. Go and see Tony if you’d like. I’ll come and find you when I’m done.”
Dad leaves before I have the chance to ask him what’s going on, even though I have a suspicion I know where he’s going. Or rather I know who he’s going to see, and her name begins with a “C”. What I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall during that conversation.
I chuckle to myself as I follow Max and Elijah’s footsteps from the gym, my stomach growling loudly with hunger.
First things first though. I have a sick brother to visit.
The day began as normally as the last. I woke up, had breakfast, went to training, had lunch, trained some more, hung out with my brother for a bit and trained once more until it was almost time to meet Cassandra.
Freshly showered and dressed in casual jeans, t-shirt and a check shirt I sat in the foyer awaiting Cass’s arrival. In six months time I would ascend as Alpha, marry Cass and claim her as my mate. My brother Ellis would become my Beta-Alpha when he’s older and we would all live long, healthy lives as a happy family.
A hard knock on the front door draws my attention from my phone, the text message I had been in the middle of writing to Ellis forgotten as I rise from the sofa and approach the door.
“That must be Cass.” I mutter aloud as I slide my phone into the back pocket of my jeans and run my hands over my shirt, straightening imaginary wrinkles from my chest and stomach. I’m due to become the Alpha, I shouldn’t be afraid of anything, but there is something about Cass that always seems to tie my stomach in knots.
I reach for the door handle and lower it until the latch clicks. Just as I start to pull it towards me I hear it, another louder click and a rapid beeping sound, but by now it’s already too late.
The explosion sent me flying across the room to crash into the wall opposite. I dropped to the ground, bits of brick and plaster raining down upon me from the hole my body left in the wall. I remained conscious, but in the worst pain I had ever experienced in my life. My right shoulder had dislocated and my collarbone was broken. Both my arms suffered breaks in several places, my spine was shattered and my ribs were all broken. It felt as though one had punctured my lung I was struggling to breathe. I couldn’t feel my right leg, but my left was no better; my thigh bone was broken in two places and my ankle was shattered.
It was a minor miracle that I didn’t die.
Grey smoke began to fill the room, crawling slowly across the floor, coming tomrnetingly closer to me. Weakly, I managed to move my right hand to cover my nose and mouth. Three fingers that had been bent out of shape are painful to curl around my face but it’s better than inhaling a breath full of that mysterious smoke.
It soon reached me, covering my body like an ominous fog. I choked as it seeped through my fingers and burnt my already damaged lungs. My entire body felt like it was on fire, my exposed skin blistering and cracking like I’d been shoved into an open fire and left to roast.
Too broken and too weak to save myself, I closed my eyes, convinced that was the end of me...
A rough rapping on my door startles me from my dream. Or should I say flashback? Nightmare? I don’t know. That was the day that changed my life for ever. The day I contracted dyspnea, and the day I almost received Death’s kiss. I have no recollection of when I lost consciousness, who rescued me, or how I was rescued without my saviour suffering the same fate as me.
"Tony?” Ellis’s voice, muffled by the wooden door, is a welcome distraction from my horrific past.
“You can come in, Ellis.” I call in response. Rubbing my sleepy eyes I roll slowly to my feet, taking care not to disturb the pile of books on the bed beside me and stretch my aching back. Its never been right since that day, but I’ve never told anyone about it, or led them to believe that anything is wrong with me outside of my dyspnea. I can’t show weakness, it was drilled into me at such a young age the habit has become difficult to break, especially where my younger brother is concerned. I hate keeping secrets from him, but I want Ellis to be able to live his own life. If he found out the whole truth, he’d never stop worrying about me.
Ellis enters, closing the door behind him with a soft click. He’s come dressed in his red and white gym shorts, and a plain white T-shirt. His hair is slightly greasy and his forehead and neck shimmers with sweat, a sign that Dad has been working him hard this morning. His eyebrows knit together in the center of his forehead in an uneasy scowl; worry seeps heavily into his expression.
“How you doing?” He asks casually as he approaches.
“I’m living the fucking dream, Ellis.” I respond. Ellis stops, slightly taken aback by my snarky comment. It’s not his fault I’m stuck in my room when I’d rather be downstairs training him and Max, or at least being present if I can’t physically partake right now.
“You don’t have to be fucking sarcastic all the time.” He snaps back crossly. His nose twitches slightly. It always does when he’s slightly annoyed.
“I can’t help it if being on bed rest for two weeks sucks ass.” I complain as I massage my temples with the forefinger and thumb of my right hand. I know I should have been resting last night, but I got more than my fair share of sleep while being fussed over by Dad in the infirmary. I get that he’s worried about me, but I didn’t need him hovering over me the entire time. When I was eventually allowed to leave, I spent a long time during the early hours reading through the stack of books Gramps loaned me from his personal library. I’m sure he did it just to give me a break from Elijah’s persistent parenting.
Ellis chuckles at my half-hearted joke, his wide golden eyes soon settling on the stack upon my bed. How I haven’t disturbed them while I slept is a mystery. I’m not known for being able to stay still for long.
“What’s with all the books?” He picks the one off the top of the pile and begins to flick absentmindedly through the pages.
“If I can’t exercise my body, I might as well exercise my mind.” I shrug nonchalantly. The truth is I’ve probably read all of the books in the library several times over, some I could probably recite from memory, but the still doesn’t mean that I don’t find the entries interesting.
“These look like our grandfather’s journals.” Ellis’s eyes narrow slightly as his eyes scan the open pages. “I thought you knew everything about being an Alpha.” The book he holds is made of faded brown sheepskin, and the pages have crinkled and yellowed with age. It belonged to one of our great-grandfathers, Fenir Croffdale, and makes for a gruesome, but informative read.
“Yeah, you’d think so with the way Dad goes about his training.” Ellis closes the journal and returns it to the top of the pile. “It never hurts to refresh your mind once in a while. You should try to read some of them too, Ellis.” In a stage whisper I quickly add: ”Unless you’ve forgotten how to read.”
I chuckle at my own joke, but Ellis is less than impressed. He glares at me as though I’ve sprouted a second head, his lip twitching up at one side as a slight growl rolls from between his clenched teeth. My brother has never shown much interest in reading, not as much as I do at least.
“You’re hilarious, Antonio.” He mutters once I’ve calmed down a bit.
“Speaking of exercise...” I muse. “Why aren’t you in the gym? Don’t tell me Dad bailed on you already?”
“He said Max and I could take a quick break.” Ellis shrugs his left shoulder nonchalantly as he crosses his arms. I sometimes envy my brothers naivety.
“Dad actually let Max take a break?” I feel my right eyebrow rise. “What did he do this time?” I cross my arms over my chest, unconvinced that Dad actually let Max have a breather unless he’s done something major to piss off our Alpha. As much as Dad sees Max as a member of our family, he’s not a son by blood, and he will often treat him as such.
“Nothing... I think.” Ellis replies thoughtfully. “He’s been acting a lot weirder than usual.”
"Yeeeaaahhh because Max was ever normal.” I reply sceptically.
“I’m being serious, Tony.” Ellis practically snaps at me. “There was no banter between him and Dad like there usually is, it was all ′yes Alpha, as you say Alpha’.” He sighs. “I think that accusation about the wolfsbane has really gotten to him.”
“And now he’s brown nosing Dad to avoid getting into trouble.” I exclaim before I can stop myself, much to Ellis’s disgust. “Don’t sweat it, Ellis,” I continue before he can interject, “he’ll be back to his old lovable, irritating self before long.”
“Speaking of lovable and irritating,” Ellis lips pull into a mischievous smile, “I think Dad was going to confront Cass about her accusations, do you want to come see the outcome?”
"Yeeeaaahhh probably not a good idea. I’m supposed to be resting remember? ”
Normally I’d jump at the opportunity to see my ex-girlfriend go down in a blaze of glory, especially if my father is dealing out the punishment, but after collapsing in his office yesterday I can’t run the risk of him taking his frustration out me instead of Cass.
“Sorry. I forgot.” Ellis scratches his neck sheepishly.
I think of something else to add when I feel it, like someone is tightening a vice around both my lungs and squeezing all the air from within me. I try to hide it from Ellis but fail miserably. I double over as I struggle to draw in a breath, one hand in my chest and the other fisting the bedsheets as I try to remain on my feet. I’m almost choking on the emptiness inside of me.
“Tony?” Ellis is petrified. I’ve never had this many episodes occur so quickly one after the other. I feel his arm as it wraps around my waist, but I gently push him away. It’s not as though I don’t appreciate Ellis’s help, I just don’t like to show weakness. Particularly in front of my little brother. He’s looked up to me for such a long time I despise it when I let him down.
“You’re getting worse.” Ellis exclaims as I finally get my breathing under control.
“I’m fine, Ellis. I promise.” I say as I straighten whilst trying not to let him see how much my legs are trembling beneath me. “I... I just need to have a lie down.”
“Sure, Tony, but you know one day you’ll have to tell me what’s really going on with you.” Ellis replies begrudgingly just before he storms from the room.
As soon as the door closes behind him I collapse onto my bed, hating myself for having to lie to Ellis, but I’m unsure of how he’d react if he ever found out that my dyspnea is not the only thing I’m fighting against. That’s the real reason why I have all these old journals. I know it’s a long shot, but I feel that if there’s anything that can help me, I’ll find it here.
Dad told the rest of the pack that the hunter’s used napalm bombs in the attack to protect me, but their weapons were far worse than that.
As weres, we’re supposed to be immune to all types of disease, but there’s one thing that we can’t fight against and that’s the reason why I’m the way I am. The reason I have dyspnea is because those bombs contained poison. Our wolves can eject a single poison from our bodies with a little help from an antidote, and in extremely rare cases they can fight off two or three poisons at once, but even with the correct antidote our wolves are powerless against one thing.
On their own wolfsbane, larkspur and toxicodendron diversilobum are harmless, but mixed with Silver-Fox they form an extremely potent poison that should have killed me the moment it entered my bloodstream. My wolf is constantly fighting against the silver-fox poison, but I’m afraid its a losing battle, as the more I need him to heal, the weaker I grow. The hunter’s weren’t out to just destroy us, they wanted us to suffer.
I guess they got what they wanted where I’m concerned.
I find Cassandra in the recreation room, flirting unashamedly with some of the other Omegas. Our recreation area takes up a large portion of the ground floor in our house and all members of my pack have free access to the bar, pool table, television, arcade, board games and pretty much everything else that is housed there. It’s a great way to keep our pack bond in tact and to keep potential trouble makers out of trouble by making them feel constantly welcome within my presence.
The room isn’t overly busy, but there is an atmosphere. A group of four are are sharing drinks over by the bar while a couple play a round of table tennis in the corner. Cass is stood towards the middle of the room close to the pool table. It looks like somebody had been playing a game, and if I were a betting man I’d bet that it was the two wolves that Cass is now talking to.
She flips her hair over her shoulder, and pops her hip in a flirtatious gesture as I draw nearer. The two male wolves face me, but they are oblivious to my presence as their too caught up in Cassandra’s trap. I would find it amusing if I wasn’t in such a foul mood after what Ellis told me in the gym.
“Cassandra.” She physically jumps as her name rolls like thunder from my lips. “I’d like to have a word with you. In private.”
The male wolves she has been talking to have the sense to turn sheepishly back to their pool game. They don’t want to cause any unnecessary trouble on Cassandra’s account. She turns to face me solemnly, probably prepared with some lame excuse but when her eyes meet mine she can tell I’m not interested in her excuses.
Silently she follows me as we leave the room, already knowing where we’re headed without me having to tell her. My office is located on the ground floor not too far away from the rec room, purely just in case I’m needed to break up any scraps that sometimes occur when the Omegas and Betas get together. It’s never anything major, but just seeing me standing in the doorway is enough to defuse the situation before it can esculate.
Inside my office, Cassandra stands before me, shifting her weight from foot to foot as she scratches nervously at her left arm. She’s been doing it the entire journey here, her tanned skin streaked with red marks from where she’s irritated the upper layers of her skin with her manicured nails.
“Well? Aren’t you going to say something, Cassandra?” I question when the silence stretches longer than necessary. The damn clock on the wall irritating me with its insistent tick-tock-tick-tock-tick.
“I-I don’t... I don’t know what else to say, Alpha.” Cass stammers unconvincingly. “I’ve already told you everything I saw, and you’re still acting like I’m to one in the wrong. I-”
“DON’T UNDERMINE ME CASSANDRA!” I shout, startling her. “I’ve spoken to Ellis, Tony and Max.” I continue a little calmer, but still aggravated. “Whatever bullshit you’re trying to feed everybody else won’t sit with me, or my boys. So I’m asking you, one more time, to tell me what happened last night?”
Cass draws in a deep breath before reiterating her story to me. I cross my arms tightly over my chest as I lean back against my desk, feeling my face pull into a scowl as she talks. Her retelling of the story is as lame as I remember, and she is still adamant that my boy Ellis had bought and used wolfsbane. She might come from a long line of Omega-Alpha’s, with a couple of Beta-Omega’s thrown into the mix for good measure, but Cassandra wants to be the first Alpha in her family. I would say I’m impressed with her ambition, like many more in her family before her, but not at the expense of my boys.
As she finishes I notice the scratches on her bare arm are more prominent from where she’s been going at it with her nails as she was talking. She could easily heal herself but she is resisting, trying to play the innocent victim card. She’s not going to be able to pull the wool over my eyes.
“Cassandra, this is ridiculous.” I massage my right temple with my right hand as a headache threatens to break. “First, you come to me accusing Ellis of taking wolfsbane. Then you accuse him of fighting with a strange wolf, but you failed to mention that the wolf he fought was a member of the Vikilla pack.” She cringes, but remains silent as I continue. “I don’t know what game you’re trying to play, but it needs to stop.”
For a moment it looks as though Cassandra isnt going to reply, but as she draws in a deep breath, I see her lips twitch into a subtle smile.
“You’re right, and I’m sorry, Alpha. I guess you can get away with anything you want when you’re the son of an Alpha.” She flips her hair over her shoulder as she beams at me.
“Cassandra-” I growl her name. I don’t like her speaking that way about my family. I treat my sons as equally as every other wolf in my pack, and Cass accusing me of not doing so is an insult.
“Oh come on Alpha, you can’t ignore the facts.” She crosses her arms beneath her breasts, her lips twist upward in a smug grin and her frightened bravado suddenly evaporates as she interrupts what I was about to say. “He might have been a Vikilla, but Ellis still started a fight in the Neutral Zone.”
She leans in, whispering in my ear. ”And you wouldn’t want someone to leak that knowledge. I wouldn’t want to cause Ellis any problems.”
She stands away from me, her eyes twinkling with amusement. She can twist her story any way she likes to suit her dark desires, and my son Ellis will end up the loser every time. I feel a growl grow in my chest, but I squash it down. What I wouldn’t give to make an example out of her, to show the pack that I am not one to be messed with.
But this is not the time for violence.
“Are you blackmailing your Alpha, Cassandra?” I ask her, standing my ground. If she thought I was going to crumble, she is sadly mistaken.
“No. I’m just getting what I want.” She answers snidely, flipping her hair almost flirtatiously over her shoulder again. As a fully mated male wolf I am immune to the charms of all she-wolves and Cass knows this. She’s just trying to overpower me.
“Interesting...” I mutter as I try not to smile. Cass notices, her eyebrows begin to furrow slightly. I turn my head to face the closed door of my office and call as loudly as I dare:
“Ellis... Steph... You two can come in now.”
After leaving Tony, I decide to check in with the rest of the pack before I need to head back to the gym. As I turn the corner heading towards the recreation room I suddenly stop in my tracks.
Steph is stood outside my father’s office, her back is to me so she doesn’t see me approach. She’s leant slightly forward, her head close to the closed door as she’s no doubt listening to whatever is conspiring inside. She’s concentrating so hard on my father’s office that it’s easy for me to sneak up on her. So much for super werewolf hearing.
“What are you doing Steph?” I cross my arms over my chest, smiling smugly as Steph physically jumps away from me.
“Fucking hell, Ellis!” She exclaims, clutching her hand over her heart dramatically. “Don’t sneak up on me like that.”
“Why are you eavesdropping outside my dad’s office?” I ask ignoring her chastising me. She’s hardly an angel herself.
“He took Cass in there and I want to hear what the little bitch has to say for herself.” Steph plants her hands on her hips as she smiles smugly at me, a twinkle of mischief in her golden eyes.
My chest rumbles as I chuckle. I thought I had been too late to hear my father telling Cass off, but I guess I’m right on time.
“Cool. Scooch over so I can hear too.”
Steph steps back giving me space to listen at the door. She leans her shoulder against the wooden doorframe as she leans her ear in close and I imitate her. Even with my advanced werewolf hearing I can only just about hear what Elijah and Cass are saying on the other side of the thick wooden door. My eyes quickly flicker in Steph’s direction, her eyebrows are furrowed and her tongue pokes out slightly from between her pursed lips as she concentrates.
Biting back the laughter that threatens to burst forth at the sight of Steph’s stupid face, I press my ear closer to the door and feel my eyes narrow slightly, certain I’ve heard the words “blackmail” and “Alpha” roll from my father’s mouth. Glancing at Steph again she states back at me equally as confused. Maybe she overheard the same as me.
Before I can lip whisper a question to her, my dad’s voice, as loud as thunder on a clear Summer’s day, rumbles from inside. “Ellis... Steph... You two can come in now.”
We both jump back, acting as though we’ve both received an electric shock, and stare at each other with uncertainty. There’s no way Elijah knew we were out here. It has to be some weird coincidence that it was mine and Steph’s name he called, but judging from the way Steph rolls her fingers into fists to stop her hands from shaking I see that it’s not. He genuinely knew we were here, but carried on his conversation with Cass regardless.
She nods her head solemnly at my dad’s closed office door. I guess there’s no use in running, he’ll just track as down later and we’ll be in worse trouble than we are now. Swallowing back the slither of fear that crawls over my body like a persistent insect, I turn the handle and lead Steph into the room.
Dad watches us as we shuffle into his office and close the door behind us. He leans back against his desk, his face set into an expressionless mask, but there is a glimmer of something I think might be amusement twinkling in his slightly narrowed eyes. His arms are folded tight over his chest, a sign that he is cross with all of us. Cass looks at us, or more specifically me, with wide, frightened eyes and her lips slightly pouted. If she thinks I’m coming to save her, she’s sadly mistaken.
“Dad... We can explain.” I begin, standing beside Steph who stares at the ground avoiding our Alpha’s gaze. I can understand her nervousness. This isn’t the first time she’s been caught.
“Cass, you’re free to go, but just so you know I’m going to be keeping an extra specially close eye on you young lady.” Elijah exclaims authoritively, glancing at her out the corner of his eye.
“Understood, Alpha.” Cass sighs, her tense body deflating in an instant. She walks between Steph and I. Her top slides slightly off her shoulder on the right side, almost suggestively when her arm brushes against mine. I feel my hands clench into fists, my nails digging into my palms slightly helps to ground me. Now is not the time for my body to betray me with an attraction to Cassandra.
“Stephanie, how many more times can I tell you?” Elijah begins as soon as the door closes behind Cass. His eyes narrow slightly and he sounds exasperated, but my father retains his demeanour well. “You need to stop eavesdropping outside my office. You’re going to get yourself into a lot of trouble one of these days.”
“You’re right. I’m sorry Alp-” Steph begins sadly, still staring at the ground like a scolded puppy.
“It was my idea. Not Steph’s.” I interject, much to Steph’s dismay. As I cross my arms over my chest, Elijah cocks one eyebrow skepticaly at me. He doesn’t look convinced.
"What are you doing Ellis?” Steph hisses at me through the corner of her pursed lips.
“If anyone should be penalised, it should be me.” I continue, ignoring her exclamation.
“That’s very chivalrous of you Ellis, considering the amount of trouble you’re already in.” Elijah watches me carefully. “Do you really think it’s wise to dig yourself into a bigger hole?”
For a minute my father and I just stare at one another in silence, the clock ticking ominously on the wall. Even Steph is still, her boots no longer scuffing the rug beneath our feet.
“No,” I sigh eventually, “but I know I’m going to get the blame regardless.”
“Ellis, I appreciate this, but this isn’t the first time I’ve been caught eavesdropping. I’m a big girl, I can look out for myself.” Steph stands up straight, her eyes meeting mine as she smiles shyly at me. She’s only a few years younger than me, but far more mature by comparison. She’s a tough nut to crack. You have to be to survive the wolf-eat-wolf world we live in.
“Steph’s right son, you don’t need to be here.” Elijah chines in, drawing our attention back to him. There’s an air of authority to his words, and he still looks at us disapprovingly, but at least his stance is more relaxed. “Go back to the gym and get back to training with Max. I’ll be over as soon as I’m finished here.”
“What about Cass?” I ask before I can stop myself.
“What about her?” Dad’s hands clench into involuntary fists beneath his folded arms. The muscles in his biceps twitching.
“I was outside, Dad, I heard what she said.” I reply defensively. Steph glances sideways at me, her head tipped slightly to one side, but she remains silent. As far as Elijah is concerned, he doesn’t need to know that I didn’t hear everything that was said. “You shouldn’t let her walk over you the way did.”
“Ellis.” His voice is like a growl; low and threatening. I’m pushing my father to the limits and if I don’t back down soon I’m going to be facing severe consequences.
“Fine.” I concede before my mouth runs away from my brain again. I storm out of my father’s office so fast I’ve probably broken a world record. I don’t want to leave Steph alone to face her fate, but Elijah’s left me no other choice.
The door slams heavier than I anticipated. I lean my back against the wall just to the left as I draw in several deep breaths to calm myself. That entire conversation with my father could have gone a lot better, but it could have also ended a lot worse. I decide not to push my luck further by hanging around. There’s no guarantee that I’m completely in the clear.
Pushing myself from the wall, I start back towards the gym. I’m hoping Max is back by now, and that he can distract me by training with me until Elijah returns. I might as well do something right today. I’ve barely made any distance from my father’s office when I hear the muffled sound of heels walking along the carpet runner behind me.
“What do you want Cass?” I whirl around to find her stalking towards me. “Haven’t you caused enough trouble today?”
Cass grins brightly as she closes the distance between us, swaying her hips with every stride. She’s wearing denim hot pants, her long, lean legs proudly on display and ankle boots with a slight heel to ascentuate her modelesque height, although she still doesn’t compare with my six-foot-six frame. She still hasn’t adjusted her top from where she brushed against me earlier. In fact it appears lower than before. The strap of her black bra proudly on display.
“Don’t be like that Ellis, you know I didn’t mean it.” She flips her raven hair over one shoulder as she pushes out her bottom lip in a flirtatious pout.
“You could have fooled me.” I cross my arms, frowning down at her unconvinced. “What was all that crap you were trying to pull with my dad back there?”
“I honestly don’t know what came over me.” She sighs dramatically. “I’m passionate about you, Ellis. I can’t help it if I lose control sometimes.” She reaches her hand out to me, her fingers brushing against my bicep rises involuntary gooseflesh.
“Get off me, Cass.” I growl in warning. She retracts her hand, but doesn’t step away from me.
“You’re frustrated. Let me help you.” Grabbing the hem of her T-shirt she proceeds in pulling it clear over her head, flashing her perfect breasts nesting inside an almost see through black lace bra.
“Cass that’s really not-”
Before I can finish she wraps her arms around my neck and her legs around my waist, her lips dominate mine and her kiss is fueled by lust and sexual frustration. I can easily push Cass away, I should push Cass away, but in some messed up way she’s right. I am frustrated. The constant training sessions are taking their toll on me. I have more energy than I know what to do with and its affecting both me as a human and wolf. He needs a mate and I need to expel some of this excess testosterone in my body.
Cass has never normally been my first choice. Not that I’m one to play the field or anything, I do generally treat women with the respect they deserve. Cass however...
I feel no remorse when I unwrap her legs from my hips and drop her to the ground, and slam her back against the wall hard enough for her to release me from her snake like grip around my shoulders. I press my hands against the wall either side of her head, my chest heaving with every breath I take. My heart is racing inside my chest, my dick is a hardened rod inside my pants and I’m glad I’m wearing my loose fitting gym shorts so Cass won’t be able to tease me more than she already has.
“If you ever threaten my dad again I’ll personally exile you from the pack.” I force through my clenched teeth, my voice more an animalistic growl than a human voice. I’m not sure if that’s due to my anger or arousal. “And don’t kiss me again, Cass. I’m not interested.” I emphasise with finality before storming off.
The soft pawing of fingers through the earth and the gentle moaning of overworked wolves is overbearing. Throw in ice cold conditions that chill even us to the bone, and over observant, back breaking ass busters and you know exactly where you are. No matter what their status in the pack is, the mines are the last place any wolf wants to come. You know you’ve done something wrong if you end up underground.
I pause in my digging, rise and stretch my back as I chance a glance around. Several wolves are down here; male and female, young and old. It doesn’t matter. You can tell how long a wolf has been subjected to the underground torture by the pallor of the skin. The paler the wolf, the more Sun starved they are. Some wolves spend mere hours, or days, or weeks, or even months in the mines. Others have been born into, live and even die within these poisonous walls.
As for me?
I’m only here because Valentina has a vendetta against me for spending the night with our Alpha. A night I have no doubts she had plans to try and woo him into choosing her as his mate.
“Back to work bottom feeder I’m not paying you to lollygag. That silver won’t mine itself.”
I groan audibly as her voice cuts through me like silver pokers freshly pulled from a farriers flame. I turn reluctantly to face her; one of the mine supervisors. She’s like Valentin a, but much worse, if that is at all possible. Her skin is slightly pale, meaning she hasn’t left the mines in a while. Her blonde hair is cut short almost military style, and she wears a pair of sunglasses to protect her eyes although I have no idea why when it’s so damn dark underground. She’s dressed all in black, a long sleeved top and tight trousers acentuate her powerful legs, and knee high leather boots tap an impatient rhythm as she waits for me to reply.
“That’s funny because I don’t remember anyone ever getting paid for slave labour.” I respond sarcastically. I cross my arms over my chest, more to warm my freezing hands under my armpits than being defiant. Although this bitch definitely deserves to be knocked down a peg or two.
“You’ll do as I say or else-” Sunglasses begins, jabbing a calloused finger in my direction.
“Or else what?”
His voice echoes through the cave, startling even Sunglasses. She seems to blend into the shadows as his powerful presence overwhelms us. I never thought at any point in my life I would be as glad to see my Alpha as I am right now. I turn slowly to face him. He glowers at Sunglasses, eyes narrowed dangerously. His arms are crossed tight over his chest, the muscles in his biceps and jaw twitching. His lips twist up slightly in a snear. He’s not happy, but whether it’s directed at me specifically I’m uncertain.
“What the fucking hell is she doing down here?” He growls, his eyes darting briefly in my direction.
“I... I was just following orders.” Sunglasses stammers.
“SILENCE!” His shout is more like a roar. It’s so loud I swear the walls visibly shake, stone and dust rain down on us from above. Even the other wolves in the nearby vicinity make themselves scarce. I wish I could.
“I AM YOUR ALPHA! I GIVE THE ORDERS!” He continues as if I need a reminder. I know this is aimed at Sunglasses, but it still feels like he’s chastising me at the same time.
“Bella, get your ass upstairs. Ryan. Take care of this.”
“At once, Alpha.” I barely notice his Beta, he was standing so still and so silent during that exchange. It’s only when he brushes past me as he storms over to sunglasses do I realise that even Ryan has hit a new level of pissed off.
“You heard the Alpha. Get back to work.” I throw a quick glance over my shoulder, lips twitching into a smug smile as I see Sunglasses cower under the might that is Ryan. I’m just glad that for once in my life it isn’t me.
“But... But I-” She stammers again.
“NOOOOOOW!” Ryan bellows, His shout knocking Sunglasses to her knees. She proceeds to paw through the pile of dirt I had been digging in previously.
A large hand falls on my lower back, his warmth seeping through the thin cotton of my T-shirt as he steers me at a faster pace towards the exit. Luckily I wasn’t taken too far underground, which is probably why he found me so quickly. The Alpha leads me though the cavernous tunnels, up the slope and along the corridor and through a door.
It’s a bathroom, not unlike the one I have to share with the other bottom feeders, but this one is much nicer. The entire floor and the walls in the shower stalls are covered in black marble tiles and the walls are painted a vibrant red. The mirrors hanging above the row of sinks are clean and unbroken. There aren’t any toilets that I can see. It must be nice to shower without having to smell somebody elses shit all the time.
“What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing?” The Alpha screams at me. As if I have any control over what Valentina orders me to do. He turns me to face him, his hands planted possessively on my hips as he glowers down at me. Darkness and desire simmering within the deepness of his dark eyes. “You’re mine, Bella. You don’t belong in the mines.”
“I don’t remember agreeing to be exclusively yours, Alpha.” I growl back defensively. ”I wouldn’t have ended up down there if you had better control over your Omega-Alphas and Betas.”
For a moment the Alpha just stares at me, silent and brooding; calculating. He makes me feel as though I’ve said the wrong thing, that I’m about to be punished for being so outspoken. But then he chuckles, the sound dark and alluring, and slightly obscure given the current situation I find myself in.
“You seem to have forgotten yourself, Bella.” He almost growls as he tucks a loose strand of hair behind my ear. I’d tied it up into a loose bun just before I went into the mines, but it is slowly beginning to fall free. The gentle touch of his heated fingers against my cool skin sends a shiver rushing down my spine. I want to lean into his warmth, but restrain myself. “You accuse me of losing control over my pack, but the Omega-Alpha’s and the Omega-Beta’s weren’t the ones who disobeyed pack law.” He continues, His hand in my hip draws me closer to him, our bodies almost touching. “I offered you a chance to prove your loyalty to me and this pack, but if you’d rather I end your miserable existence I can do it right now.”
His words are punctuated with finality. This is my last chance; its do or die. I exhale a deep sigh. I can sell my body to the devil, or I can have my head stuffed and mounted on the wall as a reminder to all the others not to cross the Alpha.
“I think the answer to that one is obvious.” I mutter sadly, my head dipping away from his intense gaze. The Alpha places two fingers beneath my chin and lifts my head back up, forcing me to look him straight in the eye.
His lips claim mine, just like he has claimed me as his own. He doesn’t love me. He doesn’t want me as a mate. I’m not a person in his eyes. I’m nothing more than an Omega. A bottom feeder. A plaything for his pleasure alone and when he’s finished with me he’ll toss me aside, if he doesn’t decide to kill me first.
He pulls back from me, but not before he nips my bottom lip with his canines, drawing a small bead of blood that drips into my mouth and coats my tongue with its coppery taste.
“We need to clean that silver off your body if we wish to continue.”
He grabs the collar of my shirt, and using his powerful muscles he rips it clean from my body. Next he holds the waistband of my trousers and tears them from me as well. I stand before him in just my underwear, shivering slightly where the cold air within the bathroom assaults my bare skin. Unlike in the mines, this chill is a little bit more bearable.
The Alpha cups my face in his hands, holding me more gently than I thought was possible for such a possessive beast. I feel my hair cascade like a waterfall down the back of my neck. His fingers comb through it, tucking loose strands behind my ear and out of my face. His eyes are full of lust as they roam my body, drinking me in.
“Shower first my beautiful she-wolf.” He commands bluntly. “I’ll be waiting for you in my chambers.”
He leaves me alone, standing barely clothed in the cold with shavings of silver and the ghostly touch of his hands upon my skin. I have no other choice than to do as he commands. More for my own health than his having dominance over me. In small doses, like the shavings on my body, the silver is quite harmless, but the longer it lingers the more dangerous it will become. That’s why the Alpha was so reluctant to touch me. As much as he wanted to fuck me, he’s only looking out for himself.
I slip out of my bra and underpants as I stride over to and lock myself within one of the stalls. The hot water that strikes my body should be heavenly, but instead it feels like silver knives are stabbing me repeatedly. I feel the salty sting of tears in my eyes but I do nothing to stop them from rolling down my cheeks. I consented to this man the day I gave him my virginity and he has it until he’s bored of me, or I die. It’s not a perfect agreement, but there are worse men I could be stuck with.
I can’t sleep. No matter how much I try I just find myself tossing and turning, unable to get comfortable or unable to shut my brain down long enough to drift off. Surrendering, I pull on a hoodie and decide to see if my brother’s still awake. I haven’t seen or heard from him since I visited before lunch, and Dad’s still keeping me in the dark about his condition.
Arriving outside Tony’s room, which is only a few doors away from my own I see a slither of light coming from the cracks around the door between it and the frame. I knock first, not wanting to walk in if he’s asleep.
“You don’t have to knock, Ellis.” Tony’s voice is slightly muffled beyond the door, but his words are audible. I let myself in.
He’s sat cross-legged on his bed, surrounded by the same books he had stacked neatly there this morning. He closes the one he had been reading before I disturbed him and settles it down softly on the nightstand beside the reading lamp that casts dim light and shadows around his room. He’s left his room at least once today, His hair is still slightly damp from his shower, and he’s wearing cleaner clothes than when I previously visited him. And there is no sign of the stale, clinical smell that clings to you even after you’ve left the hospital.
“You’re up late for someone who should be resting.” I state as I close the door gently behind me.
“I’ll have all the time in the world to sleep when I’m dead.” Tony rolls his eyes at me.
“That’s not funny, Tony.” I chastise as I perch on the corner of his bed. Tony snorts back a laugh. The hair at the back of his head sticks straight up, indicating to me that he’s gotten some sleep today at least.
“Relax, I’m only joking.” Tony replies, aiming to punch me in the arm but I lean back to avoid him.
“It’s still not funny, Tony. You could have died today.” I cross my arms over my chest as I stare at my brother. Tony meets my gaze evenly.
“Try telling me something I don’t already know, Ellis,” he grumbles at me, “but enough about that, what are you doing here? Couldn’t sleep either?”
"Yeeaah... I’ve kind of had ‘one of those days’.” I scratch the back of my head nervously.
“You’re telling me.” Tony grins knowingly at me. “So what happened? Is Dad still busting yours and Max’s lazy asses?” He smiles at his own joke, but it’s short lived. His grin fades almost as quickly as it appeared as Tony senses my uneasiness. I don’t want to tell him, but unlike Tony I don’t like keeping secrets from my brother.
“No, its worse. Cass kissed me.”
“She did what?” Tony spits venomously.
“And... I kind of kissed her back.” I add before I can stop myself. Tony’s left hand clenches the bed sheets so tightly within his fist his knuckles turn white.
“ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME ELLIS?!” He screams at me. If he could have been a decibel louder he would probably have woken the entire pack. Even those who live at the farthest reaches of our territory.
“Tony calm down, it was just a kiss.” I recoil under his intense eyes.
“DON’T FUCKING TELL ME TO CALM DOWN! Of all the she-wolves in the pack-”
He breaks off abruptly, clutching his chest as he coughs, struggling to draw in a breath. He leans forward, his free hand clutching his knee as he struggles to regain his composure.
“I did warn you to calm down.” I reach out a hand to help him, but Tony slaps it away. “If it helps, I did drop her on her sorry ass.”
“A little,” Tony wheezes as he gets his breathing under control. Straightening, he meets my gaze evenly, “but I’m still angry with you, Ellis.”
“Duly noted.” I mentally roll my eyes. I’ll consider myself lucky that Tony didn’t punch me right in the face. “Are you still reading these journals?” I shift our attention to the books littering Tony’s bed. I pick one up, it has a faded velvet green covered and wrinkled, yellow pages. I flip through it absentmindedly. “What are you looking for anyway?”
“It’s just a little light reading.” Tony plucks the book from my hands, probably a good idea considering how delicate it is,and I’m not nearly as cautious with reading like he is. “There’s a lot of entries by the Betas. Some of the stories are really interesting.”
He coughs again as he lays the book I had been flipping through atop the one he had been reading on his bedside table.
“Are you sure you’re okay, Tony?” I feel my eyebrows crease with worry. He looks exhausted. Dark shadows cling to the underside of his eyes, and the spark in his eyes seems to be extinguishing. Even his usual banter seems half-assed.
“I’m fine...” Tony inhales a deep breath. “Just a little tired.”
“I should probably go then.” I proclaim as I push myself off his bed.
“There’s actually one more thing I need to say, Ellis.” I turn expectantly to Tony. There’s a sad look in his golden eyes. “I want you to find yourself another Beta.”
"A what?” I exclaim. His words are like a kick in the stomach. I asked Tony to be my Beta because I trust him and I know he’ll protect me to his dying breath regardless of his condition.
“Think about it, Ellis...” He holds up a hand, silencing me when I open my mouth to protest. “I’m not going to get better whether you like it or not, and Max...” He pauses, cocking his head to one side as he thinks. “Well... Max is Max.” He shrugs indifferently. I try not to laugh, but I can’t stop the twitch in my lips. “I think you should at least consider a third Beta. It’s better to get someone to start their training now rather than later.”
“I suppose you’re right.” I sigh, deflated as Tony’s words make sense. There’s no cure for his dyspnea. He’s never going to get better, but at least he can’t get any worse than what he already is now. Not without dropping dead that is, but I push that morbid thought from my head. There’s a time and a place for that, and neither of them are now.
“Sleep on it and let me know what you decide tomorrow.” Tony retrieves his book from the nightstand, and sitting back against his pillows he opens to a random page, dismissing me without another word.
“Sure. Goodnight, Tony.”
I turn the door handle slowly. I look once more back at Tony. He’s watching me, a meloncholly look in his eyes and a slight smirk on his lips. The book he’s holding wasn’t the one he had been reading when I entered, it was the one I grabbed from the bed that he later snatched from me.
I grin back at him. Smug bastard.
Back in my room I flop on my bed, not bothering to take off my hoodie, not that I need it with my werewolf blood, its just better than wandering around topless. I can’t help it if I’m a modest wolf.
Staring at the dark ceiling I contemplate Tony’s words as they run around my head: ”I want you to find yourself another Beta.” He said them with such finality it unnerves me. Does he think if he goes to sleep tonight that he won’t wake up tomorrow morning?
I roll onto my side and close my eyes, attempting to get some sleep tonight. It’s not unheard of for an Alpha to have more than two Betas, it’s all down to preference really. I chose Tony and Max because they’re the only ones I trust to watch my back and keep me protected.
Well, there is one more person...