My arm wrapped around something soft and warm, and I intuitively shifted closer to it. Vanilla. Kelly. I opened my eyes to see her staring at me, looking me over. Curling in closer, I felt our bodies clasp, mine naked, hers in underwear. We were in her twin bed, at what looked to be nearly midday judging by the sun outside. It seemed my wolf knew where to come home to, even when my house was across the river.
“Okay?” She asked and I nodded.
“Go for a run last night?”
Again, I nodded. I vaguely remember stumbling up porch stairs as a man, so at least Kelly didn’t have to see the transformation up close. She wasn’t ready for that yet.
“You heard what Margaret said, huh?”
Propping myself up to look down at her, I tucked her hair behind her face.
“Since the moment we met each other, we were both ruined for anyone else, you know that, right?” Her eyes held my gaze, but she remained silent. “If you want to go along with your Gran’s ideas, fine. But…” Her fingers quickly pressed up against my lips and I stopped talking.
“William Achran, if I did not want you, want this, trust me, I would not have taken it.” Her hand snaked up around my neck and pulled me down to her lips. Wandering hands made their way down my body and clutched my ass, pulling it closer into her body.
A faint sound from outside made me pause and pull away from her. We both stopped and listened. On cue, the faint sound of a howl, or scream, came from outside. I jumped up from the bed and rushed to the window, opening it. It was early February, so it was still fresh outside and my breath clouded in the air.
Nothing. Sounds of coven children playing deep in the Ring could be heard, but nothing else.
From my pants on the floor, my phone started ringing. Kelly quickly fumbled with it and tossed it to me. Smith was calling and I swiped to answer.
“What’s going on?”
At first, the phone was silent. Thinking Smith must have accidentally dialed me, I started to hang up, but then a gasp came through.
Another gasp, then sounds of someone gurgling water came through. What the hell was going on, wasn’t he supposed to be going into town with the girls? Surely they should have been back by now? I spoke louder.
“Smith? Where are you?”
Another gasp, but then Smith’s voice rasped through, as if he was choking.
“On... road. Near...” he coughed and choked again. He wasn’t gurgling water, that was his blood. And if he was calling, then that meant that something had happened to the women.
Kelly looked at me, horrified with the same thought. Throwing the phone onto the bed, we both rushed for clothes and pulled them on. Speaking to the phone on the bed,
“Smith, stay where you are, we are on our way. I have to hang up now.” Pressing end, I quickly dialed the number of the patrol phone, looking over to Kelly, pulling on shoes.
One of the fifteen men on the patrol circuit picked up, and I skipped the niceties,
“Something has happened to Smith, he is on the road to town somewhere, probably close to the commune entrance since I think I heard him howl. Find him.”
Pocketing the phone, I walked over to Kelly, tying her laces.
“Kel, you have to stay here.”
She let out a quick snort and continued to tie her shoe.
“Kelly, I’m serious. This could be a car accident, or it could be something else, this could be about you. You have to stay here, behind the wards.”
Looking up at me like I was crazy, she stood, defiant.
“She is like my sister, like my very pregnant sister. I am coming with.” Dammit, she was determined and her stubborn streak chose the wrong time to rear its ugly head. She was going to make me do it.
Clamping my hands on her shoulders, I pushed her back to sitting on her bed and kneeled in front of her.
“Kelly... I love you,” she stilled at the words I had long felt, but been waiting to say. She looked unable to understand why I chose to say them for the first time, at this particular moment. I engaged my diaphragm and made sure I put my Alpha inflection into my next words, a deep resonance coming from my voice.
“...so stay here.”
Her face changed to an angry one, and her eyes welled with tears. She looked down at her hands, clenched them in anger, and a few tears fell onto them. It seemed that she already understood what I had done, she couldn’t ignore a command from her Alpha.
Leaning down to brush her hair aside to speak in her ear.
“I’ll bring her back,” and I kissed a tear from her cheek and quickly left the room before I could dwell on those tears. My truck was still parked near the front steps and I raced to it, driving through the Ring faster than what was safe. By the time I reached the outer edge, my phone rang again.
“Where?” The pack member replied fast,
“Not two minutes from the gate entrance. Be prepared. It’s not good.”
I swallowed the lump in my throat, raced through the open gate and down the road.
Thirty seconds later, Smith’s old Range Rover came into view on the side of the road, the front end in a high bank of dirt, smoke wafting from the front engine. Jesus, there was a large hole in the front window on the driver’s side, something had shot through and hit the driver, something big. Three men and two large grey wolves were surrounding the car, two of the men kneeling in the grass hovering over something. Pulling up, the remaining Were met me at the truck, I recognized him primarily as one of Jesse’s friends, Dan, a recent addition to the hunting party of the pack.
“The pregnant one is gone, smells like they took her about fifteen minutes ago, and they left the little brown hair one in the truck,” he said somberly.
He motioned to the ground where the men were kneeling. I could smell his blood in the air when I left the truck and I ran over to find my friend on the ground. His body had been pierced multiple times in his torso and his shirt was more blood than fabric. He had a large gash on the side of his head that had a bandage wrapped around it, and from his mouth, there was a constant flow of blood coming up. My heart seized up at the sight. Fuck, he didn’t have much time left. Rubbing my scalp in thought, I made the decision.
“Dan, load Smith into the truck bed, and sit with him.”
Turning to the wolves, “Try to track whatever truck or car took her as far as you can.” Giving a head dip to show they understood, they immediately started to take off, noses to the ground. The remaining men were now helping load Smith, I moved over to the truck to see what shape Penny was in to move.
“Get Penny and the car ba….”
Stopping short, Penny’s decapitated head was staring at me, resting in her own lap. Her brown eyes were wide open, and her mouth a gaping portal of terror and pain. The petite body had slumped across the center console and into the driver’s seat, it’s cracked leather now concealed by the pool of blood it was collecting. Bile rose in my mouth and I had to fight back to swallow it down. The telltale signs of the Hunters, almost like a calling card. Witch decapitation.
Smith groaned and spluttered as he was hoisted up into the truck bed and I turned away from the gory scene. Smith was now the priority. Moving back to my truck, I clapped my hand on the two remaining men’s shoulders.
“Find a way to get that truck back onto the commune, I don’t care if you have to push it. But leave it outside the Ring, do not let anyone see her.”
Jumping into the driver’s seat, I called back to the bed, “Hold onto him,” and raced my dying friend back to the commune.
The elder Witch came out with a grim look on her face. I had been sitting on an uncomfortable chair in the healing house’s front rooms, mostly with my head in my hands, but occasionally texting other pack members, my brother, the rest of men on patrol. The two wolves had lost the diesel scent of the getaway car about fifteen miles away. They guessed that the car continued North, but couldn’t be sure. North didn’t make sense, the only thing that was a few more miles North was the start of the Wenatchi tribal lands. Our sentries hadn’t spotted anything, and we had wards up so they wouldn’t be able to get through.
Elder Abbot sat down beside me.
She looked down at her hands, still holding some traces of what I guessed was Smith’s blood. When I came racing down into the Ring and pulled up to the healing house with a screech, the staff inside took my franticness with such a calm and steady manner I almost thought they didn’t understand that there was a man who was nearly dead in my truck.
But they did, they just weren’t as close to the situation. They directed us to load him onto one of their rolling beds and took him away. After whisking Smith from me, a few of the Elders found me in the house and I updated them on what I knew. Several of them openly cried when I told them about Penny, and all of them looked aghast when I told them about Diana. Margaret Wardwell wasn’t anywhere around, and I still didn't know how I would approach her after the hate she spewed out of her mouth last night, so I assumed that someone would relay the message.
Now this Elder had Smith’s blood on her hands and was looking for a nice way to say he was dead.
“The cuts to his head and abdomen are going to be fine, but whatever pierced him in his lung was silver. We are having trouble closing and repairing it. He is not out of the woods yet, but we have some hope once one of our members from out in the wooded area comes back with some particular herbs.” She was clearly lying, Smith was probably going to die if he had a vital organ punctured by silver. I had heard stories from long ago, when Hunters used to use spears heads and arrow tips made of silver. They never ended well.
I nodded and asked her to call me if there was any change for the worse and stepped out into the mid-afternoon. Fuck, Diana. Kelly was going to lose her mind if she hadn’t already after being forced to stay behind. But there was hope I reasoned, they hadn’t played butcher and murdered her on the spot. I got in my truck and made my way back up to the Wardwell house, noticing something seemed off about the front yard, but wasn't able to put my finger on it.
Parking at the side of the house, I turned around in a circle. The Harley. Kelly’s Harley was gone. Racing up the steps to the house, I called her name as I tore through the hallway to her room. It was empty, but the sole note of the bedspread was clearly new and waiting for me.
Picking it up and reading it, I used a string of expletives enough to make a hardened Were blush.
“I love you, too.”