I watched with glazed eyes as one of the lower Omega wolves ate a Hunter’s insides in the corner of the giant cavern. From the smell, it was the liver, one of the more nutrient dense places in the body. My gaze turned over the giant expanse of the cave, looking at the few wolves that had remained, loitering with the dead Hunters.
Jess had changed back and was squatting over in the corner, a haunted look in his eyes. Despite his somber mood, the sense of victory the rest of the pack had was overwhelming. Their first major battle and they had won, easily, with only five dead wolves and seven injured. After a few Weres had changed back to cut down the tree roots blocking the passage, the dead had been taken out of the cave and back to their homes, the wounded transported to the tribe’s medicine man in the North. Diana had been carried out of here in a similar fashion and taken back to the commune, where the elders were awaiting word of the outcome.
After, the celebration had begun, with Justin and Gerald leading the pack out of the site and into the wilds of our land, where they wouldn’t encounter anyone. It was clear after my wolf’s final cry that this had not all gone smoothly, and my dark mood had kept the other’s wary of being too celebratory. I was fucking pissed and had trashed a few of the rooms left by Hunters in a fruitless act of vengeance. A few wolves who wanted to stay and eat their kill remained to listen to my violence, but did not try and stop me, they wouldn’t dare.
While the others yipped and howled on the way out, it was clear that this was a victory, but it felt hollow. Kelly wasn’t here, I had missed her. Whether she left by force or by choice, the outcome was the same and I still didn’t know who to direct my murderous anger towards. Additionally, I still couldn’t find Arawn’s body, to make sure the Hunter’s organization was finished and they wouldn’t darken our doorstep again. Was it really a victory if the leader was still alive and my girl gone?
Once all the men were dead and the new extended rooms had been checked, the wolf let go and I changed back. Stealing a dead man’s pants and shirt, I motioned for the man whom was considered our IT guy on the Res to do the same. And here we were, at the center console looking at screens, hoping for video that might clue me in on what the hell happened and how I could fix it.
Inspecting the Hunter’s set up while he was trying to access the system, I saw the digging equipment and plans on a table. It seemed that our attack had happened only a few hours before the Hunter’s were planning their own. They had dug an opening through the ceiling, and from the size of their arsenal in the other corner, would have murdered everyone on the reservation, humans included. My heart clenched at the thought of how close we had been to extinction. We had felt safe behind the ward, with no clue that there was the loophole of the cave.
A gasp from the entrance made me turn.
Margaret Wardwell and Elder Abbott were standing at the top of the ramp to the mouth of the tunnel. The latter had a hand over her mouth in shock, while Margaret was holding a large chunk of blocking tree root in her hand, studying it. Spying me in the center, she walked down the ramp, leaving her friend and the root at the entrance.
“Where is she?”
“Not here, not anymore.”
Narrowing her eyes on me, she began to mouth a scathing response when the Were behind me beat her to it, signaling he had accessed their system.
“Got it! Okay, what room do you want to go to first?”
Scanning the little squares on the screen that showed multiple rooms, I saw the one with two cots, and pointed it out to him.
“This one, rewind it about a day, or when the girls come into it.”
Moving beside me to watch the screen come to life, we watched together as the tech rewound and pressed play onto the events I felt, but didn’t see. Kelly’s torture and subsequent branding. There was no sound, but it wasn’t hard to hear the screams she would make in my head. Gripping the back of the chair, the frame cracked under my anger. I watched as she was choked of air, branded then passed out from the pain. One of the men left the room and the other moved over to her limp body.
Watching through gritted teeth while he pulled her shirt up, touching and fondling her. He proceeded to lay down beside her, kissing her sleeping face while his hands started to move down to her pants, unbuttoning her jeans. Suddenly, he stopped and looked back to the door where Chuck now came into the camera’s view, and stopped the attempted rape. He manhandled the guy off of the cot with bravado, and I was briefly remorseful that my wolf had killed Kelly’s former friend who was still looking out for her.
I told the tech to fast forward and glanced over at Margaret, who's face had turned beyond angry, she was seething inside and for the first time I agreed with her.
We watched the tape as it fast forward through Kelly waking, Arawn coming in and attending to her wound, and then Diana being returned. Margaret put a hand on the tech’s shoulder for him to play the feed, and she watched what I already knew. They had operated on Diana, stolen her baby from her body. Together we watched as Kelly turned fierce and tried to fight Arawn, then help Diana. When the woman in black entered the room, it was then that Margaret gasped.
“Its...its not possible,” she whispered to herself.
I ignored her and told the tech to fast forward and we continued to watch the scene unfold in double time. Kelly healing Diana, the two women talking, Kelly attacking and murdering the man who tortured her earlier. The entire time, Margaret’s hand was over her mouth, her eyes wide with horror as she saw Kelly light a man on fire. By the time Kelly was put to sleep by the woman, she had tears in her eyes.
“Who is she?”
She couldn’t rip her eyes off of the screen and the lady as she stroked Kelly’s hair on the pillow. Whomever she was, she loved Kelly.
“It’s Kelly’s mother.”
My mouth gaped open.
“But...she died in the fire.”
Margaret’s mouth thinned in worry. “Apparently not.”
I thought back to the attack and the scent trails that led my wolf all over the cavern and hallway, thinking how Kelly’s scent smelled the same, but different, like an older vintage. They must have shared the same perfume. I was so fucking stupid.
“She...Kelly never kept any photos of her. I didn’t know.”
Margaret waved her hand, sweeping my apology away and we continued to watch the screens. It came up to the attack, now two hours ago. I told the tech to pull up and show simultaneously four screens that showed the cavern, two main hallways and Kelly’s cell. We watched all of them as my eyes followed my black wolf and his progression, how he found Jolene Jones, then killed Chuck, while at the same time, Jolene was leading Kelly to escape and she attacked and murdered the man who had branded her. It was almost comedic, the timing was too perfect. If I hadn’t urged my wolf to stop and kill Chuck, I would have been in time to save Kelly.
Watching Kelly jump onto the man’s back to save the wolf, I viewed with morbid pride how she took control and killed him without hesitation. It was bloody, dirty, and definitely not the sweet Kelly who had cried after her first murder in my arms on my bike. This girl was different. She wiped his own blood off her knife and onto his pants, walking away like it had meant no more than taking out trash.
I thought back to Margaret’s words a week ago in my cabin. Killing changes a Witch. This was the third murder Kelly committed. The first was in self defense, the second in rage, the third seemed to be in cold revenge. Kelly was certainly different from when I first met her, and seemed to take encouragement from her mother so soon after being reunited.
“Follow them,” Margaret commanded. I snapped out of it and continued to watch as Jolene and Kelly moved through the cavern and into the tunnel. There were no cameras in the tunnel, and it was a few minutes of fast forwarding before they emerged outside. Kelly and her mother seemed to have one more argument, Kelly staring back into the cave and trying to reach for the baby before looking visibly dejected and getting into the car.
The playback stopped and we were both silent. One of the screens had been stopped on a picture of Jolene, looking glamorous, but emotionally vacant. She wore no facial expression, no smile, no frown, no frustration, it was like she was going through the motions. Cold.
Margaret’s face however, showed everything. Lines around her eyes were now a prominent feature, and her mouth was set into one of remorse.
“So, basically, Jolene Jones stole Diana’s baby to coerce Kelly to come with her?”
She simply nodded.
“Why? Why go through all of this, the Hunters, the company, the kidnapping, just to reach out to her daughter again? Seems a little extreme for something like a reunion.”
Margaret now turned away from the screens and surveyed the room, mumbling through tight lips,
“Pretty much sums up Jolene, honestly. Extreme.” Her mouth turned thin, as she thought about her revenant daughter. Beginning to walk away, she turned down the hallway where Kelly was kept and I moved to follow her when Jess suddenly blocked my path. His face looked remorseful, his eyes downcast. He was silent as he stood in front of me.
“Brother?” I tentatively asked.
Opening his mouth to speak, it seemed that the words were caught in his throat. Instead, he looked down at the floor again, and clasped his hands together.
“You should be out with the others. Didn’t feel like celebrating?”
He met my eyes, and the words came pouring out of his mouth in confession.
“I didn’t know. I’m sorry. I saw her and the other lady at the tunnel and I did nothing to stop them.” He paused to try and express his guilt and I understood.
“You said leave the females, and I just…let them go. I shouldn’t have. He knew better,” referring to his wolf.
My eyes roamed Jess’ face. I should be furious, he knew what I had come for, what the primary mission here was, and he just...let her walk right out the front door. But looking him over and seeing his guilt, I easily forgot that the two were friends. They had spent a month together, looking out for each other. Heck, Jess probably knew more about what Kelly was like to live with than I did. He had helped her when she was finishing up her schooling, been with her through the highs and lows of that time. Shit, when he found out I had bitten Kelly without her permission, he fucking reamed me as good as a mother hen. He loved her in his own way.
I swallowed any words I couldn’t take back and placed a hand on his shoulder in comfort.
“Don’t worry, we will get her back. The lady was her mother, they can’t have gone too far.”
His eyes widened and his mouth gaped.
I cut him off.
“I don’t know, but that’s what Margaret says.”
The shock left his face and a steely resolve replaced it.
“Whatever you need, brother. Whenever.”
I clapped a hand on his shoulder and gave a grim look. It might be needed. If Arawn and Kelly’s powerful mother absconded with her, then there was probably an uphill battle coming to find her. We were still mates, even if our connection had been severed by some fucking ritual. I had no doubt that my wolf would still hound me with images of her at night until she was back in my arms. Walking around him, I nodded for him to get out of here and then chased after Margaret who was now in the cave’s hallway. She was looking into the cell where Kelly and Diana had been kept.
“Okay, so how do we find them?”
I would follow Kelly to the end’s of the earth if I needed to, there was no way I was stopping now after getting so close, after finally telling her how I felt and knowing it was reciprocated. No way in Hades she was going to get out of actually saying those words to me.
The elder continued walking down the hallway, stopping over the man Kelly had killed. She leaned down and brushed aside the hair hanging over his face. After a few moments of her silence, I got impatient.
“Margaret, we have to get started and be quick about it, we don’t know where they are headed.”
Standing up, she faced me with a bleak disposition.
“Will, there is no way. We don’t have anything personal of either of them. And even if we could,...”
“Bullshit, Margaret. You are an elder. You have to know… something to find them.”
She stared at me with sympathy. I couldn’t fathom that in all her years of practicing, she couldn’t think of one thing to help find her daughter and Kelly. There had to be something.
“Will. You saw what happened. Kelly has now killed three men. Worse, she has used that power. You saw the way she reacted after she healed Diana. How quickly she jumped on this man, how fast she took to kill him.”
I scrubbed my hand over my face in frustration.
“What does that have to do with finding her?” I almost growled at the old lady. She kept the sympathetic act up though, along with a soft voice.
“Will, she’s gone.”
“Yes, I know, now let's get her!”
Margaret sighed and stared down at the floor at the dead man.
“No, I mean, the Kelly you knew is gone. She could arguably be called dark now. She probably doesn’t even know it. She isn’t the same. One life, that could be an accident. Two is cutting it close. But three. Three seals it tight, especially when done with hateful intent.” Her eyes tightened and she looked like she was telling me Kelly was dead, had been in an accident, had a heart attack, fell from a cliff. I wouldn’t be able to kiss those soft lips, to watch them turn up at a corny joke, make them widen in pleasure during sex. That she was gone.
“Margaret,...I need her. She is mine. Do you know what happens to wolves who lose their mate?”
Pursing her lips, she nodded. I might be speaking out of a place of selfishness, but I would be in turmoil if nothing was resolved. Sure, we had the mate bond, but this girl had hijacked my fucking heart. It was a slow burn, over a few months, but everything I learned about her, I loved. Margaret knew I would eventually lose my mind. It might take years to get to the point where I would finally start to forget places and things like my father, but I would get there.
For all the animosity that Margaret had shown me over the last few weeks, she actually looked saddened.
“I know, and I’ll help as much as I can. But there isn’t really much we can do to find them right now. Maybe if you still had your connection… but not anymore. And now that we know who she is with, I’m sure Jolene will have taken measures to mask themselves.”
I just stared at her in hopelessness. No way to find her. That was it? Kelly was just...gone?
Margaret’s solution was to just do a little hocus pocus on my brain every now and then to keep my sanity.
My gaze on her hardened and I walked back down the hallway. I would find her myself. Margaret called my name and I turned.
“I wouldn’t worry too much. Wherever they have gone, I expect both of them will be returning before too long.”
I gave her a puzzled look.
“What do you know that I don’t?”
The elder’s mouth opened, but clamped back shut, thinking better to not clue me in. Margaret was hiding something. I studied her face. Why would Jolene Jones go into hiding? Or for that matter, if she was alive, why did she leave the Coven in the first place? It didn’t add up, something was rotten in the state of Denmark, that was for sure.
“Margaret…” I warned after she remained silent for a few moments.
Her face turned back to the steely eyed elder I had seen in recent weeks. She wasn’t going to budge an inch.
“They’ll be back, Will. Sooner or later. That’s all I’ll say. But she won’t return the way you remember her. Be ready for that.”
I shook my head at the old lady and turned around to leave the death pit. For all the wisdom she spouted, Margaret didn’t seem to understand wolves or mates at all. I didn’t care if Kelly had changed. I would kill for her and I would certainly die for her. Disgusted by her grandmother’s new attitude to her ward, I stormed down the tunnel and back into the night air.
I would find her myself and kill anyone who interfered.