Cold water was everywhere. In my shoes, my briefs, my lungs. My eyes peered open to the cold grey haze of under the capsized boat. Instinctively, my mouth gaped, searching for air and whatever I had escaped, bubbled up with gravity. I kicked off my shoes and started to swim for the surface. The air was colder than the water as I broke through, coughing up the water in my chest.
Waves from the sudden storm were still thrashing my capsized boat violently and I rose myself to see above them. There, the shore, no more than a kilometer away. Weariness seemed to seep into my muscles directly from the water, as I began to swim overarm to the shore so I never lost sight of it.
More than once, the dead body of a crew member from any one of the boats drifted by. So much lost. Lives, money, boats. I had been lucky and threw off the heavy slicker when the spouts started up, knowing the weight of it would be just a hindrance as the vortexes started to pull down from the sky.
It was the most unnatural and terrifying thing I had ever seen.
I spotted her on the cliff as we were approaching, that green silk dress and hair standing out against the iron grey sky behind her. Even from such a distance, it was easy to make her out on the unusually shaped cliff.
At first I thought it was odd to see her there, worried about her as I saw the fast developing storm above. But then I heard her voice in the wind as it started to howl. Smelled her perfume in the air as it began to churn and the waterspouts formed in front of us while the lightning cracked above.
How could I have been so fucking blind? All the little things, hell, even the big things should have given her away. Hitting me on the head with a rock when I never had a swell. Sneaking up to the shed when I had patrols. Missing from the pub for those few minutes when I could smell her everywhere. A fucking lightning storm out of nowhere.
I liked to think that it was because there hadn’t been a coven in Wales in near a hundred years that I hadn’t recognized any of the signs. But really it was because I wanted her more than what was good for me, enough to ignore any foulness. And she knew it, she fucking used my own desire against me.
By the time I pulled myself to the shore, I was livid and looked around for other survivors making their way up. One or two fishermen stumbling through the waves, but nothing more. Holy fucking Christ, 150 men. My friends, my pack, brothers, 150 of them. Gone, in five, maybe ten minutes of chaos on the sea. I had only survived because I had dropped into the water before the boat was smashed back down like a toy boat in a bathtub.
Fuck, a goddamn witch. It made too much sense and none at all. Did she have something to do with my Da’s desire and me killing him? I thought that was me of my own will, but was it? I had never been territorial about a woman before until Kelly Jones came along with her long, athletic body, and red hair.
I searched the shoreline, spotting a beach park up ahead with some cars in the lot. Storming across the sand and ripping off my sodden shirt as I went, I came up to the first car, where a young couple sat in the front, waiting for the storm to finish.
I yanked open the door and stared them down.
The young blond man timidly looked me up and down in my fury and meekly bobbed his head.
I pulled out of the lot and raced back to town. There was only one place I could think that she would go.
Lleuad Manor seemed empty as I pulled the car right up to the front gate. But that meant nothing these days with Iona and her adopted son sticking to one or two rooms in the back.
As I passed the front gate, I tensed. She was here, that fucking lavender scent had infected the air all around the entrance and it ignited the fury I had all over again.
The door groaned under my first kick and burst in on the second. Anger boiled through and instinctively I roared it out into the foyer. Omar was halfway down the stairs with a duffel bag in his hand, shock on his face evident. I gave him no time and rushed him on the stairs, not caring that the older seasoned Were had the height advantage. It wouldn’t be enough with the rage I carried.
Sure enough, for all his years of training, it wasn't enough to escape my clutch around his neck, and I dragged him back down to the foyer, his body landing with a thud on the marble flooring.
Keeping my tight grasp on his neck, I slammed it back into the floor,
“WHERE IS SHE!?”
Underneath my palm, Omar’s throat constricted, as if he wanted to say something and I released him.
I roared wordlessly into his face and with two hands either side of his face, I smashed it back down to the marble tiles, hearing the crunch against them as his head and body lost its tension.
I howled into the foyer ceiling,
The old lady’s smell was strongest coming from the staircase and I raced up it, adrenaline from Omar’s death now fueling my legs.
The third door on the left held the elderly woman, she was sitting on her bed serenely, looking down at her hands. The picture of calm before the storm that was inside my chest and lungs.
“Did you know?”
She looked up at me, and noted the quiver of my voice.
“Did you know what she was? What she could do?”
Her face turned to steel and she solemnly nodded. A few strides across the room and I towered over her, about to do the same to her as the son downstairs, but the fragility of her appearance stopped me short. Instead, I beseeched her,
“She killed half of the pack, most of the males, Iona! My friends! Your friends’ grandsons! All the boats are gone. Everything our families worked so hard for! She fucking rained down lightning and wiped them from the water with a fucking hurricane!”
Iona’s heart shaped face kept the steely resolve, but a lone tear betrayed her and fell.
I stepped back, perplexed and accosted by my friend, and looked at her face again. ‘Good’? What the fuck? And then I watched her face as it turned resolved and it clicked. This wasn’t about doing morally right, Kelly probably didn’t care about the gangs or how we made money, she didn’t care about getting a piece of the empire. This was about revenge. Decades old revenge. Ewan Jones’ revenge in the form of a sassy redhead who acted innocent but was far from it.
I whispered, barely able to comprehend all that I had lost due to a woman I was willing to give everything for.
“I killed my Da for her, Iona. Family, the only family I had left. She was supposed to be it.”
Iona shook her head slightly down to her own hands.
"She wasn't the one for you, Rhys."
The certainty with which she said it, the conviction that I wasn't good enough for her precious granddaughter made me incensed. I grabbed the old lady by the throat and lifted her up to my height, tears had started to run down my cheeks at the indecency of it. I gritted through my teeth.
“I played nice, I WAS nice, Iona! Don’t I deserve nice? After all he did to me?"
She weakly clawed my hands, but still managed to choke out through my clamp on her throat,
“I’m sorry, Rhys. She saw through it.”
My mouth settled in a grim line. She saw through it? She saw the few times I lost control, on her behalf? Because of her, because of the protection I wanted for her?
Fuck that bitch. Fuck them all. A new destructive resolve settled in my bones.
“Where is she?”
Iona’s mouth kept close and her eyes focused above my shoulder, deciding she wasn’t giving me anything, and I brought the old woman's ear to my mouth.
“Listen to me Iona. I will find that witch. I will have her and keep her chained to a fucking rock in the darkest pit I can find for nine months until she gives me a son. And then? Then I’ll let my wolf eat her insides while she is awake for it. That red wolf will NEVER carry the name Jones again and anyone who ever says it will eat their own tongue.”
Gasping for air in my grip while I held her above the floor, she managed to whisper.
“You can try, Maddock.”
And with her final insult, I squeezed my fist together and felt the brittle bones of her neck break. I let her fall onto the bed, again gasping for air. My hand pulled away and the rose locket she always kept on came with it. Deciding to take it, I turned and stride out of the room on a new mission.
I would find Kelly Jones myself and kill anyone who interfered.