I was utterly exhausted, whether it was from the lack of sleep due to my nightmares or the rough sex with Nick, I couldn’t be sure. It was painfully easy to let Nick take me home and sleep the rest of the night away without a single thought of Derek. But when I woke, I was back to my mission. Nick was probably right about going to another pack’s territory half-cocked and I wasn’t mad at Chloe for filling him in on all the details. I crawled out of the bed, the shower running in the bathroom told me where Nick was. I threw on some clothes and my feet carried me to his office, but I was surprised to find Daniel sitting in the chair on his phone.
“What are you doing here?” I asked him.
“Waiting for Nick.” He looked me up and down and narrowed his eyes at me. “You look like shit, Emma.”
“Thanks.” I gave him a fake smile and went behind Nick’s desk and collapsed in his chair.
“What are you doing?” Daniel asked me.
“Looking for something.” I didn’t even care that Daniel was watching me and Nick would be there at any moment. I wasn’t going to hide it from him that I wanted to find Derek, find out who shot me and tried to blow the two of us up and solve my mother’s murder. I knew they had to be connected, I just didn’t know how.
“You know, Nick didn’t let the elders force him into making the Mating Ritual mandatory.” I looked up at Daniel, shocked by the sudden confession. “I told him to do it.”
“Nick’s only ever been with one woman before you, and I knew it wasn’t what he wanted. I know him better than I know myself sometimes. He’s been crushing on you since I can remember, and I knew he would never ask you out. He might not be as stubborn as you but he’s damn close.” Daniel chuckled. “I told him I agreed with the elders and it would be what’s best for our pack, he was outnumbered, and he had to do it. I didn’t know he would fight for you in the ring, but I hoped he would. A few hours before the ceremony he gave me all the legal papers to turn over the pack to me if something were to happen to him. He didn’t flat out tell me, but I knew he was prepared to die for you.”
“Giving away all my secrets?” Nick was standing in the doorway to his office, and neither of us noticed him there until he spoke. Daniel laughed and turned in his chair to face his alpha.
“Only the good ones.” The bond between Alpha and Beta was stronger than brotherhood and I was seeing it up close and personal.
“What are you looking for, little wolf?” He turned to me.
“What files do you have on my mom’s case?” I asked him. “I think this is all tied together, and I want to start from the beginning. If this was the first illegal activity, then this was the sloppiest so they might have left something.”
“Anything they would have left behind burned away in the fire.” Nick spoke and he stepped behind me to a filing cabinet. He pulled out a stack of files and set them in front of me, turning back to the cabinet to pull out another stack that he put on top of that. “This is everything. Arson report, police report, autopsies and body identifications, everything’s there.” He turned back to the filing cabinet and tossed another stack at me. “This is the explosion by Derek’s house.” And another stack of files came at me. “This is yours.” He pulled up another chair beside me. “Everything we could get from when you were shot. Hospital reports included.”
It took the three of us hours to go through all the files, looking for similarities and bouncing ideas back and forth off each other. I slammed another file shut and tossed it aside. This was beyond frustrating.
“Something is missing.” I huffed and rubbed my forehead, trying to think outside of the box.
“Everything is missing, that’s the problem.” Daniel chimed in. “Whoever this is, they liked fire. Which is smart, it burns up everything we can use against them.”
“What about the explosives?” I asked. “You said they matched.”
“Dead end.” Nick claimed.
“Basic-grade explosives. Any idiot could make them with a Youtube video showing them the way.” Daniel sat back in his chair and sighed. He was getting just as exhausted as we were.
“Okay, so what about the arrow?” I pulled my own file in front of me. “Make, model? Is there any way of tracing it? The wolfsbane? It’s not like wolfsbane is easy to come by.”
“Nothing special about the arrow.” Nick leaned over me and turned some pages in the file I had. He stopped at a picture of a bow that looked to be printed from the internet. “Asking around some experts, they said this was most likely the make and model of the bow used, but the bad thing is, it’s also very common and they don’t track their buyers. So, even if we found the place that sells them, we’d have no way of knowing who bought it.”
“Security cameras?” I asked.
“None.” Daniel said. “They don’t want to spook their buyers and decline business.” Dammit. No wonder these cases were unsolved for so long. One thing after another.
“Okay, what about the twenty-two wolves that died?” I pulled the file back out. “Is there any connection between them and Derek?” I asked. “His neighbor said he thought he had an argument with his dad.”
“Derek’s dad isn’t in this pack.” Nick looked at me.
“How do you know that?” I asked.
“I know every wolf in this pack, Derek has been alone since he joined.”
“Joined?” I was confused again. “What do you mean?”
“Derek wasn’t born into this pack.” Nick pushed his chair back and went to his filing cabinet. “He came to Phil when he was a kid. He was exiled from his pack; he didn’t want to become a rogue.” Nick found the file he was looking for and brought it over to us. How did I not know that Derek wasn’t born to this pack? We didn’t talk much about our families, but he was my best friend for years. “Here.” Nick pushed the file over to me and I scanned it. Derek was originally from the South pack, he cut a deal with Alpha Phillip to stay with us.
“Why didn’t I know this?” I asked.
“I just assumed you knew.” Nick put his arm around my shoulder and rubbed it.
“What was the deal?” I asked.
“He never specified.” Nick answered.
“Jackson was Phil’s beta, he was the only one who would know of the details of the deal, and with his death I’m afraid Derek might be the only one to have the answers.” Daniel rubbed his chin with thought.
“I know every pack is different, but what could he have been exiled for in the South pack?” I heard many rumors of the South pack being vicious and cruel; surely, they wouldn’t exile a pup for no reason?
“With Stefan, death between the pack members isn’t exactly uncommon. He doesn’t punish for murder, but he sure does for treason.” If Derek was just a child, how much trouble could he possibly get himself into with his pack that he would seek shelter in another?
“Okay, so it’s unlikely that his dad was the one who was visiting.” I said.
“So, who was it?” Daniel asked.
“I don’t know. He said he was an older gentleman, but not as old as him so probably in his late-forties, early fifties. He said he was dressed nice, which isn’t normal for Derek. He doesn’t usually hang out with the dressy type.” What else did he say about the man? “Oh, he had a tattoo on his hand. He didn’t know what it was though.” Nick instantly paled.
“A tattoo on his hand?” He repeated.
“Yeah.” Bewilderment crossed my face as Nick got up from his chair and left the room. “What’s going on?” I asked Daniel like he would know, but he just shrugged at me. Nick returned with a photo and held it out to me. A younger version of Nick was standing tall between two muscular men. Both men were wearing suits and I instantly recognized the man as Alpha Phillip. The man on the other side of Nick was also standing tall, a blank expression on his face and his hand holding tight on Nick’s arm. A hand with a tattoo on the back of it. “Nick,” I turned to look at his still paled face. “That’s your Uncle Jackson.”