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I scrutinize Sandalwood as he cracks his knuckles and stares me down, a stupid glint in his glaring eyes.

It’s crystal clear he does not know who he’s fucking with.

This also means Lina has been keeping secrets from her friends. Obviously, they know nothing of us because they are not nearly as terrified as they should be.

“If you’re friends of Cat, why don’t we know about you?” Sandalwood spits, confirming my suspicions.

I raise an eyebrow, eyeing him warily, “The same can be asked about you.” I mean, I was gone forever so it wasn’t like Lina could tell me about her human allies, but there’s something about his attitude that I don’t appreciate.

My beast grumbles in agreeance.

Considering his stance, previous actions, and words, I can only assume his feelings towards my she-wolf were more than just mere friendliness. I know they are not mates so I’m not sure why that upsets me, but it does nonetheless.

Is this jealousy? I can’t remember the feeling...

While I am realistic enough to acknowledge that Lina has a mate out there somewhere, ready and willing to adore and love only her, I cannot help but feel like maybe I am jealous. I know I don’t have a mate and I came to terms with that long ago, but she will and I dread the day they find each other.

As her friend, I should be happy when she finds a mate but at this point in our relationship, I can’t bring myself to allow it. While all her attention had once been on me, a mate would shift that—change it. They will become each other’s lives and I’ll be pushed to the side, probably even forgotten about. Meeting one’s mate might be the day every werewolf or lycan looks forward to, but for me, when it comes to Lina, it’s one I suddenly hope never happens. I know I’m being selfish but I want to hold the position as the most important person in her life forever.

She is the most important person in mine.

“Rhys,” Coconut places a reassuring hand on his arm and shakes her head in warning.

I, however, am not going to let this go, “Rhys? Like the fucking candy bar?” I always hated Reese’s cups... well, human food in general, but I digress. It’s not even real peanut butter, I don’t care what they claim.

Rhys’s face darkens almost instantly—maybe having heard those jokes a bazillion times growing up. His cheeks turn red and his eyes blaze as he goes to lunge for me, only to be held back by Marius. “Ignore him,” my brother scowls.

I smirk, triumphantly, knowing my brother’s refusal to allow bloodshed will only fuel the hatred in Rhys’s eyes more. I was ready and willing to go toe to toe with this kid, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something about irking him that I can’t just walk away from.

As old as I am, you would think I’d found maturity by now... apparently, that’s a no-go.

Dial Soap, who must have gotten tired of watching silently, finally speaks, gaze fluttering around the bodies in the room. He lands on me last, of course. “Who are you guys?”

“Cat’s ′friends,′ didn’t you hear?” Rhys replies, tone a little too sarcastic for my liking. The air quotations he makes with his fingers do not quell my annoyance any less. ”Lina,” I correct, “Her name is Lina.” She’s a werewolf for fucks sake, not a silly feline. Why in the world does she allow them to call her Cat?

I won’t stand for it.

Marius, ever the peacemaking diplomat, takes this opportunity to introduce us, like it fucking matters or something. “I’m Marius,” he shakes all their hands, ignoring their puzzled faces. I’m sure such drastic changes in the room’s atmosphere will cause neck strain. “This is Kai, DeLoren, and Theron,” his hand indicating to each of us, “We’ve known Lina since she was a child.”

Er, wrong.

I’ve known Lina.

DeLoren has met Lina and Kai—all he did was watch over Lina, he never officially met her. Marius has done none of the above, fucking twit.

“Funny, she’s never mentioned any of you,” Rhys frowns, folding his arms over his chest. Are we still beating this dead animal?


Fine, I’ll play. “Hysterical, since she hasn’t mentioned you either,” I stress. I refuse to allow him to knock me off my pedestal like I’m not as important as him in Lina’s life. It’s not as if she could honestly tell our story without revealing our true nature. I have to believe Lina had her reasons for not sharing me with her friends. Numero uno is the whole turning into a werewolf thing... Humans have a tendency to get a little dramatic when they find out.

Also, it makes the council frown. Silencing humans isn’t much to their liking... or so they claim. But I’ve seen enough Enforcers in action to know they are more than happy to take care of business. Lina has spared her friends’ lives, they just don’t know it yet.

Rhys shoots me a glare, probably his most intimidating attempt yet.

Bring it on, grease monkey, I return his hateful stare.

“Okay... So, I’m Keeley,” Coconut tries to ease the tension in the room. Her dark painted fingernails point to herself first, heedful eyes on me. “That’s Rhys, obviously, and no, not like the candy bar.”

I frown at this.

“Aand this little dweeb is Anthony,” she smiles, albeit probably a little forced, and wraps her arm casually around Dial’s shoulders. He waves awkwardly and clears his throat nervously, “Uh, w-what happened to Catalina? You implied she was in danger—”

“Her house was set on fire, her father was murdered and she was almost kidnapped,” I answer, blankly staring at him. I will try to be less rude to this male, he actually thinks before he opens his trap.

“Oh my God,” Keeley gasps, her small hands covering her mouth. The tension in the room is now pushed away by sympathy and concern as her friends exchange worried glances between one another.

Kai takes it upon himself to elaborate, even though I think it’s pointless, “The people behind this are still out there and they won’t stop until they have her. I’m sorry but this is the only place I could think of to bring her.”

“We’ll keep her safe,” Rhys says mightily, a look of determination on his face as he ignores the question of how Kai knew to bring her here. I want to roll my eyes and laugh bitterly, but I refrain. I would like nothing more than to trust these three but looking around the room, particularly at the surveillance and dry erase boards, I doubt very much they can keep themselves or Lina under control enough to promise safety.

“Want to explain what that is,” I nod to the back of the room, needing to know exactly who Ian Malory is because it seems to me that these three are not in the regular habit of keeping Lina ′safe.′

“We’ll talk about that once you tell us what the fuck you are,” Rhys sneers. Inwardly, I laugh. I had forgotten about him practically pissing his pants earlier... probably should have kept myself in check better. He probably should have kept his hands to himself, but whatever. I’ll feign innocence, no problem. “I don’t know to what you’re referring to,” I casually wave my hand dismissively.

“Wha—” he seems confused, his eyebrows furrow in puzzlement, “No. I know what I saw! Your face! The snarl... you—you...” Disinterest overtakes my features and I wonder how long I can let this go on. It isn’t my place to tell them the truth as it should come from Lina. She kept them in the dark for a reason and I need to honor that. But what I want and what my brothers want seem to be different...

“Why don’t you try having a go at Lina again and see what happens,” DeLoren quirks. He shoots me a mischievous grin and I can’t help but frown. As much as I care for the guy, he is a dick sometimes.

Okay, most of the time.

Now that I think about it, it may be all the time...

I glance back at Lina, hoping she will wake soon. A surprising feeling of loneliness washes over me, temporarily halting my interactions as I realize I haven’t felt truly alone in about a decade now. Yes, my brothers and I have a bond, though it is forced. We are linked by curse and curse alone—warriors in battle, brothers in arms... but are we friends? Family? Does our connection go that deep? Being so close to them these last fifteen years hasn’t changed our communions. We’re neither closer nor farther apart than we were before. We are what we have always been, picking up right where we last left off. It never changes. It never falters.

It just is.

But then there is Lina, who I have only known for a very minuscule amount of time in comparison. It’s different with her. I don’t have to be what I am expected to be—who I am expected to be. With her, I didn’t feel the constant pressure on my chest caused by depression, rage, and self-loathing. With her, I can forget the outside world, lost in her crazy made-up stories and her wit.

With her, I am home.

But in a room, with six other conscious bodies, I feel more alone than ever and the only person I can think of to make it better is laying behind me, on a couch, deep asleep and unaware.

I just desperately want her to wake up.

I want her eyes on me once more. I want to talk to her, really talk to her for the first time—a solid, true, two-sided conversation. I want to listen to her voice, bask in—notice how much it’s changed since she grew into an adult. Does she still watch the clouds? Does she still chase butterflies? Does she still have the same wild imagination that had once created so many lavish tales?

Rhys continues arguing, bringing me back to reality and away from thoughts of things I cannot control. “I’m not going anywhere near him! Cat doesn’t need to be near him either!”

“I assure you, kid, Lina is never going to be safer with anyone else,” DeLoren remarks. I smirk and give him a thankful nod. He’s right, the best place for Lina to be is right by my side. Even though everyone in this room claims to love her and wants to protect her, there is no one better than me for that role.

I will not fail me.

Mine, mine, mine! My beast earnestly reminds me... like I can ever forget.

Rhys still insists on arguing, “But—”

“Nope,” DeLoren raises a hand to silence him.

“He’s right though,” Anthony interjects, “she’ll be safe here. Ian Malory will never—”

I groan throwing my head back in exasperation, “Whoever the fuck Ian Malory is, is no concern to us! Ian Malory most certainly did not do this,” I motion heatedly at Lina’s resting form on the couch. I thought this kid, this Anthony, was the brains here but maybe not. “You’re a bunch of kids that don’t know shit about this world so trust me when I tell you there are worse things out there than Ian Malory!”

That shuts them up.

I’m sure they want to contest me. I see the look of defensiveness in their eyes but no one seems to be brave enough to open their mouths. These three are about to be thrust into a world of myth and fairy tales—scary stories told around a campfire. They’re absolutely and unequivocally not prepared for the heavy shit that’s ultimately going to come their way. Forget the Hunters that burnt Lina’s home to nothing more than ash and rubble, forget the untimely death of her father (Goddess rest his soul), and most certainly fuck whoever the hell Ian Malory is because the storm that’s brewing under the surface is way more deadly.

It has taken Marius almost three years of reaching out to numerous contacts and connections to get the information that we did currently. Some of my kills may have helped but I didn’t receive credit for that... not that I wanted it.

The fact of the matter is, we’re not only dealing with the evil mind behind Superlunar Industries but the American government as well, for they had now signed with Arthur Grimes—a contract that is snowballing into the inevitable decimation of supernaturals and humans alike.

No longer would we be fighting against one lonely homegrown laboratory of a mad man targeting weres and lycans, but a whole army that has resulted from the fruits of his labor meant to destroy everything in its path.

Years and years I had tried to track Grimes down, only to come up empty-handed. How he kept his whereabouts so secretive, I’ve never known. It was as if as soon as I had a lead, it vanished just as quickly.

More answers only led to more questions and most of what we thought we knew was only due to firm assumptions and logical guesses.

While my obsession with retribution had given us vital information through the years, the most disturbing revelation came not from the dying screams of a former employee, but from the media alone. The ones that had broken the story two days prior about the merging of minds between Superlunar and the Department of Defense.

Unfortunately, that also meant that if the media had just now announced it publicly, it had been happening behind closed doors for much longer than we knew. From what little we could gather, the government supplied the money and weapons to Superlunar Industries who, in return, handed over all of their research and experiments. It was a relationship built from the need for power... dangerous and destructive power. Even we, the Originals, have no way to stop it. Weres and lycans are disappearing faster than we can count and Uriah and the council sit in their chairs doing nothing. We need permission to engage—to start a war with humans—but the idea of exposure is too overwhelming for their comfortability. If we fight, we will be cast out from the shadows, away from the myths and all doubts of our existence will be extinct. Thus, our hands remain tied.

For now.

But government involvement is what has me the most concerned. Their technology, their weapons, most of which are not common knowledge, will track us down faster than any hunter. We’re vulnerable... in need of something more than just the wolfie DNA that resides within us, keeping our hearts pumping. We needed alliances among the supernaturals, something Urinal and his posse refuse us.

So yeah, Ian Malory is the least of our problems and Lina will soon be in more danger than these three measly humans can handle.

The only question left unanswered is the why. What’s the endgame here? What does Superlunar gain from their work?

I don’t know, and usually when I don’t know something, I walk away from it. That’s how it’s always been. If it didn’t directly affect me, then I needn’t be bothered by it. But now, here I am, not just for me, but for Lina. For the first time in my life, I’m thinking of someone else more than myself and that scares me. All I want to do was lay in the grass and look up at the clouds with my friend, forgetting everyone and everything around us.

I hope we can get to that place once more.

I don’t hear the rustling behind me. I am not aware of the groan that comes from the girl on the couch now waking to consciousness. The only reason I know it’s happening is because the tension in the room has returned—the attention on the faces of the six people before me is no longer on me but behind me. Their eyes are wide, breaths held tightly within their lungs, waiting.

Just waiting...

I do not know what I will see when I turn around. When those big eyes find mine will they still grace me with their adoration or will it all change with a blink of the lids? I am not prepared and yet I don’t second guess or even hesitate to face her.

She’s pulling herself up in a sitting position when her gaze catches mine. I feel frozen at this moment, my heart thrumming wildly within my chest. A loud breathy gasp comes from her throat a second before recognizance floods her sparkling brown eyes. They widen, pupils dilate, flickering back and forth between my own then straying around my face to scan my features once more as if she was just now realizing I’m not a hallucination.

I am real and I am here.


Lina’s small hand reaches to touch my cheek. Her fingers are soft, delicate, and warm, sending waves of comfort and tingles of fear through my skin, straight into my heart. “Theron,” she asks, breathlessly. The sound of my name from her lips tickles my insides, stirring something inside me I haven’t experienced before but know without a doubt it will happen each and every time she calls for me and I’m more than willing to prepare myself for that.

But... I am never that lucky.

I watch as her face falls and her eyes harden, leaving me confused and feeling instantly dejected. But what I am not ready for, what I never expected, not even in a million years, was another punch to my face for the second time today.

Straight to my nose.

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