A week has passed, and we have been tricking ourselves into thinking that we are doing our tasks based on what Shadow and Clay found in the children’s book. Regardless, I still try to be as optimistic as I can be.
“I swear if I go to a therapist, I will be diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety.” Chance mutters as he rubs his sweaty face with his cloved hands.
Both of us stand shirtless in one of the rings in the training field with sweat dripping down every inch of our bodies. I felt sleepless the night before. Thus, after tossing around in my bed for hours, I decided to go to the training field as the sun started to come up.
Chance was there, and it turned out he too could not sleep. In fact, the huge bags under his eyes make me think his condition is worse than mine. Therefore, we have been training nonstop since dawn.
“You and me both brother.” I say as I pull my hair out of my face. I watch as my beta takes off his cloves and takes deep breaths. I sit down on the ground with my legs open as I look at my hands.
“I honestly do not know what I am doing, and I feel like I have to figure it out as soon as possible or else I will doom the whole pack.” I confide in my friend what I feel like I have said over a thousand times to myself and to other people.
“You cannot allow yourself to lose balance Xander that is what will lead the pack to its doom. The rest, you will figure out one step at a time, we will figure it out.” Chance stands before me and offers me a bottle of cold water.
He is right; Alex, you need to get you bloody shit together.
All I am saying is that I have to get my shit together as soon as I can. I defend.
“Look Xander, do not act like we have not made some progress. We have found out that Owen was the one who mind controlling us and that his kind does turn every night into sea creatures.” I open my mouth to object, but he does not allow me to.
“I know, I know, we already knew those things, but we confirmed them; we are not just guessing about it anymore. Also, let us not forget the fact that now we know how Owen killed the warriors. We now know that his species can spread a decaying disease that kills the person within hours by just one touch. In addition, we discovered that his species get all their powers from the hole that they have in the middle of their heads. I always found that hat he wore a little unnerving; even before Shadow first saw his hole.” I still give my friend a doubtful look.
“Look…” He crunches down before me as I open my water bottle and take a huge gulp.
“I know that you are not certain about this information given its source, and I know that you wished it would hold more valuable information on like where this realm of theirs is. However, we must take what we have and use it to move forward and form a plan. We cannot let negative emotions like doubt and fear stop us from doing what we have always done; protect the ones we love.”
“Yeah, you are right.” I look Chance in the eye as determination consumes my mind.
“Damn right I am.” My beta smirks at me as he offers me his hand. I take it and he pulls me to my feet.
Do you always have to have a motivational speech from someone in order for you to get your bloody shit together?
Shut up Amoux.
It is unnerving Alex!
And you always make sure that I do not forget it.
Look, I know that with everything we have been through, it is easy for these bloody emotions to consume and manipulate you. But unless you make the choice to free yourself from them, from the past, they will continue to control you.
It is not that easy Amoux, I mean I have been trying to break free from them for over five years now.
I am not saying it is supposed to be bloody easy, or that it will happen during the span of a bloody week. You just have to keep trying until you succeed.
Thank you Amoux.
“Are you okay brother?” Chance throws his bottle at me.
“I am fine; the question is whether you are fine.” I raise my eyebrow at him.
“What do you mean? I am perfectly fine.” He tries to act natural, but he fails miserably.
“Aha.” I smirk.
“Look, it is nothing…” He trails off.
“It is giving you insomnia, so it is obviously something.” I point out.
“I know it is worrying you too.”
“Nolan you mean.” My mood immediately turns sour.
“I have not heard from him in days, and he has not come home in like a week! Not to mention that Clay told me that he has not left Owen’s side. Last night, I decided to see what the hell he has been doing, do you know what I saw?”
“He was spying at Owen as he swam in the waterfall. As if that sea snake can do anything while in the water.” I answered him.
“How did you…”
“Like you said, you are not the only one worried about him Chance. The last time I talked to him, I tried to get him to open up, but he just said he feels restless and that Owen needs to be watched at all times even when he is trapped in water in his animal form. I can sense that something is wrong with him, but I cannot force him to talk to me about it. So, I honestly do not know what to do. Although I admit, his quietness bothers me; it makes me feel like something bad is about to happen.” I growl.
“Yeah, ever since you and Shadow left to the other dimension, I have been feeling weird whenever I am around him.” Chance’s eyes turn pitch black for a few seconds before they return to their normal dark brown color.
“Yeah, it is almost like being around a stranger.” I mumble as I glare at the ground beneath me.
“We should talk to him.” Chance violently pulls at his curly hair.
“Like I said, I tried, it did not really work. But you are right; we cannot leave him like this.”
“You tried, I did not. So maybe after we are done here, I will go and track him down?”
“Alright. Now let us talk about a lighter subject.” I give my beta a wide smile.
“Like what?” He gives me a confused look.
“Hope.” The mention of Amara’s friend causes chance’s cheeks to turn red.
I bloody knew it. Amoux screams in my head.
“There is nothing going on.” He tries to lie, but he fails miserably.
“You do not have to talk to me about it if you do not want to. Al though I feel I am inclined to tell you that your attempts to be discreet are embarrassing. And to advise you to be careful; if suddenly you feel like your relationship with Hope is serious, you cannot move any further in it before rejecting Lorenza. I do not like her, but it is not fair to her for you to fall in love with someone else with the mating bond still existing between the two of you.”
“I know that Xander. I like Hope a lot, I know it sounds weird, but whenever I am around her I feel like I am around my mate. However, given everything that is going on, I figured it is not the right time to make any final decisions. Who knows maybe it will not work out between Hope and I. Also, you know very well that I have been trying to reject her ever since I found out she was my mate. She acts like I am deeply in love with her.”
“Do whatever feels right for you.”
“Okay, thank you Xander.” His eyes immediately turn back to black.
“Alpha.” Mal, Chance’s wolf greets me.
“Mal, it has been a while.” I offer him a smile.
“I suppose you want to train with Amoux.” I give him a knowing look when he does not say anything more.
“If it is alright with you alpha.”
“Of course it is fine by him.” Amoux says as soon as he takes control.
It is my turn to train. Amoux says excitedly.
“Okay, I cannot take it anymore.” Shadow rushes into my office and closes the door violently behind her.
After Amoux and Mal finished training, Chance went to talk to Nolan while I hid in my office and found sanctuary in the words I wrote in my journal.
I immediately close the leather journal as my mate sits on the desk before me. She puts her legs under her while I watch her from my chair.
“What exactly are you talking about? What can you not take?”
“After all these years, I think my thoughts have finally driven me insane.” She huffs and growls at the same time. Frustration and anger are the most potent emotions in her scent. I can almost feel them myself; as if they are my own; a sign of how strong they are.
“Hey, look at me.” I tell her as she gazes at the fields beyond the window. She obeys and leans down on the desk towards me to put her hands in mine. I instantly accept her hands and allow myself to feel the content her touch brings me.
Focus on what the bloody hell she wants to tell us Alex!
Okay, I will let her hands go so I can focus. I taunt my wolf.
Do that and I will kill you! His growl almost makes me chuckle.
“What is going on in that head of yours?” I slightly tighten my hold on her smaller and smoother hands.
“It is just, that children’s book kind of helped me put together some pieces of the puzzle.”
“Pieces like what?” Shadow dazes off while biting on her lip piercing.
“Well, I cannot stop thinking about Owen’s letter. I mean, please tell me I am freaking out over nothing, but he did say he wishes to kill me. I know it sounds bad, but me being still alive means that he, or his king, needs me somehow. Also, let us not forget how upset he is that I marked you. It does not matter from which angle I look at it, I always come up with the same conclusion; he wants to use me for something, and it scares me to no end.” It is clear how much she tries to tuck away her nervousness, but I feel it through the mating bond.
“Shadow, we read the letter almost two weeks ago, so why are you thinking about it now?”
“I have been thinking about it ever since we read that damned letter!” She yells in my face and lets go of my hands. With eyes now black as a crow’s feather, she gets off the desk and starts walking back and forth before me.
“Honey, you need to calm down.” Lately, I have been seeing firsthand how intense her anxiety can be. At first, I did not reckon it would be that bad. However, I do not know how she manages to live with it always waiting for her to let her guard down, like a shadow that constantly threatens to take her down and crumble her.
“I am calm!” She snaps at me with a low growl. Even though her eyes are black, I can tell that Shadow is still in control.
We stare at each other for a few seconds before the both of us start laughing. I do not know how or why I am laughing, but I am glad to see her loosen up a little.
“On a more serious note, I want to share something that has been on my mind over the last few days.” I say once our laughter dies down.
“What is it?”
“Owen’s ability to mind-control. I do not know why it did not occur to me before; but do you remember when you had that dream where you were forced to relive Diamanda’s death?”
“Yeah, the one I had while you were forced to relive the day you found Amara. What about it?” She tugs at her platinum hair in anticipation.
“Well, what if he was the one who made us relive these two memories?” She immediately stops in her tracks at my words. The way she plays with her rings tells me that she thinks through what I just suggested.
“Okay, I definitely want o punch him right now.” I have never seen her so angry before. In fact, I believe she is filled with rage, and I do not blame her. I am pissed off as well. Sadly, we cannot risk act on this ire simply because there is a good chance we will not be able to handle the consequences.
I am about to ask her to calm down once again, but a knock on the office’s door interrupts me. I do not even get the chance to ask who it is before Owen opens the door and gets in.
“Xander I wanted to talk to you about…” He cuts his sentence short when his eyes land on Shadow. The surprise in his stare tells me that he did not know she was here; meaning he could not smell her scent or hear her talk. I am tempted to growl at how he was able to mask such little things before. Even though it is not the first time I notice such things since we started taking the potion, it still makes me enraged.
“I did not know you were here Shadow.” The spark in his eyes causes me to feel unsettled, along with the fact he is in the same house as my mother and Amara.
“Yeah, I just came here.” Then, awkward silence fills the air in the room.
“Is everything alright Owen?” I almost shudder at the look he gives me; it feels like he knows every dirty secret I have; which I doubt is wrong considering the fact that he knows the littlest details about the day I found Amara. It is almost like he is telling me that he is aware of every move I am making against him.
“No actually, I am a little worried about Nolan.” He sits on the chair before my desk.
“What is wrong with Nolan?” I ask as I give him the best confused face I can manage.
“For starters, I have not been able to contact him for days, and I need to talk to him about an urgent matter.”
“Yeah he has been a little busy with the task of helping Clay and I learn the pack’s traditions.” Shadow lies.
“What is the urgent matter?” I ask him with a lump in my throat.
What the bloody hell is wrong with you? Why are you so nervous?
I do not know Amoux, everything he is doing is putting me on edge.
As much as I want to scream at you for being a wimp, I have to admit that I feel the same way. It is like he came here to make a bloody point. I loathe this bloody bastard.
I hate him too.
“Well, I have noticed that seven of my warriors have gone missing.”
Did he just call them his bloody warriors? Amoux growls.
“What do you mean they have gone missing?” I hide my hands under my desk to prevent Owen from seeing how much they are shaking.
I knew that he would eventually find out that some warriors have suddenly disappeared. However, I did not expect him to come and tell me about it.
I told you Alex, the bloody bastard came here to make a point! Just whatever you do, do not make him doubt where they are; he can never know that they are with your dad.
“And why am I only hearing about this now?” I try to sound angry.
“I am sorry, I just did not want to worry you; you seem to be stressed lately.” His tone is filled with sarcasm. I want to snap at him, but I know I cannot.
“You do not need to worry about me.” I say between gritted teeth.
“I know that Xander. I mean you are my alpha; you are the one person who can fix all of this pack’s problems. And surely you will be able to overcome anything that comes our way.” Once again his tone is teasing, haunting. The message in his words is very clear, and he makes me feel threatened because I am certain he knows ever insecurity I have. I can easily snap his neck and get rid of him; sadly I know I will have his king and his people to deal with. The only thing I can do is take on the role of the fool.
“I appreciate your confidence in my Owen.” I fake a smile.
“I trust your power and your values, I trust you as my alpha. That is why I hope you are prepared for the trouble that is heading our way.” He does not even attempt to hide his wide wicked smirk.
I do not like the way he is talking and looking at you. Shadow mind-links me. I almost forgot that she is in the room. I turn to her to find her incredibly pale and I do not blame her, I can even smell the fear on her.
Well, I do not like the fact that he came here in the first place. But we cannot give him the satisfaction by reacting to his words. I answer her.
This is the beginning of the storm I have been anticipating. Still, it feels like it will become much harsher and more brutal.
“I think you know him enough to know that he will stop at nothing to protect his people.” Shadow answers him with coldness in her voice. He does not notice it, but despite her eyes’ color remaining green, the way she stands tells me that Accalia is the one in control.
“Of course. After all, you are a living proof of the lengths he would go to for his pack.” I do not like the way he gazes at her, but Accalia does not seem fazed by it.
I want to gauge out his bloody eyes for look at our mate!
Me too Amoux, but now is neither the time nor the place. If we attack him, we might give him what he wants. He growls in disapproval but does not block me. He wants to stay alert in case Owen decides to make a move.
Owen gets off the chair, and makes his way to the door. When his hand touches the door knob he turns around and looks at me with a look that I cannot decipher.
“Oh, by the way, tell me if you manage to get to Nolan, I would love to hear about it.” The smile on his face is the evilest thing I have ever seen in my cruel life.
“Am I the only one who took that as a hint that he has something to do with Nolan’s distance and weird behavior?” Accalia gives me a horrified look as she shakily removes her hair away from her face. I do not answer her as I continue staring where Owen stood before he left the door only a few seconds ago.
“Alec?” She walks up towards me and takes her hand in mine. But I do not answer her, instead I mind-link everyone I can think of.
Chance did you talk to Nolan?
No! I could not find the jerk anywhere! I have no idea where he went. It takes him about three seconds to reply.
Try to mind link him! I demand with urgency.
I already did, but the bastard blocked me, I could not get to him. Maybe he… I block him not feeling patient enough to hear what he has to say.
“Can you go and make sure that Amara and my mother are safe?” I turn to Accalia.
“Of course I can.” She leaves the room without questioning my bizarre behavior.
Owen just walked into my office to have a chat? You did not warn me! I mind-link Clay.
I am sorry alpha, but Nolan was supposed to be with him. I am with Nick; we went to put today’s dosage of the potion in the pack’s water supply.
When was the last time you spoke to him?
He has been mind-linking me for the shifts for watching Owen, but I have not seen him in two days.
Wait, you saw Nolan two days ago?
Yes alpha; we patrolled the southern borders with Owen in the afternoon and at dawn.
Was he acting more different than usual?
Yes actually; he was extremely quiet and acted as if I was not even there.
I pull my mental wall up as a whimper escapes from my mouth. I have an overwhelming urge to scream as I mind-link Brook, Lorenza, and Josh all whom tell me that they have not seen nor heard from Nolan. For the first time in years, Amoux is the one who becomes alarmed.
We cannot panic Amoux; we have to focus on finding Nolan and protecting our people.
I know; we have to find our brother. I will not allow bloody Owen to hurt Nolan no matter what the cost.
We got this; we have done the impossible to protect the ones we care about, and we will do it again if need be. I comfort my wolf.
Alec, they are safe. I watched Owen as he left the house. Accalia mind-links me, but I do not allow myself to feel relief; I refuse to lose focus. I will not be fazed by anything even if it is a good emotion. If I am not careful, the storm will knock me out, and I will be dragged into the hurricane it will surely cause. If that happens, then my pack is doomed.