“Something’s wrong,” I gripped Arlo’s arm, stopping him from opening the driver-side door. He turned to look at me bemused.
“What is it?” Arlo asked, his first instinct to reach for my hand. The sparks somewhat calmed my racing heart but not enough to put my frantic mind at rest. That revolting smell only added to hurricane anxiety forming inside me. I shook my head, warily watching the house.
“I don’t know…something doesn’t feel right. And that smell.”
“This coven regularly participates in sacrifices for their dark lord,” Blair said, scrunching up her nose. “That smell could be coming from an animal.” She tried to sound convincing, but deep down, something told me that the lingering smell of death was human. The frown on my face grew deeper.
“Give me a minute, or I might pass out.” I didn’t know where this cowardly confession came from, but it was true. I was scared shitless at that moment. Perhaps, it was because I’d almost been raped and killed mere days ago. Or that the awful stench filling my nostrils could possibly be the pups from my pack.
“Hey,” Arlo spoke softly, squeezing my hand and brushing the hair out of my worried face. “Everything is going to be okay, I promise. We’re going to find the pups and get out of here as soon as possible,” He ended his promise with a gentle kiss to my hand, melting away my anxiousness. I could almost see the stupid grin on Blair and Kane’s faces as they watched us from the backseat. Like two kids watching their parents so happily in love.
His silver eyes glowed ardently as they locked with mine. Had there not been an audience in the backseat, he might have kissed me to signify his promise. I cleared my throat and nodded, “Let’s search the permitter,” I said, stepping out of the truck. Time to put my lady balls on.
The Salem coven kept watch while the wolves split up into groups and searched the surrounding area for anything out of the ordinary. I followed Kane and Arlo into the darkness of the woods, but Arlo stepped aside and let me take the lead. He wanted to make sure I was in his line of sight at all times.
I gladly took the lead and ran until I could see the back porch light of the house. A warlock was sitting outside, waiting and watching for intruders. I crouched down low and hid behind the trees. Arlo pressed his chest to my back and put his hand on my hip as more warlocks appeared from the house and joined the patrolling.
His solicitous reaction made my thighs tingle, washing away the anxiety I’d felt from earlier. I sucked in a breath and clenched my fists as my wolf stirred with excitement. I took one step forward. Now was not the time for my virgin hormones to get crazy.
“Slowly,” Arlo said, motioning for Kane and me to follow him.
The three of us quietly snuck past the warlocks and continued our mission. Upon searching the surrounding woods, I found a few animal bones piled in the center of a giant pentagram made of sticks. However, it didn’t nearly freak me out as much as the homemade scarecrow. It was placed a few meters away from the pentagram. The stitched clothes were bloody, and the head was of a decapitated pig. A crown was placed on the head as well.
I stared at the face of the pig, holding my breath. It looked so ugly and evil. I almost believed it would come to life, climb off its post and attack me. Kane kicked the dirt, destroying the pentagram.
“Are you sure you should be doing that? Isn’t it bad luck to be touching stuff like this?” I asked. Kane paused for a minute and then laughed. But I didn’t think it was amusing. At all. Soon, Arlo destroyed the scary pig-man, knocking it to the ground. I covered my mouth as flies buzzed around the rotting pig head.
“Astrid, we’re demons and descendants of the ninth. If anything its bad for-“
“Never mind that.” Arlo dismissed tersely. “Get rid of those pentagrams over there. I don’t want anyone finding these.” He pointed behind Kane. I didn’t miss the death glare he sent to Kane as he complied. Descendants of the ninth. What does that mean?”
“I found the pups!” Derek exclaimed in the mind-link before I could question further about Kane’s statement. I replied with a short response and informed the guys. Arlo quickly texted Louisa to follow through with the plan, and in the next moment, I saw Nicolas and Louisa walking up to the creepy old house. She knocked twice, and the door flew open.
“Come on, we don’t have much time,” Arlo said, rushing towards the opposite side of the field while Louisa and Nicolas disappeared inside the house. As far as I knew, they were going to lie, asking for the whereabouts of a missing person. Their main goal was to keep the witches talking while we grabbed the pups and escaped successfully.
We remained hidden until all the patrolling warlocks went inside. For a moment, I was worried about Louisa and Nicolas (more Nicolas), but Arlo assured me it would be alright. They would be fine as long as we stayed out of sight.
I hurriedly ran behind Kane through the darkness until we spotted Derek hovering over a large hole in the ground with light beaming from it. The wooden door was open as Derek crouched down, pulling out the pups. I stopped by his side to see Liam helping the pups climb up a table and jump upward to safety.
“Alpha!” The first pup’s eyes lit up as they landed on me. I smiled, picking him up and wrapping my arms around him. He was the son of my father’s good friend and top warrior. He always looked for me to play hide and seek when I wasn’t busy with pack duties.
“I’m so glad you’re all okay,” I said, closing my eyes and hugging him tightly.
I exhaled deeply as more pups emerged from the hole. The first three belonged to River Ash and then Blood Rose and Silver Moon. One by one, Derek pulled them out, and my heart was full. These pups were innocent, and it was my job to make sure they were safe. I would have lost it had something terrible happened to them because someone was out for my blood.
But little did I know, shit was about to get real.
First, I saw the frown on Derek’s face after he helped the last pup. And then silence. Only seven pups were rescued, but that couldn’t be right. Some were still missing. I looked down into the hole and saw Liam reading something written on the wall.
“You think you’ve outsmarted me by turning my sisters against me. But I will show you how this game is meant to be played.” Liam read the message out loud. My blood ran cold.
“Fuck!” Arlo hissed, sticking his head through the hole. Almost immediately, he put the pieces together, sensing the chaos about to happen. “LIAM, GET OUT NOW!” Arlo roared. He didn’t need to be told twice. Liam jumped up and gripped Arlo’s forearm, pulling him up.
The only warning I had was Kane vigorously turning me around and yelling, “Go! Take the pups and get back to the truck!” A loud bomb sounded off as fire erupted from the hole in the ground. The next thing I knew, I was running with the pups towards the vehicles parked miles away.
“Astrid!” I heard Nicole’s voice before she appeared by my side. She grabbed the youngest pup of the seven while I carried one and held the hand of another. “Louisa and Nicolas are trapped inside the house.” She said before the shouting and explosions sounded off from the house. Through the blurs of the trees, I saw Blair and her witches fighting off the dark coven.
Suddenly, I got that familiar itch in my hands as I became more aware of the dangerous weapon on my back. I desperately wanted to help, and I knew that nothing would stop me, even if that meant putting myself in danger. But first, I needed to make sure these pups were safe. Right on cue, some of our warriors appeared up ahead to help us.
“Take them!” I demanded one of the warriors, handing the pups off to him. Soon, Derek and Kane caught up with the remaining four while Arlo helped a limping Liam. The fire burned his leg a little, and he was bleeding.
We did a quick switch, and then immediately, Arlo, Kane, and Derek sped off into the action without me. Or so they thought. My first instinct was to run to Blair, who looked like she struggled to fight someone off.
“Hey!” Kane hollered when he spotted me. “We can take it from here. Don’t be stupid, Astrid. They will kill you!”
Ha! They can try.