I snuggled into Carter’s chest as we watched some TV show on predators in the wild. He thought it was a hoot when some of the people were scared of deer or Bigfoot or what have you. If you knew how to scare the beast, there wouldn’t be any problem, he always said.
I knew better, though. I’d seen it.
It was a dangerous world out there.
He wanted to become a warrior like his father, and to do that, you needed to hone your survival skills in the mountains where anything could happen, up to and including wild animal attacks. He tried to teach me some of those skills in the event I was ever alone in the woods, but I didn’t seem to see the need to when I was happy in my home—our home. Mine and Carter’s.
I’d stopped wishing a while ago that I could remember more of what happened before I fell in the river and went over the rapids. I knew there was something I was missing that I needed to remember, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. It’s like that last M&M at the bottom of the bag—not wanting to be found and hiding out in the corner thinking that little bugger had gotten one over on you.
I’d nab the little slippery bastard in the end, I was sure of it.
The channel was flipped and we were watching fishing.
Fishing? More boring than you would think, but still Carter used it like most would study a makeup tutorial on YouTube.
So unentertaining that I ended up nodding off on Carter’s shoulder as the man on the screen waxed poetic about reels and the right amount of tension or something else yawn-inducing.
I nodded off slowly, and for the first time in months, I dreamed.
“You did it,” said a voice, low and with a rumbling huskiness to it. “Did you set the proof out so it can be found? It can’t be too obvious or they’ll smell a rat.”
“It’s done,” said a young female voice. “They’ll be able to smell his pack on her garments, but the scent of blood will cover up most of the scent.”
“Not enough of it.” The man sounded pleased. “That way we can bring the evidence to Artemis and condemn him for the death, and we can make a deal. A mate for a mate. His son for my daughter.”
“You think he’ll believe you?”
“Hmph, well, the man is stupid. Completely one-track mind. If it doesn’t benefit him in some way, he turns the other cheek and ignores the problem. With this, he can’t do that. He’ll be forced into a pact between us. And then we wait.”
Having no idea what they were talking about, I drifted away from the window.
My mind floated off again, skipping over wispy clouds and wondering who I’d heard speaking. The voices sounded familiar, but I couldn’t remember where I’d heard them from again. I spent so little time around the pack by going into the woods, I could spend days without speaking. I suddenly remembered that when I finally heard the voice again, I was able to see a face to go with it.
“I was the one who had her killed! Why haven’t you marked me?” the female’s strident voice rang out.
Luckily there was no one nearby as most were attending the annual the bonfire. I didn’t go, as usual. It was only asking to be ridiculed and shunned.
“Quiet, woman. Someone will hear you.”
That voice again. The one I’d heard talking about a man named…Artemis? Arthur? If I just looked around this tree…
The Alpha and a…a young woman. Too young to be marked by him as a true mate, though I’d no doubt I’d seen her before slipping into the Alpha’s home. The ensuing noises…well, it wouldn’t take a rocket science to figure out they weren’t having a quilting bee or laying floor tiles.
Laying pipe maybe…
I cringed, not wanting to think about it. That was Enid’s father, after all. And the woman? Maybe only a few years older than I.
“Everyone’s at the bonfire and you know it. And Josh? I was the one who got him far away enough from the pack lands to have that rogue kill him. Then I screamed for the warriors come and save me from that vile rogue wolf I befriended. I did everything and you did nothing! You need to mark me, Artemis.”
“Soon,” he crooned, “Right before the war.”
War? What war? There hadn’t been a war in these parts for over a decade. Not since a rogue Alpha had tried to take on 6 allied packs at once. That was ages ago when I was still little, and I’d only heard tales of it from older members of the pack, like my brother and his friends.
This woman had had my best friend killed. He was innocent of what he was accused of, but he was made rogue and killed by this…this creature.
I couldn’t think of her as anything but evil. Demonic.
I started to move away, further into the line of trees at my back. Damned tree branch though…it had fallen and was underneath my feet and cracking in half before I could halt my backward step.
“What was that?”
I ran. Flew through the trees, listening to them mumble and sniff around trying to catch my scent. I was so attuned to the forest, though, that it was easy to escape. I only hoped that they hadn’t caught wind of me and could smell me.
I had lied. It was only partially due to being the black sheep of my pack that I had run away from the hunters. Oh, they were there, and I tried to swim across the river, but I was swept away with the strong current.
I should’ve drowned, but I didn’t. West saved me like he did Lucy days later. I had Carter now, and my memories… If only I could guarantee I would recollect them when I woke up.
Remember, Faith. Remember.
“Faith? What is it, baby?”
Wow. That sounded like Carter. I smiled.
I grumbled, and my head rolled onto my right shoulder and away from the warmth of Carter’s body.
“Faith! Wake up, baby!”
My eyes fluttered open to see Carter staring at me, concerned.
“I remembered,” I told him, mumbling the words with a thick tongue and through the large lump in my throat.
That wasn’t all I remembered though. I remembered so much more upon waking.
“If you won’t mark me, I’ll go back to my old mate. He may be pathetic, but at least he wanted me.”
“He didn’t want you. And I told you I would mark you before the war. Besides, you rarely see the man. How do you know if he hasn’t found a second chance mate somewhere? You rarely go back to Destiny anymore.”
“I would have felt it. The tether between us is faint, but it’s still there.”
“You only want me to mark you as Luna for the power and to break the bond you have with him.”
“You know that’s not true. And if he did find a second chance mate, I would kill her like we did with Josh and your mate.”
I sat up, almost knocking my head against Carter’s when I abruptly shot to my feet.
“Lucy,” I breathed out. “We have to get to Lucy. Carla—”
I knew I wasn’t making a lick of sense, but for some reason, I knew that Carla would hurt Lucy—knew it in my soul.
I tried reaching out to her through the mindlink, but nothing… Not even an echo of my cry back at me. She was either knocked out, had put a wall up, or she was somewhere far away where she couldn’t hear me.
I immediately dismissed the last idea as I’d seen her only a few hours before, but still—the other two thoughts were disturbing enough.
Could she have been given something to cut off her wolf?
I feared for her unborn child.
West…I could reach West maybe.
West? Can you hear me? Where are you?
Faith? Is that you? I’m at home. I can’t find Lucy! And there’s blood! Just a few drops, but still…
“Baby, what’s wrong? You’re scaring me.”
I looked to Carter, desperate to do something.
“Carter, get Alpha Paul. Lucy’s in trouble. There’s been an accident. I don’t know where she ism but Carla—Carla said she would kill West’s second chance mate if he ever found her. And West found blood in the house and can’t locate Lucy. Hurry!”
He moved quickly to the door, not bothering the close it as he heard me coming up from behind him. I followed on his heels, him heading one way, I the other.
“Tell him to meet us at West’s place!” I yelled to him as my feet ran a frantic pattern over gravel and tufts of grass. It only took thirty seconds to get to West’s, and I barreled into the home without knocking and headed straight towards his smell.
He was knelt to the ground, on hand on the floor and his chest rumbling with a low growl.
“Carla,” he snarled. “I can smell the bitch.” His eyes lifted quickly to mine. “It’s faint, but it’s there all the same. She’s never been inside my house before, so there’s no reason for her scent to be in here at all.”
“I remember it all,” I told West quickly. My eyes felt like they would pop from their sockets they were so wide. “She had my friend Josh killed. And the Alpha’s mate. She wants him to mark her, but she also wants you.” I gulped a bout of air into my lungs. My throat felt dry as cinders. “I remember she threatened to kill your second chance mate if you ever found her.”
“Carter’s going to get him,” I cut in. “They’re going to meet us here. He’s been training to be a warrior—a tracker if he can wing it. He can help.”
He stood up abruptly, and the look on his face made my heart thunder in my ears.
His eyes, they looked almost dead as he glanced up at me. Lost. He looked lost without her—without his Lucy—and his mouth opened, a croak leaving it before he cleared his throat.
“I have to find her, Faith. I can’t let Carla kill her or my baby.”
“We will,” I assured him. “We’ll get her back.”
Hours later we were exhausted, having looked through ever nook and cranny in the woods until we had only a few places left.
The rest of the pack had settled in for the night, but Paul, Kassidy, West, Carter, and I kept going.
“Do you think she would take her back to Emerald?” Paul called from near the shore. The fading scent of roses assaulted my nose even with being upwind from the breeze of the bushes to the north. This was close to where I had been found nearly dead, and the idea haunted me as we got closer to the shore of the river.
The calls of a few night warblers were the only things that could be heard outside the five of us, and the sound of slow footsteps echoed off the steep cliffs to our right. After a while, Paul halted his steps.
“Do you hear that?” Paul’s whole body stilled, his ears almost visibly perking up.
“Hear what?” Kassidy stood to his right, also trying to listen.
“There.” Paul pointed to the east. “Right over there. Talking—or maybe shouting from this distance, I can’t tell.”
“Let’s go.” West had snarled and growled the whole time, anxious with worry over Lucy and the baby. He moved before any of us and set a brutal pace for our weary legs. We couldn’t begrudge him that, though. If Paul said he heard something, he believed it.
Hell—we all did.
The sounds Paul heard were apparent after another hundred feet or so. Arguing, and though it was unintelligible what they were saying, it was clear it was two females and that they were yelling at each other.
West gave a low growl and half-shifted, his long nails protruding from the pads of his fingers and his face elongating a little. I had never seen a man half-shift before, and it wasn’t something I would ever want to see again. He looked like something out of a horror film.
“Back away from her, Carla!” he shouted in the direction of the two figures standing atop a rock. “Leave my mate alone!”
“West? Baby? Is that you?” That wasn’t Lucy’s voice, so the woman closer to the cliff had to be…
And that was when all hell broke loose.