“Zach! Open up!”
I rolled off the bed—off Enid, to be precise—and shoved my legs into sweats, tossing Enid’s dress at her before moving to the door of my bedroom to let Artemis in. When I finally pulled it wide, I was startled by the grave look on his face.
“What? What’s wrong?”
Figured I would have the worst luck in my mating. First being forced to reject Lucy, then being cockblocked by my own father when I actually wanted to mate with my chosen. Fucking. Typical.
“I got a call from Paul Weiss of Destiny Pack,” he told me hurriedly. “They found that shifter, Carla. She had taken Lucy and tried to kill her, thinking that she could get her first mate back. The one that’s mated to Lucy now, I think. I don’t know, I told him to hurry the fuck up and get to the point. Anyway, the Carla bitch is dead, but not before she warned Zach and his pack that Seneca was on his way. He’s coming here. By the road or by the woods, I don’t know. I’ve alerted patrol and they’re on the look-out. Don’t bother getting dressed all the way. I could hear what was going on in here, and I don’t care right about now. Just…just come as you are, but I swear to Christ you’re getting your own house after this.”
My father wandered off, looking pale as he started yelling for Mom to head to the underground shelter. If anything were to happen, six feet of steel would keep her, Nolan, and Leah safe. We’d never had to use the damned thing before this clusterfuck.
I tried calling the head warrior to ask him if he saw anything, but there was no reply. He was either dead, knocked unconscious, or the link was cut off by something.
That’s when I started to get worried.
Jake? You there?
Just barely, Alpha.
He sounded winded.
What’s going on?
Intruders, northeastern border. Not rogue…all pack animals all in fur form. I started to run, taking the stairs three at a time before heading quickly to the backdoor and shifting to my wolf. Forty, maybe fifty of them. Male by the looks of them. Large, but they look tired. Like they’ve come a long fucking way, if you don’t mind my French.
I blew past that, the niceties were out the window for now.
For fuck’s sake, how did they get past the booby traps?
They all didn’t. Some of them got caught in the nets or impaled by arrows or spears. About 15 trespassing wolves down either dead or dying.
Can’t say they weren’t warned that something like this would happen if they tried encroaching on foreign land, I told Jake. We are supposed to be allied with all the nearby packs. Even if we were allied, though, you never come onto strange land uninvited. It’s suicide.
Jake agreed, and I ran off to the northeast, ironically almost in the same direction of the waterfall I used to frequent with Lucy. Jake gave me directions until I was close enough to hear the sounds of claws and teeth ripping, tearing into flesh. Snarls and growls accompanied them, the roaring of an Alpha heard with booming authority.
I skidded to a halt within twenty feet of the fighting before phasing back to my skin side. I was going to beat him, but I wanted to hear what he had to say first, and wanted him to hear my words as well.
“Seneca, stand down!” I roared out, unashamed of my nakedness, the Alpha tone clear in my voice. He snarled, but shifted, the grey hairs on his chest gleaming in the moonlit night. “Why?”
He sneered, all previous pleasantries fallen off the wayside.
If there ever was a pleasant and peaceful man behind the Alpha.
“Power,” he simply stated. His voice was low, a husky rumble like his wolf was still on the edge with him. “Ultimate power. The Counsel barely handles things as I have proven time and time again. They didn’t even bat an eye when I told them I wanted my daughter mated to another future Alpha. They gave permission immediately, seeing as how your father had my wife and mate killed.”
I blinked back at him, shocked. I had to admit my father was a horrible Alpha, but even he wouldn’t have killed an innocent female.
“That’s not true and you know it.” I glanced back quickly to see my father dressed in athletic shorts and nothing else, unless he was wearing underwear. “Carla spilled a lot of secrets, Seneca, but some of them we figured out ourselves just recently. It was too late for my son, though, as he’s already claimed his Luna. Your daughter.”
Seneca scoffed. “You think I give a shit what you all believe? That my daughter is mated to one of you? It won’t matter once I take over. All my force is under Alpha Command. They kill you, or they die themselves. We’ve already taken over several packs, so we have far exceeded our normal number. I have more on their way now.
“The only reason my daughter is mated to your son at all is to throw you off, to make you think we were finally at peace. Carla was useful in her way, but I was never going to mark and mate with a traitorous bitch like her. Once a mutinous bitch, always a mutinous bitch. What would keep her from finding someone else younger, with even loftier goals than I, eh?” He seemed almost amused at his own vile words.
“And what are your goals, Seneca? World domination? Control over the continental U.S.? Or are you just playing King Alpha to a smaller group of wolves here in northern California? You won’t succeed, you know. People have tried before and were killed. Look at that human, Hitler. He tried to suss out any impure, and he was defeated when entire nations banded together to overcome him. His regime is a dark stain on their history, as were his goals of a pure, Aryan world. Pathetic creature, if you ask me. The lowest of the low. Send your wolves away and we fight it out together, you and me.” Artemis—my father—stepped forward in challenge, his chest thrust out as I heard the slight creak in his bones as they readied themselves to shift.
At least I thought it was bones shifting. I could have been mistaken as the wind had picked up from the west and made the branches sway as well.
“My goal, Artemis? My goal is to rule the nation, of course. You don’t go to war unless you have high ideals, and mine is the largest. First the U.S., then Canada, then we head south to Mexico and beyond. And why stop with the western hemisphere? We could go beyond even that to Asia and Europe.”
The man was mad, thinking he could conquer all the shifters the world over. They would revolt as others in the past have.
“I reject your challenge, old boy. There is no man on man nor wolf on wolf,” he growled, stepping closer to my father. “Attack!”
Every one of his wolves flew forward, attacking and growling as if he’d flipped a switch and turned them on beast mode. It was no wonder, as there was a powerful aura lingering behind the voice. It was obvious he had trained them all to kill on first contact.
But Arrowhead was prepared, and more reinforcements came from behind, set to defend and viciously take out the interlopers. Fur flew, angry bellows echoed off the trees and over the sides of the mountain, being hurled back as snarls turned to whimpers, turned to sounds of death throes.
An angry-looking black wolf, Seneca’s Beta no doubt, attacked me from my left once I was in my fur-side once again, and I nipped at his tail so he’d let me go. Losing sight of my father and Seneca tussling, all I could think of was to defend my people—kill for them if I must.
And God, it was looking more like I must. Didn’t like it, though.
The beast let go with a howl after I clamped my jaws down on his tail. I could launch my counter-attack. I bit down on his neck, hating it but knowing that it was kill or be killed, and I was newly—almost—mated, and wanted to continue to be that way. I crunched down on the beast’s windpipe until he gave a sputtering last breath, his tongue lolling out of his mouth when he was finally dead.
No sooner had I taken down one when another came out me. He was taken down by an amber-colored wolf, a little smaller than the other warriors, but quick on its feet. I realized I had no clue who he was, but he took a leaf out of my book and bit down until the beast stopped breathing.
More and more came, and both sides seemed to be on even footing until I called in the men that weren’t warriors, the ones who were regular omegas.
Except for the medical staff. They would be needed soon enough.
I heard a loud snarl, my head whipping around to see two gigantic wolves battling out, and instantly recognizing one as my father’s medium brown-colored Alpha wolf. I needed to get closer.
I took two more wolves down on the way over to Seneca and my father, both of them obviously not warriors as they were damned easy to kill. By the time I reached the two battling Alphas, they were nearing the cliffs. Seneca had my father in a headlock, everything from the neck up hanging over the side of the cliff.
I skidded to a halt, echoing the galloping of the beating muscle in my chest. Seneca was going to try and push him off the edge. I doubt I would be so lucky as for a second loved one to live to tell the tale of a fall over a cliff.
Anger—no, rage boiled within me as I saw him move like he was going to twist my dad’s head, and I hurtled forward, unafraid of what could happen to me if my plan didn’t work.
No. It had to work…it just had to.
I wanted to take a leap, bring him down over the falls with me, make the trip all the way to the water so I was sure he was dead. Dead for good. I couldn’t do that, though. Not to Enid. Not to my mother and father. Not to Nolan and Leah.
Not to any of my loved ones, ones I’d already lost, or ones I still cared for even if the meaning of that had changed over time.
I roared, taking a diving leap at him, something snagging my foot after my hands connected to Seneca’s neck and wrists twisted. I heard a snapping as the roar of the falls flooded my brain and drowning out the guttural cry I gave and was still going on. It wasn’t words, just strangled sounds as I was catapulted over the cliff.
Seeing the life drain from Seneca’s eyes as he stopped breathing made me smile, but I hit something hard with my head and all the lights went out just as a heard a scream.