Viktoria got home exhausted from her morning patrol. After she shifted back and put on clothes, and was determined to find the answers she needed independently.
She interrogated every pack member for the past weeks about that night and didn’t find anything that stood out. Late afternoon, she mind-linked Falcon she would be out for a while, for him to look over the pack while she was away. He tried to advise her against it that she needed to rest. She hadn’t been sleeping well, but her mind was already made up. She would not rest until she learned the truth about what happened to Randal, and she would now start with their neighboring pack. The Grayhide pack. The Alpha of one pack plotting the death of the neighboring pack’s Alpha was not unheard of. It was her duty to talk to anyone with a motive.
She got in her car, drove until she went across the border speeding, and eventually stopped outside the Alpha’s house. Staring at the gate, deep in thought, she wondered what she would learn from this visit. The mere thought of the imminent confrontation unleashed a fresh wave of fury within.
It was the first time she came here alone. Occasionally, Randal would always take her with him on his visits to the Grayhide Pack. Both Alpha Koden and his Luna, Amethyst, seemed like decent people during those visits. Yet everyone was a suspect.
Two members paced towards her car. “Who are you? You have crossed our pack border without permission.” One of the wolves growled.
“I am the Luna of the Highcrest pack. I need to speak to your Alpha.”
“Luna. We have orders not to let visitors in. You’ll have to come back another day.”
“No, I don’t. It’s important. Tell your Alpha I’m here.” A flash of red flickered over her eyes.
“Luna, Alpha is not receiving visitors, and we cannot let you pass,” shrugged the other man.
“Excuse me? I am the Alpha Female of your neighboring pack. Unless you intend to affect the peace treaty of our packs, you will let me through!” Her fingernails were digging into her palms. “Move... now!”
They froze for a moment at her reply, and it looked like they were mind-linking with someone else. She waited, and suddenly, the gate opened, and she drove through.
“Alpha Koden doesn’t want to let anyone in. Suspicious. Probably covering up his tracks.” Viktoria ignored her guts and her wolf. She parked her car close to his house and waited for a while.
She needed to find out more and wouldn’t leave until she spoke to him.
A tall broad-framed man strolled out of the house, but it wasn’t Koden. It was Dalton, the Beta of the pack. She remembered seeing him before. He welcomed and told her the Alpha might take a while to come down. She told him she came all this way and waited for him in her car.
After a while, Alpha Koden came out of the house, and Viktoria gasped at the sight of him. This wasn’t the Koden she knew.
“Koden?” She breathed. She knew something was wrong.
The Alpha’s appearance was horrible, as if he’d been fighting the hard flu for a year. Sweat had stuck his hair to his head, his under eyes looked dark as if he had a lack of sleep, and his clothes were untidy. Viktoria had never seen him looking so haggard. She got out of the car and was in shock as she approached him.
His fingers went through his hair, trying to fix its appearance. As he got closer, he reeked of alcohol. He’d been drinking.
“Viktoria. It’s not a good time to visit.”
“What happened to you, Koden? You don’t look like yourself.”
“Why are you here?”
“Can we talk in private?”
He sighed. “Come.”
She nodded and followed him back to his living room.
He sunk into his chair, holding his head up high, but refused to glance her way. He didn’t want to show her how broken he was.
If the word spreads, other packs would learn of his weakness. “Viktoria, you can’t come here unannounced like this. Crossing the border without permission? What were you thinking? Any other day this could have turned sideways.”
“I needed to talk to you, Koden.”
“Look, I consider you and Randal friends, and you are always welcome here, but why couldn’t he call me before sending you here? This is the way we deal with these things.”
She cleared her throat, wiping the single tear that ran down her lashes. “R-Ran...” Getting the words out was a struggle, so she took a deep breath.
“What is it?” Concern flushed his face, and his glare softened.
“Randal is dead. Our beta Alice too.” She put on a strong face. If Koden were the one who orchestrated this, his answer would give him away, and she would confront him straightaway. Instead, his eyes widened, and his hands climbed up to his chest in shock.
“I am sorry, Viktoria. I didn’t know,” It was taking all he had to not crumble into a heap again.
“How did they die?”
“They were killed.”
“Killed? How?” he came away from the backrest at once.
Viktoria knew his expressions; she had seen it on him before. His tone and his reaction were genuine; she could sense it.
Her brows knit into a dry frown. “With hard weapons, knives... they did a good job covering their tracks..”
Koden winced as though her words had just stabbed him.
“Were you attacked too? Is everything okay around here?”
He didn’t talk and behaved like he zoned out.
“What is it, Koden?”
He just lowered his gaze and stared at the floor.
“Please say something.”
“Amethyst... and my pup,” was all he could mutter. He hadn’t been able to talk about it since it happened. But it was enough for Viktoria to understand what had transpired.
“Oh my,” she gasped and cupped her agape mouth. “Oh my goddess, Koden. I am so sorry.”
He dropped his gaze down to the floor again, fighting back the tears.
“When did this happen?”
“Almost two months ago.”
He buried his head into his palms and broke down, his shoulders shaking in anguish. The image was heart-wrenching. The agony her chest kept bridled was let loose, and Viktoria began to weep too.
Getting up from her seat, she knelt beside the Alpha. Though under different circumstances, both of their mates died simultaneously. None of this made sense. What was at play here?
She took his hands in hers and gazed up to him. “I’m so incredibly sorry, Koden.”
It seemed they looked at each other for eternity as two kindred spirits sharing their grief, mourning the sudden death of their mates together.
“I-I’m sorry, too,” he heaved through murmurs. “We were supposed to protect them. Life is being cruel to us, Viktoria.”
She couldn’t answer him. No words could come out to comfort him as she was going through the same thing herself. Before she knew it, they were both sobbing together. She gave him the closest hug she had ever given anyone other than Randal. While they touched, a warmth enwrapped their quivering bodies. They realized they needed comfort after what they had witnessed.
What could be more crushing than knowing your mate suffered a slow death, unable to call for help, and being unable to do anything about it?
Koden was basking in the feel of a nurturing soft soul while Viktoria was held by a set of arms she needed. Even their wolves within them started howling in unity, unwilling to bring the moment to an end. Koden leaned back to look into her eyes, and his wolf spurred in him a feeling he had never experienced with anyone but Amethyst before. Her heart swelled, filling her whole chest. It had masked her sorrows and fears, and even if this was only for a moment, she felt relief, understanding. They both did.
As the moment stretched, they continued to glance into each other’s eyes. all they could glean was a deep sense of understanding.
A knock on the door snapped them out of the moment. Moving out of their comforting bubble, Koden quickly turned away and stood up. Viktoria kneaded her forehead and shook her head before joining him, straightening herself.
As the Alpha opened the door, a red-haired woman stood in front of him. She recognized her too. It was the pack delta, Nicky.
“Alpha, I spotted a car outside and just wanted to make sure you’re okay,”
Koden gestured with his palm. “Yes, everything is fine. Do you know where Dalton is?”
“No, I haven’t seen him in a while.” Nicky was about to step in when she noticed Viktoria inside the room. Her glimpse scuttled between their faces - their expressions appeared grief-stricken, and there was something in the air between them.
“Hello, Luna Viktoria.”
“Hello.” That’s all she could mutter after the moment filled with emotions she just had.
Nicky watched her confusion. “Luna Viktoria’s mate and Beta were killed.” Koden mind-links.
Nicky gasped in shock. “I’m so sorry, Alpha. I know you considered him a friend. They were always so nice when they all came to visit.”
“Indeed. I still can’t wrap my head around it.”
“Alpa, do you think this is connected to Luna Amethyst’s death?” Nicky mind-linked back.
“It’s a possibility. We need to find out.”
“Should I go fetch Dalton?”
Koden nodded. “I’ve been trying to reach him to come over, and he’s not answering.”
Once Nicky left, he turned around to face Viktoria. The moment that had them spellbound had suddenly dispersed like smoke in the air. He could not make such advances to her or any she-wolf until he fully healed. His soul needed time to mourn its mate. They both do.
He put a hand on her shoulder as a gesture of kindness.
“I haven’t been well lately after what happened, and I haven’t been dealing with my grief in a good way. But I will help you find out who did this to us, Viktoria, I promise.”
He put his vulnerability out there and made it known. Something he tried to keep buried since his mate died.
“Thank you, Koden. I must go now. I can’t leave my pack alone for too long.” she muttered and made her way outside his home.
Viktoria didn’t bid him goodbye and was quick to slip into her car. Her hands were about to pull the handle to shut the door, but he stopped it from closing.
“Yes?” She answered while their gazes met.
“I’m sorry for Randal. He was a friend to me. I’m here if you need anything.”
“I mean it. Call me whenever you need to. Please stay safe.”
With a quick nod, she closed the door and started the engine. “That was rude. You should go back and apologize.” her wolf told her.
As the car rolled down the driveway, Nicky was walking back to the house and waved her hand at her. Viktoria did the same.
“I am not doing anything of the sort.”
“We had a moment!”
Viktoria sighed. “We did not. Could you stop it? We aren’t prepared for that. We probably ever will be.”
“Tyler won’t wait until you’re ready. You know that, right? He has always done what Shilo says.” her wolf urged.
“End of discussion.” she didn’t want to encourage her wolf further.
Just then, her pupils were drawn to a movement in the darkness by a shed near the pack’s border. Someone was lurking by its wooden doors, but she could only see the silhouette of the person. She hissed, and her heart clenched while she saw him covering up a hole on the ground, reminding her all over again that she could not trust anyone from the Grayhide Pack. She had a closer look, and from his frown, she suddenly could tell who it was and that he was suspiciously checking out his surroundings. Viktoria turned around and speeded off the property.