Koden woke up, snuggled up to the back of his mate, Amethyst. She was asleep and facing the other way. The light that came through the windows told him it was still early.
He suddenly took a whiff of an awful smell that filled the room.
“What the hell?”
Concern distorted his brows into a frown. Then he noticed his whole body ached like he’d been hit by a truck. His neck ached too, and his mark hurt and felt strangely sore.
He leaned back to bed to snuggle again, and after kissing her blonde hair, he slid his hand around her, caressing her big belly. He rubbed her body, but everywhere he touched was stiff, and she felt colder than usual. This worried him. He grabbed the air conditioner remote and turned it to a hotter temperature.
“Good morning, my little canine tooth. I’m here to warm you up now. Are you feeling okay?”
His voice was husky, partly from sleep, partly with worry. But, his Luna wouldn’t answer him. This was unlike herself. She wouldn’t move at all.
His stomach started to grumble suddenly, and he knew she might feel the same.
“Baby, I’m going to go make us some breakfast. Our pup must be more hungry than his mommy and dad.” He chuckled. The Alpha grabbed her shoulder and turned her around gently.
“Baby?” His lashes flew up in horror as her lifeless face crystallized in his eyes.
He patted her cheeks that were distorted with a grimace, only to discover blood dripping out of her lips.
“No. No. No!” Koden grabbed her stiff wrist for a pulse, but her veins were stiller than stone.
“This can’t be happening!” He roared in agony, shaking her body forcefully, trying to wake her up. When nothing moved, he cradled her in his arms.
“Wake up. Please wake up. Baby, wake up!”
Koden’s wolf broke out into an ear-splitting wail. Red burst past his eyes and broiled in his blood and frothed at the edge at his lips. His pleads and screaming howls drew his Beta, Dalton, into the room.
“Alpha?” Dalton stumbled to a halt as he chanced upon the scene in front of him.
“Alpha, what’s wrong with the Luna? What happened?”
But Koden could barely speak. Soon, more hunters gathered by the doorframe and stared at their Luna, horror freezing their expressions like ice.
“Go get the Salutary, now!” Dalton whirled towards them
The Beta knelt by the bedframe, next to Koden. “How did this happen, Koden?”
Koden’s voice cracked as he guided a hand to his Amethyst’s hair. “I woke up and found her this way—w-without a p-pulse.”
Dalton gripped his shoulder to offer him support and sat him down. The delta checked on the Luna.
“Just try and stay calm for now. Clover will help. I’m sure we’ll be able to deliver the pup.”
“No. We need to do everything we can to save them both. I cannot lose them!”
“Koden, we will, but it doesn’t look like Luna...”
Just as he was about to shift and the fur began to surface on Koden’s face, the Grayhide pack’s healer entered his bedroom. Dalton stepped aside as Clover examined the Luna. Koden rejoined his mate and refused to leave her side.
It didn’t take long for the Salutary to diagnose the cause of death.
“Alpha, it looks as though someone poisoned Luna Amethyst with wolfsbane.”
“Who could have done this?” Koden’s wolf rebelled in distress once again. “Is there nothing that we can do for her?”
“Alpha, I hate to be the one to bear bad news, but there isn’t. She’s gone.”
“Please help me save her!”
Clover shook her head. “She’s been like this for quite a few hours. There’s nothing we can do, Alpha.”
“And our pup?”
The Salutary cleared her throat. “We’ll try to deliver it.”
He dropped his mate on the pillow and charged out of bed. He was destroying every piece of furniture that stood in his way in a frenzy.
“Koden, calm down! We’re wasting time!” Dalton linked, but it was of no use.
They tried waiting out his outburst a few minutes, and Dalton’s mind linked the hunters to pin him down until he calmed down.
“Alpha, you should go outside,” Dalton suggested.
Koden’s jaw clenched, giving him a menacing look despite the tears pouring down his eyes. “There’s no way I’ll leave her!”
Nicky, the pack’s Delta, pushed her way through into the bedroom and pulled him into a soothing hug. “I’m so sorry for what happened, Alpha, but right now, you need to calm down. Come, let’s wait outside.”
Dalton gently gripped Koden, trying to lead him to the door, but Koden brushed it off and pushed him.
“I want to be by her side when my pup is born,” Koden said firmly.
“Alpha, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Nicky added.
“Exactly.” Dalton glared.
“Come with me,” Nicky repeated and gestured him to follow her. Hurling a longing gaze at Amethyst, the Alpha reluctantly followed Nicky. He exhaled as he let her hold him and guide him out. His wolf was in pain.
Outside they sat on the porch.
Sometime later, Koden sunk his face into his hands. The air was cold, and he realized he was only wearing a pair of boxers. Yet the stabbing emotions were so excruciating; he didn’t even notice this before.
“She was the one holding the pack together. I’m nothing without her.” He said between sobs.
“You are the strongest man I know. You will overcome this.”
“How is it happening again? First, my parents, now, my mate. How am I going to raise our pup without her?”
His Delta put a hand on his back. “Losing our Luna is going to be hard on everyone in the pack, but you’re a great leader. Time will help heal the pain. We are here for you.”
Just then, the sounds of a few weak baby whimpers drifting from the bedroom yanked him out of his daze. Instinctively, Koden’s wolf pushed him onto his feet, and he darted back into the house and straight to the bedroom.
His gaze instantly fell upon the silhouette of a stiff pup in Dalton’s hands. From there, his attention was lugged back to Amethyst. The woman he loved and made love to on that very bed was now nothing, but a heap of blood and guts spilled over the mattress. The length of her belly was cut open, her insides hollow.
Dalton tried to lead him away from the bed, but the Alpha couldn’t ignore the tiny furball in his Beta’s hands.
“Is he...” the sides of Koden’s neck tightened with strain.
Dalton brought his eyelids to a mellow close. “Yes.”
“It tried to force a shift in the wound to protect itself from the poison. But our wolves aren’t meant to appear until we are ready. Pups cannot shift like that in the womb.”
Koden wasn’t listening. He stuck his arms out. “I want to hold my pup. Give him to me.”
Clover and Dalton exchanged a disapproving look.
“Koden..” Dalton tried to dissuade him, but Koden wouldn’t give.
“I don’t think that is wise, Alpha,” the Salutary lowered her eyes. “Your wolf will connect to it. Mourning will be a lot more difficult.”
“Alpha, we want to help, but you need to let us do our job,” Nicky added.
“Nicky, take him outside. We need everyone to fix this place.” He lowered the tone of his voice, “And we must try to keep things quiet until we get to the bottom of this.”
Nicky escorted Alpha Koden outside before returning to the bedroom to help clean it up.
Koden woke up and stretched his arms, and unfurled his eyes sluggishly. He felt hungover; he submerged himself into drinking at nights in his living room. He hadn’t been able to sleep in his bedroom ever since his mate and pup died. Letting out a low yawn, he turned to his right with his eyes barely open. The empty bottle of alcohol spread through the house.
Even after over a month passed since her death, he just dreamed of it. As if it had just happened again. He wondered why he couldn’t catch a break? Why can’t he move on or want to try? When will his heartache stop? He knew he would need to find a mate sooner or later, but he was too hesitant about it. Would he ever be ready? When are you ever ready to move on from the loss of your mate and pup? When are you done grieving?
“Alpha, I’ve just finished early morning patrol. Go to my house. I will meet you there.” His beta Dalton mind linked.
Koden thought to himself he didn’t want to deal with him or anyone right now. All he wanted was to drink more booze. Koden’s wolf continued to nag at him to shift until he gave in. The feral force of the storm within stippled the smoothness on his body with a trillion needly stings. Silvery hair sprouted through, turning his skin into velveteen fur. His bones cracked and refused in a matter of moments, bulking up his size and strength many times over. The subdued haze of his grey eyes now smoldered like embers. He was a werewolf, partly human, mostly beast - tougher, harder, outside and in. And in its form, howling his heart out like a storm, Koden sought recourse, bolting through the woods. The twigs peeled off layers of his skin, and branches whipped at his limbs. However, he kept at it – for, even if his flesh whinged, the pain of a beast’s heart was duller.
He made his way to Dalton’s house and waited there for him. He ran for so long he was gasping for air after shifting.
Just as the birdsongs rifled through the forest breeze, Dalton arrived home. He unlocked his door and tilted his head towards the living room.
“Koden, let’s talk inside.”
He followed his Beta into his house and slumped on a chair. Dalton poured him a glass of whiskey and handed it over to him.
“This must be so incredibly hard for you; I couldn’t imagine the pain.” He downed it and asked for another one. Once he poured him another drink, he sat down next to the Alpha. “Koden, you’ve been out of it lately, and the pack needs you. You’ve got to be strong for the pack regardless of what happened. The future of the Grayhide Pack is on your hands.”
“What are you implying?”
“It’s been a month. You are a wreck. The pack will fall apart without you.”
Koden felt his wolf aggressively wrestling with lurching forth at his Beta. “My mate and pup died next to me! Now I’m not allowed to mourn the death of the love of my life! Your Luna!”
“I get that, Koden, but you know the pack will demand a Luna soon, right? Deep inside, you know the only way for you to keep leading the pack is to find a new mate, and as quickly as possible.” Dalton blew out his frustrations.
His wolf snarled at Dalton. “Fuck you, Dalton! How dare you say that to me?”
“Remember how you were before you found Amethyst? You are going back to that just now, being quite arrogant and stubborn. You need a mate to survive. Wolves die without their mates. Without a Luna, our pack is at risk. Outsiders could use your time of weakness and turn the pack against you or, even worse, challenge you.”
“What I need to do is get to the bottom of my mate’s murder, Dalton!”
“I am working hard day and night to help you with every step of the way. We will avenge her. I know it’s hard, but it’s the only way. Let me help to arrange everything.”
“No. I am the Alpha, and everyone under my command, including you, will submit to me!” Koden shifted and ran into the woods.