This Way Comes
Siri and I arrived with mere minutes to spare. We hurried into the building, Siri in wolf-form, and approached the office of my manager.
Remember, you’re a support dog, be supportive. I reminded Siri via the pack link, something I was still not fully acquainted with. Her lolling tongue and wagging tail suggested she’d understood me, so I tried not to worry about it. Siri was an impressive sight, not as impressive as Valen, at least, not to me (though I may have been biased), but her auburn coat and golden eyes were striking all the same. I had absolutely no idea how anyone, let alone people who had made it their life’s work to treat and care for animals, could mistake her for an actual dog.
I took a deep breath before knocking at the door. It opened before I’d finished completing the motion and we were ushered inside to hugs. “Ellie! Oh my god are you ok?” This from my direct supervisor, Olivia. She and I had kept in touch via text the last few days but I hadn’t gone into further detail other than to let her know I was planning to come back. “I’m so sorry about what happened! Did they catch the guy?” I also hadn’t exactly explained what had happened. What they thought was that our house had been broken into and, coincidentally, my sister-in-law murdered the same night, no connection. None of them were unintelligent and I knew if they had any further details, they’d make the connection back to Eric. Valen had explained why that may be a bad idea, murderous ex-husband notwithstanding, and I didn’t want them to be in any more danger than they already were just from knowing me.
“No, that’s why we haven’t been staying at home, in case he comes back.” I smiled weakly. “That’s also why I have a guest with me today.” I took another deep breath. “This is-.” Shit we didn’t think of a name.
Sapphire. Siri’s voice was amused, which wasn’t helpful.
That sounds like a stripper.
Hey who’s the one in the collar. I get to decide my own name. I rolled my eyes.
“Sapphire.” If they noticed the pause, no one commented. “You sure you don’t mind if she stays with me?” Olivia smiled reassuringly.
“Of course not, Ellie. I can’t imagine what you’ve been through. As long as she’s well trained and doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s day, she can stay as long as you need her.”
“Thank you so much.” I smiled more warmly just as the lead Veterinarian stood behind her.
Dr. Imelda was one of the most caring and compassionate women I had met, which also meant that our line of work was hard on her at times. She had anxiety and depression of her own, so I knew she’d understand my need to have Siri with me, and I also felt bad about the fact that we weren’t being one-hundred percent honest with her.
“Ellie it’s good to have you back.” She said fondly, eyeing Siri appreciatively. “What kind of dog is she? I’ve never seen anything quite like her.”
“Um, I’m not sure. She’s a rescue, surrendered a few days before we adopted her. She was kind of a last-minute addition to the family, something my therapist said may help the kids feel safer although she’s probably done more for me in that department.” I laughed weakly to cover my unease before changing the subject hastily. “Where do you need me for today?”
* * *
“Room one still needs to have an IV put in and started on fluids.” Ava’s, one of the other techs on for the day, voice rang over our walkie system. I tapped my microphone,
“On it, just finishing up with a blood draw in three.” So far, I hadn’t had any issues with keeping Siri with me, even while dealing with patients. Siri said normal dogs could sense her and didn’t want to mess with her. I did make her wait outside of the rooms though, just in case. I had been right about my need for normalcy, our busy day was just what the doctor ordered and I hadn’t thought about Eric once in the last three and a half hours.
“Room two is all checked out.” The receptionist, Chloe, called as I crossed the hallway to room one. I nodded but Ava added,
“Nope, she just called in and asked for a nail trim.” Chloe rolled her eyes before picking up the phone to get payment for the added service. I laughed.
The day past uneventfully and before I knew it, lunch had come and gone. Of course, I hadn’t eaten anything, which was my norm, but my wolf strongly disagreed with this course of action.
You’re going to have to eat something. Siri’s voice was casual but held an edge of panic.
I know, I just haven’t had a second to stop.
Your wolf won’t care about that in about thirty minutes and I am not explaining a massacre to Valen. I balked.
Is that a possibility? I demanded via the link, but it was my wolf’s voice that answered.
Absolutely. It was really more of a growl.
“I’m taking five!” I shouted to the room at large in a strained voice. No one commented, all too invested in their own tasks to give their opinions.
Just as I clocked back in three or four minutes later (which is the common Vet Tech five), someone opened the door and rushed into the building. The first scent I picked up on was blood, a lot of blood. This was bad. The second, fainter, scent was that of a wolf. I glanced at Siri, who was eyeing the frantic woman who had entered the building but didn’t appear concerned.
She’s a wolf, right? Siri nodded minimally. Is it normal for random wolves to be around our territory? She shook her head, but her voice was contemplative.
It’s not unheard of. There are other packs near us and there are the occasional traveling wolves. We usually try to keep each other informed of that kind of thing, but they may not have planned on stopping.
“I need help!” The woman’s voice was frantic and she did have a large amount of blood covering her shirt. “My dog…. he was just hit by a car…please!” I didn’t hesitate, grabbing a stethoscope as I rushed forward.
“Ma’am, where are you parked?” I asked, trying to keep my human coworkers from being involved with the wolf. It was entirely possible that this woman was simply passing through when her pet befell a horrible accident, but just in case I felt a responsibility to be the one to handle it. As she started to lead me out the door, Siri stepped behind us.
It’s ok, I’ll call you if I need anything. I don’t want you to scare the dog if he’s in a lot of pain.
Ellie, that is not what I’m here for. I can’t get to you if the door is closed.
I’ll leave it open. I can see her car from right here. I said the last as we exited the building. Sure enough, her SUV was parked just outside of the door. As the screen swung shut, I cataloged the situation, preparing myself for what kind of injuries we’d be dealing with. My Vet Tech brain had taken full control, and it wasn’t accustomed to looking at things like make and model of vehicle. As we rounded the rear side of the car to approach the driver’s side door, however, what my wolf had been trying to tell me all along finally broke through my haze.
Siri! I shouted just as Eric launched himself out of the car and tackled me. We hit the ground between the SUV and my boss’ car and rolled, ensuring that anyone looking from the inside of the building wouldn’t see anything amiss. He yanked me to my feet by my hair as my eyes went white with my Wolf’s rage. I was about to allow her free reign and explain everything later when a white-hot pain shot up from the back of my skull.
As the darkness encroached on my vision, I faintly saw Siri round the back of the vehicle, teeth bared. Because consciousness was rapidly becoming a distant memory, the woman seemed to appear out of nowhere. I couldn’t tell what was in her hand, but the boom of the gunshot cleared that question up immediately. Siri crumpled, landing hard behind my boss’ car and allowing the SUV a clear path of escape. As I was shoved into the back seat my last thought was despair, then, the darkness won.
^ ^ ^
“Valen, dying in a fiery car crash will not get us to Ellie any faster.” Tyson’s voice was strained as he clutched his seatbelt in the passenger seat. Valen glanced in his rearview mirror to see that Liam and Mason, the other two wolves he’d brought with him, were similarly affected. He glanced at his speedometer, currently situated about forty miles per hour above the limit, before putting his attention back on the road. “Right, well ok then.” His brother was the only person he knew of that could sound that indignant while also being afraid. It wasn’t only Valen’s speed that had his Beta concerned, however, and Valen knew it. They’d all felt the cries of Siri’s wolf and his younger brother was desperate to know what had become of his own mate.
They pulled into the parking lot of Ellie’s clinic so fast the tires actually skidded. He was hit with a sense of déjà vu as he remembered how they’d arrived at Ellie’s apartment what felt like a lifetime ago. Tyson had already exited the vehicle before the movement had stopped, and by the time Valen made it to the side of the building where the center of the commotion seemed to be, he’d already addressed the wolves present there. Every wolf they had on the police force, led by Kristofer, were currently keeping the horrified veterinary staff and their clients away from what was laying behind one of the vehicles. The SUV was nowhere to be seen.
Valen knew Siri was alive because he could feel her in the pack, but she was hovering very close to the edge and wouldn’t stay that way for long without healers. “Tyson.” His voice was harsher than he’d meant it but it was the only way his brother would listen to him. Tyson glanced up at him with a glassy expression. “Get her to the healers.” He ordered. Tyson started to shake his head but Valen cut him off, “She will not survive much longer without their intervention. Take the car, get her home.”
“You need me. You’re going after them and you need me.” His little brother sounded far younger than he really was. Valen shook his head.
“Get her to the healers. That is an order. I will take Liam and Mason while Kristofer and the rest finish up things here. Go.” Without waiting for his brother’s reply he strode to one of the other waiting vehicles, his other two wolves on his heels. We will find her, his wolf growled, and God help anyone who tries to get in our way. He agreed.
^ ^ ^
I could feel Valen’s presence in my head, which is perhaps the only thing that was keeping me from panicking. I knew he could feel me too, but wasn’t sure if he could hear me. It didn’t really matter much, as I had very little to tell him about my current location. It was dark, it smelled suspiciously like a combination of mildew and rot, and it was near running water. Having been unconscious during the journey and arrival, I couldn’t be sure where our lovely accommodation was located, so the most I could offer Valen was that I was still alive, though with a mildly annoying headache.
Stay calm, Love, we are coming. Valen’s wolf sounded much calmer than his presence felt, but I was grateful for the reassurance all the same.
Panic? Me? I was trying for sarcastic but I think it came off more as slightly neurotic. I didn’t have time to dwell on it, though, as the door to my makeshift prison swung forward, blinding me with the light it let in. As it closed behind the figures who had entered, and I wiped the tears from my watering eyes, the smell of Eric and the woman permeated the air around me, somehow more nauseating than the previous aroma.
“It’s awake.” The woman’s voice was snide, nothing like the panic she’d displayed at the clinic. I glanced at her; my eyes having adjusted. She was blonde, with honey colored skin that was complimented by her smart business attire in coal black and red pumps. She could be a lawyer in New York. Come to think of it, given her most recent behavior, she probably was a lawyer.
Next to her, Eric looked downright scruffy, which wasn’t something I would usually acquaint with him but looking at him now, I realized that was exactly the right word. He was unshaven, which I hadn’t seen from him in over fifteen years. His hair was still in straggled strands around his face and had a greasy, matted appearance. Most of the smell was coming from him, indicating he’d probably not bathed in recent memory. This was so far from the man I’d fallen in love with so many years ago I was having trouble even believing he was the same person.
He smells wrong. My wolf apparently agreed with me. Sick. She elaborated. Now that she mentioned it, I caught it too. A faint whiff, almost an afterthought, underneath the general stench of body odor. As he moved toward me, the smell intensified. I wrinkled my nose out of reflex but focused my attention on the woman. “Who are you?” She laughed sneeringly but didn’t respond. Rather than ask again, I refocused on Eric, who had maneuvered himself directly in front of me. “Eric-.”
Had I still been human, I never would have seen him move. Even as a wolf, he struck too fast for me to react. One second, he was in front of me, the next, he’d swung his fist across my face, whipping my head to the side and sending me stumbling a few feet. My wolf snarled and I echoed the sound out loud. Eric laughed.
He circled around me and my wolf growled again as I maneuvered to keep both enemies within my sight. The woman hadn’t moved yet but I had no doubt she would engage should I give her the opportunity. My very presence here proved as much.
Hold them off, I’m almost there. Valen’s voice in my head was reassuring but I could detect the slight note of panic beneath his calming words. I took in a deep breath, trying to ignore the stench surrounding me and use the time to catalog my options. My wolf’s input helped. I couldn’t be sure of any reaction the woman would have, knowing as little about her as I did, but I had known Eric for over half of my life. Even if this wasn’t entirely Eric, some part of him had to still be there.
“Eric.” I tried again. “Listen to me. This isn’t you.” I scrambled for more as his sneer turned into a smirk. “You would never allow yourself to lose this much control.” He paused in his advance, tilting his head like he was considering my words. Before I could feel too much relief, however, he wrinkled his nose and continued to stalk forward. Rather than back up, which I probably would have done before, I stood my ground, allowing my wolf’s eyes to show. Before I could do more the same shooting pain radiated outward from the base of my skull. While it didn’t knock me unconscious this time, it did bring me to my knees which was not somewhere I wanted to be with a snarling werewolf in front of me. I reached up to touch the spot in question and my hand came away bloody. I glanced at the woman then, who laughed.
“Don’t you just love the lasting effects of a little gold dust?” Her voice was downright jovial. At my obvious confusion, she laughed again. “The baseball bat I hit you with? It was coated with it. Not enough to kill you, not yet, but enough to leave a lasting impression.” My wolf was panicking. Not because of the pain, though it was fairly substantial at this point, but because every time she tried to take control the pain jolted through our nervous system.
Before I could react further to our predicament, or my wolf’s fear, Eric was snarling in front of me again. There was actually saliva dripping from his mouth.
“I told you before, I will fuck you until you forget his name.” I glanced at him again, alarmed. He hadn’t ever said anything like that, but the only person he could be referring to was Valen, which meant he could also only mean one thing. I swallowed; my mouth suddenly gone dry as I realized what he intended.
Remember when you intervened last time? Now would be a great time for that again. I urged my still frantic wolf. She snarled but this time her annoyance was directed at me.
Then stop fighting me. She replied. I froze.
I'm not. Was I? I wasn’t trying to. I swear she rolled her eyes.
The pain is temporary. If you let me, I can overcome it and we can shift. But you have to let go of some of the control. Ok, that kind of made sense. I inhaled again, actually closing my eyes and trusting my wolf to be able to prevent Eric from reaching us. Just as I felt his breath on my face and his fingertips, clawed, graze my skin, my world exploded for the second time.
* * *
Whether it was due to the gold dust still in my system or because I was actually expecting it, I wasn’t sure, but the pain was far worse this time than last. As my bones reformed themselves and my body erupted in fur, I ground my teeth to prevent myself from crying out. After what seemed like hours, but could have only been seconds given that I wasn’t dead by either Eric or the woman’s hand, I stood, panting, as I reassessed the situation through my wolf’s eyes.
Eric still stood in front of me but his clawed hand was held back at his side, having missed when he’d swiped forward due to my sift. He glanced behind him, to where the woman still stood. Her expression was less smug now and both my wolf and I took great satisfaction in that.
“This changes nothing. Finish what you were brought here to do.” She snarled. Eric turned back to face me but he appeared to be moving in slow motion. I shifted my weight, preparing for his response. When it came in the form of his lunging toward me again, I moved sideways as I extended my paw outward toward him, catching him in the side as he went by and knocking him away from me, allowing me to face the two of them at once.
He’s much slower than he was before. My wolf noted with satisfaction. She was right but the thought didn’t give me nearly as much joy. Why do you hesitate? He won’t. She was right about that too. I stared at Eric as he righted himself, spittle flying as he snarled angrily. To me, however, the sound was more desperate than truly fear-inspiring. For the first time since he’d entered my apartment what felt like eons ago, I truly saw the man, or monster, he had become. Which gave me an idea.
That is not… common. My wolf could tell what I was thinking as well.
Eric. I could feel Valen’s Alpha power along our bond and I drew it toward me. I pictured it as tugging on a golden thread, though I wasn’t sure it was anything like that. Suddenly, his wolf was there, not speaking in my head but actually in my head. Together, we faced Eric, who’d frozen on the spot.
Change. The word was coated with authority, spoken from both Valen’s wolf and my own. While I couldn’t speak out loud, I could tell Eric had heard the command regardless. He closed his eyes as his body began to contort itself. Golden fur erupted from his pores, covering his body as it shrank in on itself. After several minutes, Eric’s wolf lay before me.
The only way I could describe it was like looking at a dog with mange. His coat wasn’t complete, showing several bald patches and thin and brittle everywhere else. The skin I could see was scabbed and bloody, like he’d been scratching at himself for weeks. He was emaciated, which was why he’d appeared to collapse in on himself when the shift occurred.
All thoughts of escape fled. Valen’s wolf was no longer in my head but I could still feel his presence, getting stronger as he got closer. My own wolf was regarding what was left of Eric with sick pity, I agreed with her.
The shift began without either of our conscious efforts. Lasting a few seconds that felt a little longer, the need to be able to communicate with the pathetic being in front of us was apparently enough to initiate it.
“Oh, Eric.” I stated when I could speak, still kneeling in front of where the shivering creature that used to be my ex-husband lay. “Come with us, let us help you. Please.” He lifted his head, staring at me with eyes gone glassy with pain.
I wanted to believe he’d heard me, that he’d agree and let me help him. I wanted it for the high school sweet hearts we used to be and for the children we’d brought into this world. Deep down, I wanted Eric to want that too. I didn’t get the chance to find out.
Just as Eric’s gaze met mine, the tip of a golden arrow head plunged through his spine and out his throat. He coughed, blood dripping from both the wound and his open mouth with a wet sound. The woman stood behind and over him, the other end of the spear in both hands as she turned the weapon, digging the point in further until it exited all the way out of the front of Eric’s body.
I watched as the light died in the wolf’s eyes, feeling the loss despite all we’d been through. I glanced back at the woman as she yanked the spear free with a crunch that I would probably hear every night for the rest of my life.
“Useless.” She growled.
“Why?” I asked woodenly. Still in shock from her brutality. It wasn’t just a question of her most recent actions. She glanced up at me dismissively.
“Your mate destroyed my pack. He destroyed my life. My grandfather led our pack with a nobility your Alpha can't even dream of. I earned my place at his side some day and thanks to the Diamond Edge pack it was taken from me. So, our oracle and I devised this plan. She knew who you were, see? She foresaw it. All it took was a little meddling in the right places and you would have died in a lover’s quarrel gone wrong.”
“You turned Eric to kill me?” My voice was a squeak as the pieces fell into place. Everything that had happened to us had been at her hand. “Why?” I asked again, incredulous this time. She rolled her eyes.
“Because an Alpha is nothing without his Lalina. Your loss will send him to his knees and I will destroy him and all he holds dear from there.” She shrugged just as we heard the unmistakable sound of a vehicle approaching our location at a dangerous speed. “Prepare yourself, little wolf, the storm has yet to begin.” As the doors of the vehicle slammed and my wolves ran toward us, the woman smirked and ran in the opposite direction. I heard another car door slam as she exited the building we were in and the squeal of the tires as she sped away.