Diamond's Edge

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And I'm Hungry Like the...

Chapter 4

The gentle warmth that had lulled me to unconsciousness was a distant memory. Now, I burned. I knew I was in Hell, and all I could hope was that I’d be seeing Eric here soon enough. I writhed as my body was consumed by the flames, feeling every fiber of my being ripped apart, only to be stitched back together with the bluntest of needles.

Just when I thought my throat would split, again, from the force of my screams, the fire died, leaving me aching everywhere. With the loss of the fire to focus on, however, I turned my attention inward; because there was someone else in my head.

* * *

The beeping brought me back to reality first. That, and the strong antiseptic smell that was burning my nose. I sneezed, trying to clear the acrid scent of bleach from my sinuses.

“Ellie?” That voice. I knew that voice. Well, I didn’t know that voice, but she did; the presence I could feel in the back of my mind. She felt both familiar and foreign. Like I’d known her my entire life but only just heard her voice. Mate. She supplied in relation to the man who’d spoken. Ours.

I opened my eyes, blinking the last of the unconsciousness away. The presence in my mind didn’t fade with it. As my awareness returned, however, it brought with it the memory of what had happened. “Where are my kids?” I demanded frantically of the only other person in the room. He was handsome, with dark hair and warm brown eyes. The complete opposite of Eric’s light hair and blue eyes. I’d always had a type, and this stranger didn’t fall into it. So why did every cell in my body crave more of him. As if he could read my thoughts, he moved closer, to the side of the hospital bed I was laying in. The presence nearly purred in contentment. “Where are my kids?” I asked again, my tone less accusatory. He smiled kindly.

“They’re safe. They’re here, just in the kitchen. I practically had to pry them away from you to get them to go get food. You can see them in a few minutes, I just wanted to talk to you first.” I could listen to him speak forever, I decided. She agreed.

“Where is here?” If he was willing to answer questions then I wasn’t going to stop him.

“The Pack House. We’re a few miles south of your apartment.” He made pack house sound like a proper noun and I wondered if it was the name of a hospital. Not one I’d ever heard of, but then again it wasn’t as if I spent a lot of time in hospitals, thank God. That reminded me, though…

“What day is it? How long was I out?”

“You’ve been unconscious for three days-“

THREE DAYS?!” I nearly jumped out of the bed. “I can’t be unconscious for three days; I don’t have time for that! I have to get to work! Evie’s school is never going to let me forget this one!” I was rambling, of which I was acutely aware, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself. He held his hands out in the universal gesture to calm a frantic female, which, surprisingly, had no effect. At least not on me. She, however, was ready to melt into his arms. I snarled inwardly and could swear she shrugged, unashamed.

Breathe. It was the voice I’d heard just before losing consciousness. Not his voice, not exactly. But connected somehow. In the same way she was connected to me. I did as he’d instructed, which I told myself was only because it made the most sense at the time.

“I’ve already taken care of both schools and your job. I have people who handle that on a regular basis and they’ve made sure all locations know you’ve had an accident and are taking an emergency leave of absence.” His voice was gentle and I nodded, recognizing his effort.

“Thank you.” I stated when I could speak again. “I need answers.” No point in beating around the bush. He nodded.

“Of course. I understand. I just need you to make me a promise…well, two.” I thought about it for a second before nodding in agreement. It wasn’t like I had much choice anyway. “You have to keep an open mind, and you have to try to stay calm.” I raised an eyebrow but didn’t comment. Apparently, my verbal agreement wasn’t needed, however, because he continued without it. “My name is Valen Adamas, and I am the Alpha of the Diamond Edge werewolf pack.” Open mind, got it.

“Ooooookaaaay.” When he gave me a look, I held my hands up in surrender. “Not judging, just trying to keep up.”

“The thing that attacked you-“

“Was my ex-husband, Eric Stogen. Or, ate my ex-husband. I haven’t decided.” He smirked slightly and I decided I liked that expression. She added, mostly unhelpfully, that we liked all of his expressions.

“The first one is closer, though not entirely accurate anymore. It is this Eric” His face changed like the name tasted sour and I liked him even more. “but he’s now become a rogue werewolf. A wolf without a pack.” He waited for me to comment again but instead I motioned for him to continue, still digesting this new information. If anyone I knew would become the big, bad wolf, it would definitely be Eric. “As a wolf, he now has enhanced speed, strength, and agility. But as a rogue wolf he doesn’t have the added benefit of pack magic to merge the two halves together. That’s why he was only half shifted when he attacked you. He can’t access his true wolf-form without a pack to aid the transition. Rogue wolves don’t usually last very long on their own because the war between the wolf and the human has no middle ground. The two just fight for control until the body is destroyed in the process.”

“How long does that usually take?” I asked, trying to sound less hopeful than I felt. She growled, apparently sharing my thoughts about Eric. I was beginning to like her. His hesitation was slight but we both picked up on it.

It should have already happened. The other voice was in my head again. It was deeper than Valen’s. More primal. Before I could dwell on it anymore, however, I realized what it had said.

“Wait, so he should have been dead already?” I didn’t mean to sound so frantic but my emotions were getting the better of me.

He will never touch you or the pups again. I closed my eyes as a protective presence enveloped us, she and I. She sighed, content. I shook my head to clear it and opened my eyes.

“Not to sound ungrateful, because you saved my life and the lives of my children and I will forever owe you for that, but what the fuck is going on?” Rather than a glower for my lack of grace, as was the response I was used to, Valen’s expression was one of comfort as he sat on the bed next to me, taking both of my hands in his to stop their shaking.

“Ellie, I have a confession to make.” His voice sounded so sad and I wanted to reach out and put my arms around him. She urged me to do so but I held off, he was still a stranger after all, wasn’t he? “Pack magic doesn’t just aid in the transition from wolf to man and back. It coats everything about us. We’re all connected to each other, and each of us is connected to one other above all. This person is our mate, Ellie, and you’re mine. That’s why you can hear my wolf in your head.

When I saw you bleeding out in that floor the connection opened and I acted without regard to you or your wishes. I changed you, Ellie. I made you what I am. We were losing you and we panicked.” He looked away from me, at the ground, ashamed. “I’m so sorry.”

Not sorry. The other presence stated, his voice fierce. Valen’s expression darkened as he looked inward but I couldn’t tell what he was saying. It was apparently not the first time the conversation had happened. I could feel the emotions of both sides, however, and was beginning to feel an acute pain in the back of my skull.

“So, I’m a werewolf?” I asked, trying to quiet the argument that was giving me a headache. Valen nodded. “Then I need you to get my children to safety.” I would not risk turning into what Eric had, not for anything. Valen shook his head, apparently sensing my unease.

“Ellie, you have a pack. You and your wolf are connected. Can’t you feel her?” Her. My wolf. “You won’t turn into what Eric did, not as long as you are connected to me, to us. Even if you don’t accept the mate-bond, and you don’t have to-.” The snarl of barely contained fury in my head made me flinch, and judging by Valen’s expression he’d heard it too. “He’ll let you go if that is what you wish.” He stated. While his wolf sulked, he didn’t refute the statement and I felt some tension ease at the thought that I was free to do as I wished. This time, the snarl in my head was hers. My wolf had made her choice already. I sighed.

“I’m not going anywhere until I know my kids are safe. What happened after I lost consciousness?” I needed to know if Eric was still out there. Valen shook his head sadly, confirming my suspicions.

“When our bond opened up, I was distracted. As Alpha, my pack and I are connected and my distraction caused theirs. He escaped in the confusion.”

“He didn’t hurt anyone?” Valen shook his head and I exhaled, releasing the last vestiges of fear. I somehow felt responsible for the damage he was causing and was relieved to hear he had at least refrained from injuring anyone but me. Valen was looking at me with an odd expression and I smiled shyly. “What?”

“Nothing. You just really care about them. You’ve never met them.”

“You and your wolves” judging by the laughter in Valen’s eyes my face had shown the awkwardness the word had tasted like “saved my son and daughter’s life. You saved mine. Of course, I don’t want anything to have happened to any of you because of it.” This time Valen exhaled, my gratitude at his actions apparently allowing him to let go of whatever guilt he’d been holding onto. I held his hands tighter. “I may not understand any of this, but I do feel thankful to you for saving my life. Regardless of how you had to do it. I get to see my kids grow up because of you.” He reached forward, gently wiping at the tear that had fallen down my cheek. I leaned into the motion before I thought better of it and this time, I wasn’t sure if it was her desire or mine. We were now less than a breath apart. “Thank you.” I breathed, barely making a sound. He leaned toward me, closing the small space. The connection between us was going haywire and now I didn’t care whose desire it was as I moved my hands up his arms to tangle in his hair, bringing him closer still. Before we could act further, however, a knock sounded at the door. I could tell it was a wolf standing on the other side but wasn’t sure how I knew that. Valen sighed before moving back and standing, leaving a chill behind from the lack of contact. She whimpered and his wolf answered the sound with another growl, though this one had nothing to do with anger. I shivered before I could stop myself. “We’re going to have to get a handle on this sooner rather than later.” I muttered, unsure if I was talking to Valen, my wolf, or both. Valen chuckled.

“Come in.” he addressed the wolf and the door opened slowly.

“Mom!” Was all the warning I had before two people launched themselves at me from across the room

* * *

We left the medical wing about half an hour later. I actually had no injuries left over from Eric’s visit. None that were physical, anyway. Turns out being a Werewolf had some perks.

“What about the full moon?”

“Myth.”

“Silver Bullets?”

“Myth.”

“What about the whole Alpha as King thing?” Valen glanced sideways at me and I shrugged.

“That one is true.”

“Myth.” This from behind us where Tyson trailed with Evie and Jonah. Tyson was Valen’s Beta, which apparently means second-in-command. Why they can’t just say that is beyond me but there we go. He was also Valen’s younger brother. Valen turned to face them, still walking, and glowered at him. Tyson stuck out his tongue, a gesture that Valen returned before turning back around. I rolled my eyes.

“What about immortality?” I didn’t say it very loud. Tyson would no doubt hear me anyway, wolf ears being what they were, but I didn’t want the question addressed in front of my kids, not until I knew the answer that is. Valen glanced at me again, this time his expression soft.

“In a sense.” He finally said. I waited to see if he was going to elaborate, but Evie and Jonah caught up to us just then and he remained silent. Later. I jumped slightly when his voice sounded in my head before nodding. This connection was going to take some getting used to.

“How am I going to get my homework?” Evie asked, sounding genuinely concerned.

“I’m not sure I understand you.” Tyson muttered; Evie rolled her eyes but didn’t comment.

“We can talk to Aunt Emmy and see if Anabelle can grab them.” Behind her, Valen and Tyson shared a look that I didn’t miss. Evie nodded, accepting. As we entered what served as the kitchen but that actually looked big enough to house an entire army on its own, I pulled Valen aside. I nodded at Jonah and Evie and after a brief pause, they followed Tyson further into the room. “What was that look about?”

Rather than try to deflect the question, Valen nodded like he’d expected it. I liked him even more. My wolf agreed. “Aunt Emmy, that’s Emily Stogen.” It wasn’t a question so I didn’t answer it. I could tell by his expression that I wasn’t going to like what came next. The sadness radiating off of his wolf confirmed that theory before he opened his mouth. “Eric went to his sister’s house before he came to yours. I only realized the connection afterward, and by that point I was so focused on keeping you alive I didn’t think about it. I’m sorry.” I swallowed, closing my eyes to keep the tears in. Valen placed his hand gently on my shoulder and I leaned into the contact.

“The k-kids.” I couldn’t keep the shaking out of my voice.

“They’re still at the police station, unharmed physically.” He was silent for a moment but I could feel his wolf’s connection. “I can have them brought here.”

“I want what’s best for them. That’s probably not with me.” As much as I loved them, I didn’t want them mixed up in any of this. I glanced at Valen but he shook his head.

“They already are. Eric won’t let them go now that they’ve seen what he truly is.” I gasped and Valen pulled me into him, wrapping his arms around me. Before the flood gates could open, he’d led me out of the kitchen and into the relative privacy of the hallway. I allowed the tears to finally fall, and Valen held me silently as I cried. When I could finally think coherently again, I lifted my gaze to meet his.

“How much did they see?” If I was going to care for them, I needed to know what they had been through.

“The oldest, Anabelle? She was in the living room with her mother when my wolves entered the house. She hasn’t said anything yet, but from what they could tell she’d come in as Eric was leaving the premises and found her mom.” I closed my eyes again, absorbing the horror of the situation. In my head, my wolf howled her pain. She’d never actually met Emily, but she could feel my connection to her. “Ellie, I’m so sorry.” Valen’s voice was gentle and I nodded, appreciative.

“Mommy?” I wiped my eyes hastily and turned to meet Jonah as he approached where we were standing, Evie close behind and Tyson, apologetic, on their heels.

“What is it, baby?” Valen’s hand was still a comforting weight on my shoulder. I didn’t want to lose that comfort but I knelt forward anyway to catch Jonah as he reached for me to pick him up. As I stood, I reached one hand behind me, grasping his briefly before wrapping both of my arms around my youngest and holding tightly for a second.

“Why are you crying, Mommy?” Jonah’s voice was gentle and there were tears in Evie’s eyes. When Evie was seven, my dad died. She and her Grampy were thick as thieves, and she’d taken the loss especially hard. Seeing her expression now brought me back to the moment when I’d had to explain that Grampy wasn’t going to be coming over any more, and I felt my heart break all over again.

“Mommy’s crying because she’s sad.” I replied gently, reaching for Evie and pulling her close. “Do you remember what I said when Grampy went to Heaven?” Evie nodded; her face scrunched from the effort of holding back her tears. Jonah shook his head but didn’t say anything, picking up on his sister’s distress.

“You said even though I couldn’t see him, all I had to do was close my eyes and I’d feel him in my heart.” She sniffled. “You said he would never really be gone as long as we remember him.” I nodded.

“That’s exactly right. No matter what, our loved ones are always with us.”

“Mommy, why are you telling us this?” Sometimes Jonah seemed a lot older than he was. I held them both tighter.

“Aunt Emmy had an accident. A few nights ago. She…. she’s with Grampy now.” Evie sobbed and flung her arms around Jonah and I. Jonah closed his eyes and held on to me tighter.

“What…. what happened?” Evie managed a few minutes later. I shook my head and held her tighter.

“Right now, that’s not important. What is important right now is that Anabelle and Tommy are going to need you two more than ever. Can you be strong for them?” Evie and Jonah nodded simultaneously. I smiled. “I knew you could. I promise both of you, right now, that I am going to do everything I can to make sure you are safe. Can you help Anabelle and Tommy realize that too?” Again they nodded. Tyson cleared his throat and I glanced up at him. He looked down without meeting my gaze and I turned my head to look at Valen.

He’s trying to show you the respect of your position in the pack. I’ll explain everything when we’re finished here. His voice was in my head again.

Ok. I thought the word without any real knowledge on whether he would hear me or not. His eyes widened slightly and he nodded.

“Mommy?” Evie’s voice sounded so small it wasn’t hard to imagine her as that same scared seven-year-old I’d talked to what felt like a lifetime ago. She glanced at Jonah and I understood immediately.

“Jonah, why don’t you go with Tyson for a second, ok?”

“Are you and Evie going to have an adult talk?” I heard Valen snort behind me and reached behind me, slapping the only part of him I could reach, which turned out to be his shin. Jonah hugged us both again before walking to Tyson. After a brief glance, Valen followed.

“Did daddy do this?” Evie asked when Valen and the others were out of ear shot. Well, out of ear shot for Jonah.

“He did.” She nodded, already knowing.

“What happened?”

“I told you three years ago that I would never lie to you and I meant it. But there are some things you don’t need the full details of ok?” Evie thought about it for a second before nodding again, accepting.

“When are we going to get Anabelle and Tommy?” She asked instead.

“Well, that’s something we’re going to have to ask Valen about.” I turned back toward the kitchen but Evie didn’t follow.

“Mom?” I turned back toward her and she smiled sheepishly. “Do you love him?” I blinked for a few seconds and Evie rushed on. “Because it’s ok. If you do I mean. If you love him. It’s ok.” She smiled more earnestly as she finished and I froze for a second.

“I…. I would really like to find out.” I admitted. Evie’s smile widened.

“I think he’s really cute.” She said, her voice conspiratorial. I laughed.

“I do too.” I agreed, in the same tone. Valen’s laughter echoed in my head and I smiled despite myself. We entered the kitchen then and I could actually see his smile. My wolf whined happily. Her connection in my head wasn’t entirely foreign any more. In fact, her presence was actually starting to feel comforting.

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