“We’ll come back soon” he says when we reach the trolley. I’m trying not to look so sad and disappointed but I know he can sense it.
“I look forward to it,” I say with a small smile, “I love you, Phoenix .”
“I love you, too, Ellie.”
Our bliss is cut short as soon as we arrive back at the house. As we climb the steps we see Mercer sitting at the top with his head in his hands. He looks up as we approach, he looks crestfallen.
“What’s going on?”
He stands and lets out a deep sigh, without saying a word he holds out a paper to Phoenix . He hesitates for a minute, his trepidations obvious, he knows that whatever’s on the paper is not good news.
He takes the paper and without looking at it passes Mercer, opening the door. He holds it as we enter.
Mercer and I sit on the sofa as Phoenix paces the room, reading the document. Occasionally he stops to let out an expletive under his breath. Finally, he stills, looking up at us, he just shakes his head. He looks at a loss for words. He sits in the seat across from me and holds the page out to me. I set it down on the seat next to me, not ready to read it.
“They are imposing a new tax on wolves,” he laughs humorlessly. “It’s a tax on the equipment and research for collars. Can you imagine? How absolutely fucking absurd!? We’re going to tax wolves to pay for their collars.” He runs his hands through his hair.
I snatch the paper up quickly and read it, shocked by the contents.
“Phoenix , there is absolutely no way wolves can afford this. They don’t make enough to pay for this for each wolf. If they don’t pay they get arrested? What are we going to do? Most wolves that get arrested never come home, they are usually killed during “disciplinary action” for their bad behavior while locked up. Is this..” I say waving the paper around, “an idea or is this official?”
“Official,” they both answer quietly.
A frantic knock on the door draws our attention.
“It’s me,” we recognize the voice yelling from outside, “let me in!”
Rushing to the door, Phoenix pulls it open to reveal a panic-stricken Sloane. She rushes inside, waving a paper in the air.
“Have you guys seen this? What are we going to do? We have to stop this! They only have one week to make the money! They can’t afford this.”
“We’ve seen it,” Phoenix tells her, gesturing to a chair for her to sit.
“Sloane?” I get her attention “umm.. don’t take this the wrong way but...why are you so upset by this? I mean, it’s horrible and we have to stop it somehow but why does this have you so frantic?”
She freezes. I don’t miss the small hint of a smile that quickly passes over Mercer’s lips.
“I just... I just fucking care. Ok?” She spits before quickly leaving, slamming the door behind her.
“I-I didn’t mean to upset her. She just seems overly invested in this particular situation. She’s normally so calm.”
“You stepped on something there, baby. Don’t worry, she’ll get over it.” He pulls me into a hug.
“I have an idea!” Mercer jumps up suddenly, “let me go get her!”
He bolts out the door, only to return a few minutes later with an upset looking Sloane.
“I’m sorry, Sloane,” I whisper quietly when she sits next to me.
“I’ll tell you eventually. I’m sorry I freaked out on you.” She says grabbing my hand.
“We aren’t going to fight the King’s refusal to step down.” Mercer blurts out.
“Like hell!” Sloane yells, rising to her feet.
“Whoa, whoa, relax! Just listen. We aren’t going to fight him yet. We’ll be calm and quiet about everything. We won’t fight it, or the new tax law. Let’s just play this really close to the vest. Once we remove some collars and meet with the Alphas, we can fight it all at once.”
“Throw him out and end everything for good.” Phoenix smiles.
“Exactly. We will have to remove him from the throne by force. Unfortunately we will probably have to end the current hierarchy by force also. Hopefully, most vampires will be on our side but we will definitely have to...extinguish some. We might as well do it all at once. No reason to fight two battles.”
“I’m in,” Sloane nods “but we have to hurry. When are you removing the first collar?”
“Soon. I have one piece left to figure out.”
A silence falls over the room as we all let the plan sink in.