The five fiends raced through the city determinedly. Those who saw them coming quickly jumped out of the way and those who didn’t were slid under or jumped over. Cassidie was in the front with Gabriella and Mike a little behind her with Cat and Stefan a little behind them making a V shape. As they left the city and got on the path to the forest, they slowed down to talk.
“What do we do when we get into the forest?” Mike asked excitedly.
“You cats stay behind me.” Cassidie ordered. “If we’re attacked before we get to the main clearing, run away but stay together, ok?” They all nodded. “We’re going to see what they’re doing to Alex and try to break her out. If that doesn’t work, Stefan, Caitlin and I will fight off the wolves while Michael and Gabriella work on getting Alex out. Once she’s free, get out of there. If I’m caught, don’t stop. Keep going until you’re out of the forest. Clear?”
“Crystal ball!” chorused Mike, Stefan and Gabriella.
Cassidie glanced at Cat and saw the other girl staring at her hard. “Crystal ball clear, Cat?” Cassidie repeated.
“Cat we don’t have time for this!” Cassidie snarled exasperatedly.
“Cassidie!” Cat whined.
Cassidie stubbornly stopped in the middle of the path and glared at Cat. “I won’t do it.” she said. “Either you’re with us or you aren’t. I won’t care either way, but if you won’t do this for Alex, then do it for me.”
“What?” Cat asked.
“Cat, I… I can’t live without her.” The others were surprised to see tears slowly forming in Cassidie’s eyes. “She’s everything to me. I’d honestly die if she got hurt or worse. Please, just help me and I’ll help you search for your true mate.”
“How do you know you aren’t my true mate?” Cat challenged.
“Because,” Cassidie said dully, the threat of tears fading from her eyes as they turned hard again. “I feel nothing but kinship for you. You could be as much of a sister to me as you are to Stefan. Cat, I’m not yours.”
Cat stared at her blankly and Stefan waved a hand in front of her face. “I think you broke my sister.” he whispered.
After a few more seconds, Cat snapped back to attention. “Come on, people.” she said with a smile. “We have a fiend to help out. Let’s move.”
Cassidie nodded and, in another shocking display of emotion, pulled the blue-eyed vampire to her and hugged her briefly. Cat smiled softly at her and Cassidie nodded as they stalked into the forest. Cassidie and Gabriella sniffed the air for any scent on Alex and Cassidie led them off the path.
Weaving their way deeper, Cassidie heard footsteps nearby. Poking her nose through the bushes ahead, Cassidie smelled numerous wolves in the clearing. She pulled back and motioned for the others to come closer. Waving her paw, Cassidie chanted, “.”
They all began to change; Stefan, Cat and Mike grew fur and tails as their bodies hunched and their mouths moved into snouts. Cassidie’s fur began to thicken and her tail became more puppy-like as her snout began to lengthen while Gabriella’s bandages disappeared to be replaced with new fur. Soon, they all looked exactly like purebred werewolves.
“Ready?” Cassidie whispered. Her friends all nodded and they slipped through the bushes into the crowd of werewolves beyond. On a high rock that could kill you with one bad fall stood Vincent in his human form. He seemed to be addressing the crowd so, as she moved closer with her friends, Cassidie listened carefully to his speech.
“…has come my siblings. It is time to claim our place as rulers of the world. Once the chosen Keeper is defeated, no one will be able to stop us. Now, the plan is very simple. The Keeper will come to reclaim her best fiend and we will catch her in a trap. She will jump up to challenge me and I will push her to her death.” A cheer rose up and Vincent bowed his head, accepting the praise. Turning to the trees, he called, “Bring her out!”
All heads turned to the right as two larger than average wolves carried out a cage. In the cage, looking a bit beaten, was Alex. The red-pawed girl was asleep with her body curled into a tight ball and her tail wrapped around her paws. “Alex,” Cassidie breathed.
The wolves shook the cage a bit roughly and Alex’s head rose. Stretching like a cat, she yawned and cracked her neck. “Alright, I’m up. What?” she asked groggily. Many of the men and some of the women among the wolves let out wolf-whistles when they caught sight of her. Alex, true to her nature, put on a bold face and turned to Vincent.
“You!” she shouted. “Scarface, what do you want me here for?”
“You’ll find out when your precious Keeper comes to get you.” Vincent sneered.
Alex scoffed at him. “Cassi wouldn’t do that.” she told him.
Just as the words left her mouth, Alex met Cassidie’s eyes and the white wolf subtly shook her head. Alex made it look like she was searching the crowd and her gaze landed on a gray wolf with a yellow strip from his nose to his tail and black stripes around his chest.
“You, black and yellow.”
He looked around in surprise. “Me?” he asked.
“Yes, cutie, you.”
Cassidie’s blood boiled at hearing Alex address the wolf that way before realizing that she had addressed him as though she were a puffball. Glancing up, Cassidie caught the surreptitious nod Alex sent her way and pursed her lips. The large white wolf motioned for the others to follow behind her and she began stalking forward. They crept around to the other side of the rock and, while Cassidie, Stefan and Caitlin stood guard, Michael and Gabriella worked on getting Alex out of the cage.
Alex reached a paw through the bars and stroked the wolf’s ears. Cassidie watched as she licked her paw and grinned at the taste, making Cassidie growl low in her throat, but the white wolf said nothing.
“What’s your name, soldier?” Alex asked in the most seductive voice Cassidie ever heard. A slight whimper slipped through her lips, but she stopped it before it could get too far.
“Well, Marcus, when your leader finally sets me free, maybe we can-.”
Enough! Vincent roared, suddenly changing into his wolf form. Quiet down hybrid or I may have to kill you before your friend gets here.
Cassidie couldn’t take any more; she climbed stealthily up the rock and crept up easily behind Vincent. “But that would make me very sad, Vince.”
Vincent spun on his heel and snarled at her. He chuckled darkly when he saw who it was. Hello, Keeper. How are you?
Cassidie raised an eyebrow at him, glanced at Alex and looked back at Vincent. “Do you really want me to answer that, Vince?”
Vincent laughed at her. Well, how do you expect to get your little friend back?
“Maybe like this?” Cassidie ran at Vincent and sent them both soaring over the rock edge. They landed on some wolves below and the pack immediately surrounded the two. Cassidie growled and Vincent snarled in reply. Vincent flicked his tail and ordered, Kill her. Whoever delivers the killing blow gets to be co-alpha.
When he left, all of the wolves began closing in, but Cat and Stefan jumped in just in time. “Back off!” Stefan told them as Cat snapped at a nearby wolf. The wolves looked taken aback and the trio used their temporary shock to start fighting their way out.
Because they were still in wolf form, Cat and Stefan were able to fight the other wolves better. One blow from Cassidie’s massive paw sent a large wolf sprawling to the ground unconscious and none of the pack members dared to come within biting distance of any of them. As the three of them fought, they got closer and closer to the cage holding Alex. Cassidie glanced back as she accidentally snapped the neck of a small female wolf and saw Alex wasn’t in the cage.
“She’s out!” she hissed to the others. They were retreating when a booming voice from above stopped them.
All three glanced up to see Vincent holding Alex high above; one massive black paw covered her mouth while the other held her dangerously close to the edge of the rock at a bad angle.
“Alex!” Cassidie cried, approaching the rock and swiftly climbing it. She took a step toward them and Vincent pushed Alex a little further.
“Not one step or she dies.” the black wolf threatened.
“I see y-you’ve finally learned to use words rather than wolf sounds.” Cassidie said, trying to sound unfazed even though her throat was deathly dry.
“Look Keeper, I’m sick of your jokes, games and incessant mind tricks. I-.”
Alex wiggled free of his grip on her mouth and opened it wide before biting down on his paw as hard as she could. Vincent screamed in pain and shoved Alex slightly. Cassidie watched in horror as her love teetered on the edge of the rock and almost lost her footing. Using pure force of will, Alex regained her balance and crossed her arms over her chest challengingly before a bulky wolf climbed up and grabbed her.
But the damage was done; Cassidie had broken and her façade fell. “Please, I’ll do anything, just give me Alex alive and unhurt.”
“Cassi,” Alex breathed. “Are… are you… begging?”
Tears slipped down the white wolf’s cheeks despite her dull expression. “Yeah, I… I guess I am.”
“But… but you never beg. In all the time I’ve known you—and that is a long time—you’ve never begged. You were always too stubborn!”
“Yeah, well, you’re my best fiend, Alex. Actually, you’re not my fiend, you’re my friend. You mean a lot more to me than you could ever imagine; you’ve been there for me through everything. I can’t lose you Allie; not now and probably not ever.” Turning back to Vincent, Cassidie repeated, “I’ll do anything to get her back alive and unharmed. What do you want?”
“The book, Cassidie.” Vincent replied calmly. “We want the book.”
Cassidie snorted. “There is no way-.” Vincent cleared his throat and Alex was held dangerously close to the edge again. Cassidie shut her snout and glanced at Alex. Is Alex worth the fate of the world? Cassidie stared hard at her long-time love and nodded. Did I really need to ask that question? Of course she is!
Cassidie sighed and raised her hand. The book appeared in her hand and she caressed it lovingly. She lifted her eyes to Vincent and growled, “If I give it to you, do we have your word that we can leave without being challenged?”
“Of course, Keeper, I’m a reasonable wolf.”
Cassidie nodded and sighed again. “Forgive me, Kadmina.” She murmured.
The ghost of her ancestor appeared before her and even Vincent took a slight step back. Kadmina looked to Cassidie pleadingly. “Don’t give it to them, my daughter.”
Cassidie turned to her ancestor. “You said you would do the same for your mate.” she said.
“Yes, but I said my mate, not my best fiend!”
“Just because she’s not my mate means I can’t save her?”
“Look, do I get the book or not?” Vincent demanded impatiently. Both the ghost and the Keeper turned to him and growled and he held up his paws.
“That wasn’t what I meant!” Kadmina continued.
“Then what did you mean because I’m panicking and I don’t want to lose the closest person I have to… everything.”
“Well, why don’t you decide it then?” Kadmina demanded heatedly.
“That’s what I was saying before you interrupted me.”
“Fine, I’ll leave you to it and come back once you’re free.” Cassidie held back a snarl of exasperation. She turned wary eyes to Vincent and slowly held out the book. “No!” five voices screamed, but it was too late.
Vincent snatched the book and held it high in the air as all of the wolves below cheered. Vincent turned to Cassidie and put a paw to her chest, slowly pushing her toward the edge of the rock.
“You gave me your word!” Cassidie shouted, trying to resist his strength.
“I lied.” Vincent said simply. “You must die, but your friends will be subjects in my new empire. Goodbye Cassidie.”
In a burst of panic, Cassidie lunged forward and sank her teeth into Vincent’s throat so she wouldn’t be the only one to die. Vincent screamed as Cassidie clung to him and tried shaking her off. With as much strength as he could muster, Vincent shoved Cassidie away and the white wolf stumbled over the edge. Terror made Cassidie’s thinking process speed up and a spell came to her head. Quietly whispering it, she prayed it would work and finished it just before she hit the ground.