Kona stood on the edge of the cliff, a place she left him. Her fingertips touched the indent of his fist in the rock. The dried blood he left behind. She looked down at the raging waters below and her heart began to pound in her chest. There was no sign of him anywhere. No mental check-ins. It was blank and panic was a hard thing to stall.
Leylanni was at her side, touching the ground, finding tracks, fingering the dirt. She took a deep breath in, a smile attempting to break on her lips but she swallowed it, and rose back up, stepping into Kona’s space. “Alpha Kona.” She whispered as she moved near. “I smell Beta Alec.”
“Alec?” Kona murmured.
“I saw him up here earlier. He was acting strange.”
Her brows knit in confusion. What could Leylanni mean? What insinuations was she trying to bring to light? Could Kona face them? She turned to Alec as he ordered another search party to check the river. Could he have done something? Would he have? He was always teasing Tally. He was always putting him down, making him remember what he was. He treated Tally like a bully. But would Alec harm him?
The man approached. “We have everyone searching, Kona. We’ll find him.”
“Were you up here?”
There was a pause. The pause meant everything. Blood began to fill her ears.
“Yes, I was. I smelt blood.”
“You smelt blood. You didn’t think that was important to say earlier?”
“I didn’t think it meant anything. As you can see, Tally punched the rock.”
“Was the blood fresh?”
Alec paused again and again, Kona felt her insides catch fire. “Yes.”
How much time had they wasted? Alec had failed to report an important piece of information. Why would he do that? Unless there was a reason to keep it secret.
Kona took an unconscious step forward. “Did you do something to him?”
“Did you harm him?”
“Kona, of course not.”
“What were you doing up here?”
“I told you I smelt blood.”
Leylanni leaned in, “There was someone else here, Alpha.”
“Who was up here with you?”
He clenched his teeth, swallowing, curling his fists. “I would never hurt Tally, he’s family--”
“You were terrible to him. You hated him.”
“Not enough to kill him!”
Leylanni interrupted, “You were jealous of him.”
“You knew Alpha Kona was in love with him. He was going to take your place.”
“Kona, you can’t--”
“Who was up here with you?”
The third time he hesitated and Kona couldn’t stop herself. She grabbed him by the neck and slammed him on the floor.
“Kona!” Mason screamed from afar.
She backed up, huffing, gripping her hair as Alec rolled to his side, coughing and choking. “What did you do?” She screamed.
Alec spit blood on the floor, “Nothing.”
Mason ran to them, falling to his knees beside Alec, yelling at Kona, “What are you doing?”
“Leylanni saw you with someone. Who was it, Alec?”
Mason looked down at him. Alec refused to look up, refused to acknowledge him. His brows knit, his hand drifting as he leaned back on his heels.
“I would never hurt Tally.”
Kona was no longer so sure. She folded her arms to keep from attacking. She needed to be calm but how? What if Tally was gone? “You hit him just the other day. You left scars on his face.”
Alec remained on his knees in a vain effort to submit to his Alpha, to gain her mercy and not her wrath. “That’s different. That was discipline.”
Leylanni added, “Perhaps it went too far this time.”
Alec flicked his bitter eyes up at the woman “I didn’t hurt Tally.” He repeated with grit teeth.
“Then who were you with!” Kona screamed, nearly attacking again but Mason shifted in front of him and she stepped back. He spoke in Alec’s stead, “I was up here with him. He told me he smelt blood so we came up here to check it out. That’s it.”
Leylanni rolled her eyes, “Why were you hiding?”
“I was peeing off the cliff if you must know.”
She looked at Kona, “It doesn’t sound right, Alpha Kona.”
Kona flicked her eyes between them. No it didn’t sound right and later when Tally was found, she’ll bring the subject up but her brother’s testimony was enough. He wouldn’t lie if Tally was in danger. Mason and him were best friends.
“Return to your duties.” Kona turned her back, staring once more at the water beneath.
What if their last conversation was the reason for his absence? What if he left her, to help her? What if he really thought of her as a monster and couldn’t stay?
She shook her head. None of these were believable. He would have never left her willingly. She knew him. She knew him better than she knew herself. Something happened.
She looked down over the water. There were groups searching, sniffing the edge of the water, others going through the trees in a line, scouring the ground for any sign.
It became clear in this instance that she knew none of them. She didn’t know what they were like. They were strangers. Anyone of them could have hurt him.
But Tally wasn’t one to be taken off guard. He was trained from the time he was a child and was constantly on the lookout for betrayal. Whoever hurt him, would have been close to him. Or have some level of trust.
That made her list small.
Alec and Mason were already checked off.
Leylanni and Ciara were next in line.
She looked at Leylanni. The woman was a fierce warrior right at her side. There was no doubt in her. She wouldn’t have taken Tally from her.
And that left one.
“Get me Ciara.”