The next morning, I woke up with a stiff neck and pain shooting up my back. I groaned, and set up, pushing a foot out of my face and recognizing it was Svea’s. She didn’t complain about the movement and simply rolled herself into a ball, sleeping tightly.
Gunnar sat at the other end of the sofa, his head hanging back and mouth wide open. I was pretty sure he would have a hell of neck pain, too, when he woke up.
I stretched to ease the pain when I saw Tyra standing in the doorway with a huge smile spread over her face. “Good Morning!”
She wiggled her eyebrows at me, and I let out a puff of air, feeling my face turning red. “Don’t start.”
Tyra giggled and turned on her heels, back to the kitchen. It’s when I smelled bacon in the air and freshly brewed coffee. Not that I was a big coffee fan, but the smell woke me up, anyway.
I stood up, causing Gunnar to wake up, too. His head snapped up, followed by a strangled sound. “Man, I’m getting too old for this.”
I laughed. “You almost act like you are already in your seventies.”
His eyes sparkled, as he leaned forward and grabbed my wrist, pulling me towards him. “I’m not yet, but I hope when I am, you are still with me, too.”
I stared into his green eyes, my heart racing. I remembered his declaration of love from yesterday and felt the tips of my ears burning now. “I didn’t expect you to be this romantic.”
“You call this romantic? Then wait for what I would do for you if you finally went on a first date with me,” he said, snuggling in the crook of my neck and kissing the skin there softly.
I would lie if I said I wouldn’t want to know what he would do, but we had serious matters on hand that required our attention more than this. As much as I would like to give in.
I moved out of his arms and cleared my throat. “Let’s speak to Tyra and eat breakfast. She is probably waiting with her ear pressed against the wall, wanting to find out if we are daring to do something naughty.”
He laughed. “With Svea here? I would never.”
I glanced at the sleeping roll of a human and smiled. “She has the talent to sleep deeply if she wants to.”
We let her be and joined Tyra in the kitchen. She was already sitting at the dining table, sipping on a cup of coffee.
“I also brewed you a tea,” she said when I sat down. “I brought new tea from Joseline. She wanted you to try a new mix.”
I poured myself a cup, a pleasant scent of herbs, and a hint of fruit hitting my nose. “That smells amazing.”
Tyra smiled. “Joseline said she created it with you in mind. I suppose she already hit the right notes.”
“It tastes great, even better than the other tea she gave me,” I said, sipping the tea carefully, not wanting to burn my tongue.
We sat together in comfortable silence for a few minutes, when the kids rushed down the stairs and burst into the kitchen.
“Good morning, you two. Did you sleep well?” Tyra asked, pressing a kiss on each of her children’s foreheads. They nodded and slid onto the empty chairs, piling food onto their plates.
“Sometimes I feel like they don’t even miss me anymore,” she muttered with a smile on her face. “They grow up so quickly.”
“Mum, please, you were only gone for one night,” Freyr said, rolling his eyes.
I laughed and filled my plate as well. My stomach growled, and I felt like I hadn’t eaten in several days.
After we all finished our breakfast, the twins retreated into the living room to wake up Svea and bring her something to eat.
“So, what did I miss?” Tyra asked.
I sighed. “George was here.”
Her eyes widened. “How did he find you? I thought you didn’t plan on telling him where you lived.”
“That was the plan, but he stood in front of my door yesterday, anyway.”
“What did he want?”
“He claimed he wanted to start over as friends, but in reality, he just wanted to sneak back into my life, hoping we would get together again. The entire encounter didn’t end so pretty.”
She raised a brow. “Did you kick him out?”
I glanced at Gunnar, who slyly smirked at me. “Not exactly. Your brother punched him in the face, and he then left the house as if it was on fire.”
She looked at Gunnar. “You punched a human? How did it come to that?”
“In my defense, I’m sure you would have reacted similarly. He accused her of having an affair with me and that his parents were right about her being a whore. How was I supposed to just listen to that sort of crap?”
Tyra nodded. “Understandable. I hope you at least broke his nose.”
“Tyra!” I exclaimed, not believing my ears. “He is still a human. Imagine Gunnar would have snapped his head off by accident.”
She laughed. “Oh, please. Humans are a lot more robust than you think. It’s ironic how you always think of them as weak when you were the one living with them all these years. Did you not realize that they are not that fragile?”
I shrugged. “Maybe I always misunderstood them.”
“Anyway, he left, but something else happened before that, right, Mia?” Gunnar said, a frown on his face.
“Well, the Vindictoria pack killed my neighbor,” I said, remembering the lifeless body of the old lady lying on the cold forest floor, with her empty eyes staring into the sky. I wonder if anyone already missed her, or if no one is left to miss her.
“What? Why? Is the body taken care of already?”
I shook my head. “I don’t think so. But I couldn’t do anything about it, because the wolves returned to the body a few moments after I found it. They attacked me, and I was lucky to make it out alive. Their group is getting larger, and I’m certain it’s only a matter of time before they will start an attack. They aren’t even stopping from hurting innocent humans, so they are very dangerous.”
“They might have a longer route to travel, but they had plenty of time to bring them here. Mia said she couldn’t spot any hiding place close by or around the ruins, so I assume they might hide as far away as possible to be close enough to keep an eye on her, but far enough to not get spotted. The territory can’t be patrolled completely either. They have plenty of space to hide.”
Tyra nodded. “And the longer we wait, the more they will have at hand then.”
“We need to mobilize the pack now and bring people here. If we wait any longer, they might overwhelm us with sheer manpower. We might have a large pack, but what makes us the strongest are our allies, and I can’t bring them into this without speaking to them properly, and not from one day to another. It takes too much time. Besides, their way here would be even longer. For now, we should try to get as many people as possible from our pack only. At least Cedric and Joseline need to be here, in case something goes wrong.”
An uneasy feeling settled in my stomach, thinking about all the people who had to face danger because of me. It reminds me of what Bertram said about me bringing them misery. I didn’t want to prove him right. “But please only bring people who are willing to join. I know you want to protect me, but don’t force anyone.”
Gunnar took my hand and smiled. “Don’t worry, my pack is loyal to me. When they see how serious this is, they won’t hesitate to join. I know you are worried about them but don’t. My people are amazing fighters, and we will need any single one of them.”
“Even Bertram?” I asked, not being able to stop myself.
He caressed my cheek. “Even Bertram. You would be surprised how much he has changed over the past weeks, even asking how you are sometimes. Maybe he finally realized that you aren’t the person who will destroy our pack.”
I tried to find the lie in his eyes, but there was only honesty there. Bertram asking about me? I still highly doubt it, and it sounded fishy. Maybe he was the one contacting the Vindictoria pack in the first place and giving them my address. I bit my lip. Would he really do that, though? His brother was in touch with them, but he seemed to want Gunnar’s recognition. He would lose all respect if he did that.
“Don’t worry, things will be fine. Tyra and I will head back home and bring the pack with us as fast as we can. We also bring the children home. I don’t want them to be here if things turn serious.”
“We can let them stay at Jelto’s parents. I’m sure they would love to take care of them for a while. They used to do that in the past all the time,” Tyra said.
Gunnar nodded. “I will call them on the way home. And you, Mia, you stay inside. And I really mean inside this time. No strolls around the neighborhood, not even going into the garden. You keep the door and windows closed and wait until we are back. Please.”
Part of me wanted to rebel against his order, but I knew it wasn’t meant to be an order. It was a request coming from the depths of his heart. And I knew he was right. “I will stay inside.”
He let out a puff of air. “I hope you really will this time. Don’t get me wrong, but you do have a track record of not listening to my advice.”
I laughed. “I promise to stay here until you guys return.”
“We will also try to get Jelto to come. We need any person we can get,” Tyra said and stood up, cleaning the table.
I stood up, helping her. “The last time I heard from him was a few days ago. He is very busy taking courses and stuff, but I’m sure he can skip those.”
“He better will. There are more important things at hand than a few courses,” Tyra said, putting the last plate into the dishwasher. “I will get the children, and then we should be on our way.”
She left the kitchen with quick steps, and I sighed, feeling uncertain. It almost felt as if a rock sat on my chest, stopping me from breathing properly. Gunnar pulled me into his arms, and I leaned my head on his chest, hearing his heart racing. “Don’t worry, we will come back as fast as we can, and then we will end this.”
I nodded, but I couldn’t quite believe in it yet. What if they get hurt? What if he died? I grabbed his shirt and held onto him, scared to lose someone again. “Please be careful.”
He chuckled. “I’m not the one you should be worried about, my love. I wish we didn’t have to leave you here alone, but I also worry if we take you with us, they will try something funny with the ruins.”
“I can’t leave my territory unattended. What kind of alpha would I be if I left it?”
“I know. But please try to be careful and call us the moment you find out something new. If things go well, we should be back within a few hours.”
He pressed me closer to him and I enjoyed his warmth and strength for a bit, remembering how it felt, so I could think about it while he wasn’t here.
“I hate to leave you.”
I stepped back and got up on tiptoes to kiss him. He lifted me and placed me on the kitchen counter, deepening the kiss. I grabbed his shirt, pulling him as close as I could, not wanting him to leave, but I knew we didn’t have time for this right now.
I pulled away and drew my thumb over his swollen bottom lip. “When this is all over, I hope we can continue this.”
He smirked, catching my finger and nibbling the tip of it. “I can’t wait.”
Tyra cleared her throat next to us, and I sighed, pushing him away and hopping off the counter. “Ready to leave?”
She raised a brow. “Well, yes, if you two are done making out.”
I pulled her into a hug, holding her close. She wrapped her arms around me. “Stay safe while we are gone.”
I nodded. “Bring the children to safety. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if they got hurt here.”
She stepped back and smiled. “Nothing will happen to them, or anyone.”
The twins stepped into the kitchen, Svea trotting after her in her wolf form. She looked at me with a sad expression, and I picked her up. “Don’t be sad about being stuck again. You will get the hang of it soon enough.”
She licked my face and barked once. I pressed my face into her fur, almost breaking out in tears. I didn’t want them to leave, and I was afraid to be alone, but I knew it was for the best.
I sat her back on the floor and pulled the twins into my arms. “Get back home safely.”
“Are you okay?” Freya asked. Her lips were pursed, and her eyes almost seemed like she knew more than I thought she did.
I smiled. “Yes, I’m okay. But this place is not safe for you right now, and I rather want to take care of the problem before I invite you back. I hope you can understand.”
“But will you be okay here?” Freyr asked.
My heart clenched looking at them, not believing that they could be so concerned about me. I patted his head. “Yes, I will be okay. Now up you go.”
They collected their things, and I watched them depart, my heart feeling heavy. Gunnar was the last one to leave, his eyes watery. “I don’t want to leave. Maybe Tyra can take care of the pack and collect people to come here.”
I smiled and shook my head. “Gunnar, you have to go there yourself. You are their alpha, and they need your guidance. I will be fine, I promise.”
He pulled me into one last hug, my throat closing up as I tried to hold back the tears. I didn’t want to cry before he didn’t leave, not wanting him to feel even worse. He pressed a soft kiss on the crown of my head and sighed. “I will be back soon. Be careful.”
I nodded and watched him leave the house, closing the door behind him. When I heard the car starting and slowly disappearing, the first tears spilled over. This house felt too empty and too large, and the worry of them not coming back almost ate me alive.
I hoped everyone would stay safe because I knew I was already way too deep to handle them being gone, and I would never forgive myself if anyone got hurt because of me.
Curse this Vindictoria pack. They brought so much misery over so many people. Hopefully, this will be their downfall.