“Hold up! I smell something!”
Blake Patterson closed his eyes, using all his senses to try to track down the smell.
Blood, coppery and strong, rankled at his wolf and he forced the beast back down. Whatever it was, it was surely dead by the overpowering smell emanating from it.
And there was a smell beneath it. A more feminine spice. It didn’t smell rogue, but it was definitely a foreign wolf. Maybe of a neighboring pack.
Whoever it was, they were on death’s door.
Not bothering to shift since the smell of blood was so strong, Blake moved southwest toward the highway. Not a lot of visitors took this particular highway this far north in New York State unless they were heading to Canada, so the possibilities of them running into anyone they didn’t already know, was small.
Blake had to go much farther than he thought and was almost right up against the road when he saw a small movement in the leaves at the edge of the small ravine next to the road. If he had blinked, he would have missed it completely.
“Trace! Caleb!” Blake called out to the Delta and Gamma who were hovering back several hundred yards. Back up. If there was an injured she-wolf, who knew what had caused her affliction. They were being safe and protecting their Beta.
“Blake?” It was Caleb. “What did you find?”
“Look,” Blake told him pointing to the small body of a female. Beaten, battered, her face more purple than pink skin.
Sniffing, Caleb’s nose crinkled at the metallic smell.
“Her heartbeat is faint,” Trace stated as he came up from behind them. The two other men jumped at his startling voice. Trace had a basso-profundo voice that went well with his thick body, but it still startled them to hear him speak.
“What do we do?” Blake asked, almost to himself.
“She’s as good as dead,” Trace stated. “Just leave her here.”
That didn’t sit well with Blake and he frowned. “I wonder if she was the one that set off the alarm at the border.”
“I doubt she got here by herself in this state,” Caleb said, looking at the deep gashes from afar. “Someone must have dropped her off here after beating her bloody.”
“I wonder what she did,” Blake surmised. “She’s too small and she’s incredibly slender.” She looked too young and too frail to have been the cause of much trouble. Who would do this to such a petite female?
The small woman’s ribs stuck out through the tattered remnants of her shirt, certainly made by the claw marks of another wolf. Maybe a rogue.
The three men looked at the girl when her eyes slowly opened and looked up at them. They were a startling blue, giving her an innocent look and Blake knew he couldn’t just leave her there. Even if she was near death, something in him made him believe she deserved a chance at life.
“We can’t leave her here,” Blake stated, his voice low but certain. “I don’t believe such a frail creature could have done anything to deserve such a death as this.”
“Then you get to deal with Liam,” Trace told him. He washed his hands of this stray wolf. He knew Liam hated to deal with foreign wolves, especially females.
“I’ll handle Liam,” Blake told him as he made his way down the small gulley next to the highway. “He’s not as bad as you guys think.”
“Says you,” Caleb bit out. He had been punished only a week before for fraternizing with a rogue that had fled a neighboring pack. The rogue had claimed he was seeking refuge from a cruel Alpha to the south of them. He had been tossed away like a rotten banana to the east. Let him seek refuge there, said the Alpha.
“The Alpha has no female,” Blake reminded the Gamma wolf. “He is bound to get... irritable.”
“Then he should seek sexual release with one of the other willing females,” Caleb spat back at him. “It’s not like there aren’t any willing, unmated females to be had at Plumbrook.”
“It’s not his way,” Blake told him. “If he is to take a female, it is for life. You know Liam so don’t be a fool.”
The small female groaned as Blake tried to lift her from the ground. The large man cringed, knowing his actions were probably hurting the innocent-looking creature.
When Caleb and Trace protested, Blake cut them with a look.
“Get the car, you ingrates,” he told them and ignored their looks of consternation.
Female stray found in the woods, Alpha, he mind-linked to Liam.
Leave it be, Liam instructed, a growl in his voice.
She’s near death and... so tiny, Blake told him, his voice conciliatory.
Blake could almost hear the man sigh in his head. Blake and Liam had been best friends since they were pups and if anyone could get through to the ornery Alpha, it was Blake.
Fine, Liam told him, his voice resigned. Bring her to the infirmary. We will have Evelyn see to her and then we’ll send her on her way.
Blake, having been satisfied that the young female was going to be taken care, of waited for Caleb to bring the car around so they could get the unknown female the help she so desperately needed.
Evelyn D’Amato frowned at the unconscious female in the white hospital bed. The Alpha was standing next to her and listening to everything the doctor had said.
“These,” the doctor told Liam, gesturing to the deep gashes on the female’s stomach. “Are all claw marks.”
“That I could have guessed,” Liam told her, arching a brow. “She was obviously attacked by another wolf. This is not news. Why did you bring me here to show me what I could have guessed?”
Evelyn looked at her Alpha and blinked.
“The marks on her back are not claw marks,” the doctor told him. “They are whip marks.”
That, however, surprised Liam.
“Yes, Alpha,” Evelyn told him, nodding. “She has been whipped and beaten with something heavy. More than once. She had scars under the gashes on her back. I am surprised at all that she lives. She lost a goodish amount of blood.”
Liam’s jaw ticked, his eyes growing dark.
“She does not smell rogue,” Liam stated. In fact, after she had been cleaned of the blood and dirt, she had a pleasant, flowery smell. Jasmine and freesia.
“I don’t think she is rogue,” Evelyn told him. “We would smell it.”
The woman hesitated and looked away from the Alpha. His brows arched, wondering what she was keeping from him.
“What is it?” Beaten and battered, what else could possibly be wrong with the slight female before him?
“I... when I had the nurses wash her, they told me something disturbing,” Evelyn told him slowly. “After doing a more thorough check, I found that she was not only beaten but... abused.”
Liam’s jaw ticked again, a sure sign his wolf was becoming agitated within him.
“You mean... raped?” he asked looking down at the fluttering of the unconscious female’s eyelids. He hoped she was having a good dream, whatever it was.
“Several times over,” Evelyn told him, nodding her head. “And quite recently. She had tearing of the vaginal walls and was swollen. I don’t think she was raped just by a man, but by some other, foreign object.”
Liam felt disgusted. The poor woman before him was as frail as Blake had described and though he was no fan of strays, he felt bad for the one before him. Horrible, in fact. He wanted to break something, tear someone’s flesh to be rid of the cold feeling he had roiling in his gut.
Instead of spilling the contents of his stomach into the nearest toilet, he simply nodded at the doctor before heading toward the door of the private room in the ICU wing of the pack hospital.
“Thank you, Doctor,” he told her as his hands met with the cold surface of the doorknob. “Call me when she wakes. I have questions for her.”
Liam shifted into the black beast that was tearing his insides trying to get out. He may not have been a fan of visitors, but it was not as if this one had come to his land on her own volition. The doctor had been certain. She had been dropped there, probably tossed from a vehicle. Left to die next to the road that led to the Plumbrook Pack in northern New York State.
Liam’s beast was finally sated. He had ripped apart several rabbits, a deer and- surprisingly- a mountain lion. That last was a shock. They were rare even in the area near the Adirondacks.
Slipping on some clothes he had hidden in a tree near his home, he walked in through the back door to find Blake sitting at his kitchen table, eating a sandwich.
“That better not be the last of the roast beef,” Liam warned him as he opened the fridge to grab a bottled water.
“I’ll get you more,” Blake told him, his face blank.
“What’s up your ass?” Liam asked him.
“The... female,” Blake told him.
“You have a mate, Blake,” Liam reminded him and arching a brow.
“It’s not that,” Blake said, shaking his head. “I went by the infirmary before to check on her. She was being sedated.”
Liam stopped and looked over at his Beta. The water from the bottle spilled a few drops on his shoe as his brows furrowed above his eyes.
“Nightmare, night terror,” Blake stated. “Whatever you want to call it. She was... thrashing like she was being attacked.”
“Did she... say anything?”
“She could only scream,” Blake told him. “If there were words in there, they were unintelligible. I made Dr. D’Amato tell me... everything.”
Liam nodded. He understood now why Blake was being so... odd. Rape was an offense in Plumbrook Pack that was punishable by death. Torture and then death if the female was mated and taken against her will. It was one of the gravest offenses one could commit.
“At least she’s not pregnant,” Blake stated. “Evelyn got the blood tests back before I came over.”
“That’s a good thing,” Liam stated and resumed draining the bottle.
“No one needs a daily reminder of their repeated rape,” Blake agreed, nodding at him.
“When will she be awake?”
“Who knows?” Blake shrugged. “With the amount of sedative they had to give her, it could be hours- maybe a day- before she does.”
Liam’s eyes widened a bit.
“That bad, huh?”
Blake shuddered a bit. “I can still hear her screams. They were... terrifying. Like she was being fucking murdered.”
Liam nodded. He had his own demons and nightmares. But that was then. Years ago... too many. And yet the memories, the dreams- they were so fresh.
Guilt. It ate away at him every day. If only he had known what would happen, had been able to see the trouble brewing. Maybe... just, maybe...
“I’m heading to bed,” Liam told his friend and Beta. “I’ll keep you posted if I hear anything from Dr. D’Amato.”
Blake merely nodded and finished up the last bites of his sandwiches as he stared blankly out the window.
Wondering. He wondered where the female had come from and thought back to Caleb’s rogue wolf. Had that wolf come from the same pack this female had? It would only make sense.
After washing his lone dish and a couple of utensils he had used to make his food, he placed them in the dish drainer and left out the front of door the Alpha’s home.
Instead of heading off toward his own home to see his mate, Colleen, he headed off toward the trees in search of solitude.