I was running. The wind whipped through my fur, my eyes focused on paths, and my mind focused on one thing and one thing only - escape. There was no time to think about what I could’ve done differently - no time to think about my rationale. Escape. That was my priority and there was more on the line than just my life, Celia’s frozen grip on my back was proof of that - the fact that I even made it out of estate was even more proof. I only had to rely on one more person to get out - Bo.
How much further? I asked Celia. When I didn’t get a response, I stopped in my tracks. My paws dug into the soft dirt beneath them and I took a moment to catch my breath. If I could’ve looked at Celia, I would’ve. But since she was on my back, I merely called even louder.
Celia. Her hands loosened their grip around me for a brief moment.
Yeah? She answered timidly. Why are we stopping? I shook my head. We couldn’t waste time, so I sniffed the air around me instead.
At first, it was hard for me to get passed the strong rusty-iron clad smell that had wrapped around the entire upper half of my body - but then it became easier. The smell of pine separated from that of the other trees, the dirt, the subtle traces of bloodhound scents… and then there it was - a familiar scent of his - the smell of coffee from the brews he made daily for both my mother and myself. I felt a pang in my heart. Don’t think. I reminded myself. Just move.
So I did.
Bo had been waiting for us at what looked like an unguarded gateway. Though, judging by the bodies that peeked out from the small guard houses on either side of the gate - it had definitely been guarded before he got there. Bo bowed his head as soon as he saw us and I lowered my legs down, allowing Celia to climb off of me.
Whose car? I asked, looking over at the black SUV that had been parked at the gate.
Your mother’s. He replied, before offering a kind smile.
“I have water and a few towels prepared inside, we should get moving,” he said aloud, I noted the look he gave me, probably examining the blood that had begun to cling to my body. His gaze didn’t last too long though as he turned on his heel and opened up the trunk. Bo had moved around the seats, giving me ample room to sit, and I watched as Celia unloaded some clothes from her bag and rested them in the car.
“I’ll leave the bloodvacs there too, take three, just for stability - I know you just... you know, but this will do more to satiate you,” she said and I could tell she was still shaken by what had happened earlier. I gave her a light bark before I placed my front paws onto the car and hopped in.
Once the drive began, I clung onto the flooring as my body began to shift back into its human form. The pain was barely there now - probably because I had fed - though my body felt sore, it was nothing compared to the first time. Bones clicked and re-shaped, my fur receded, and though I let out a whimper and a yelp here and there, I soon found myself looking at my hands, my fingers covered in dirt and my mouth and chest damp and crusty from dried blood. I grabbed a towel from one of the chairs, sighing in relief at its warmth as I wiped myself down. I pressed it against my face and then my mouth. I remembered the feeling of flesh in my mouth, the strength that it took to bite down, my fangs that had dug in… Forget it. Not now. I continued to wipe myself down, I remembered the smell of iron, the tangy taste of it, the feeling of it dripping down…
“Are you okay?” Celia asked, bringing me out of my thoughts.
“I’m fine,” I replied quickly as I proceeded to clean up. I knew she was genuinely concerned but also relieved that I, at least, looked human now. “Do you have a towel up front?”
“Yes, I’ve already cleaned up,” she responded as I took her bag and pulled on the clothes she’d prepared for me. Now clean and dressed, I took out three bloodvacs and, without hesitation, pressed one after the other into the crease of my elbow on the left arm. Relief and calm washed over me, the adrenaline wore off, and rationale kicked in.
“Where will we be heading?” I asked.
“Miss Aurelia told me to take you to a safehouse of a friend’s. From there, I suppose Miss Celia will be able to contact her mate.”
“Her mate?” I raised an eyebrow and I noticed Celia shudder.
“Ignus,” she said simply and I lurched forward and looked at her face.
“Ignus is your mate?” I asked and she nodded stiffly. It was only then that I noticed the mark that rested just behind the folds of her shirt. Celia seemed to notice my gaze, since she began to fiddle with it, raising the collar up a little higher.
“That idiot was mated to you?” I asked, trying to lighten up the situation. Celia nodded and offered me a small smile before she took it back and assumed a more serious expression.
“My brother should be heading back any time soon,” she said, glancing at the watch on her left wrist. “How are we-”
“You needn’t worry about that Miss Celia, we’re about to take a detour,” Bo said before he turned the car towards a dirt path. “These paths were used by Miss Aurelia quite often in the past.” I folded my lips into a thin line.
“Will she be alright?” I asked.
I was met with silence.
“She will do her best to survive and that is the most that we can hope for. Having met her, the two of you have made a connection between blood - you will know how well or how worse she is doing of your own intuition,” Bo responded and I simply nodded.
“What about our tracks?” Celia asked, looking over at the rearview mirror.
“These paths are still used often by other hounds - mainly for supplies. There are four cars scheduled to leave today - as Miss Aurelia’s private vehicle, this car will be noted missing later, giving us about an hour more for our escape,” Bo said, just as he began to speed up.
“So everything was planned out?” Celia asked.
“Miss Aurelia has had plenty of time to plan,” Bo said with a smile. With that, I turned back and took a seat, fastening my seatbelt as the terrain turned a little rougher.
I stared out the window, the trees whipped past behind us, the occasional shudder of the car made me jump in my seat - and I suddenly remembered my first day with Lucien. The way I grabbed onto his wolf as he ran forward weaving through the trees and bushes. I placed my hand on my chest. I knew that I’d meet with him soon enough. I just had to be patient.
It took us about an hour and a half before we finally pulled into a city - the bright streetlights and tall buildings were no better signifier of that. We were in Oregon, surprisingly enough. Bo pulled up to a tall building and presented a card to the guards on watch, he then drove down into the basement parking area.
“Has Ignus said anything?” I asked Celia and she shook her head.
“I’ll provide him with more information once we get inside to the safehouse,” she responded. Bo unloaded some things of his own before leading us in.
“So who exactly does the safehouse belong to?” I asked as we got onto the elevator.
“You’ll see,” Bo replied, making me raise my eyebrows but choose to say nothing. It was only in the elevator that I was able to catch sight of my reflection. I didn’t look particularly unhealthy, which was to my surprise. Celia seemed to catch onto my thoughts.
Royal blood thrives best on our own bloodline. She linked.
“I won’t inquire much about the details of your escape, but Miss Auden, did you feed on someone?” Bo asked.
“She was being taunted - anyone would’ve-“ Celia began and I gave her a smile that interrupted her speech.
“It was a moment out of my control, that was it,” I said and Bo nodded.
“I only meant to ask to remark that you are doing surprisingly well. Though I have no doubt that the constant dosage of bloodvacs have something to do with that,” he said, smiling over at Celia just as the elevator doors slid open.
We took a long walk through the hallways before Bo stopped at a single door and knocked - though he did it in quite a peculiar way. He stomped his right foot down first before knocking twice on the door and sliding the palm of his hand from the right to the left side. It was only then that the door swung open.
“I’m surprised it took you so long, my friend,” a man answered. He was tall with long silvery hair and golden colored eyes. The man wore a sleek and clean white suit with a black tie and his eyes immediately examined us. He stopped as his gaze landed on me.
“So it is her,” he said, walking over to me and extending his hand. “My name is Mikhail, a friend of a friend of your mate’s. I will put you into contact soon enough. Another pack here has been anxiously looking for you - on behalf of your mate’s request of course.” He said with an unsettling smile.
“Lucien’s request?” I asked.
“You could say that he used every bit of his influence to find you,” Mikhail said. “But please, do come in,” he said, before gesturing to go inside.
The apartment was definitely an upscale one, despite its simple and modern look, there was something expensive about the black wooden floors, glass surfaces, and white marble that made up the majority of the decor. The windows came down from the ceiling to the floor, offering an almost bird’s eye view of the city.
“Okay, first off, you need to calm the hell down and-“ A woman’s voice said from inside the apartment, and soon we found ourselves in front of a tall, blonde-haired woman, with her right hand on her phone and her left running through her hair.
“No, that is not how you- okay, okay, I’ll tell River to help out, but just breathe for now and make sure Sera’s okay, got it?” She said before hanging up her phone. It was only then that she realized that there were more people in the room.
“Oh, shit, are these them?” She asked and Mikhail nodded. She walked towards each one of us and seemed to assess us further than Mikhail. “No clear injuries but you all might wanna go ahead and take a bath. We’ve got rooms for each one of you.”
“I’m sorry, who are you?” I asked, genuinely curious. She smiled, her blue eyes staring right into me.
“Elair, Luna of the Macabre Pack,” she greeted, extending her hand towards me. I shook it and smiled back. “My mate, Maddox will be better at communicating Umbra, so hang tight. We’ll get you back soon enough.”
“Sorry, I have a question too,” Celia said from beside me. Elair raised her eyebrows.
“How do you know Bo?” She asked and Elair looked over at him.
“I don’t, but Mikhail and his master does, apparently,” she answered with a casual shrug, Mikhail smirked at her response before he stood by Bo and whispered something inaudible even to my hearing. Bo nodded his head in response.
“I have a few things to discuss, so I’ll excuse myself,” he said, bowing his head. I do advise you, Miss Auden, not to contact your mother any time soon. He added before turning and leaving with Mikhail, heading into another room.
“So,” Elair began, “let me show you to your rooms.”
Celia dismissed herself quite quickly, leaving me alone in my room. I took a shower just like Elair had suggested and found myself resting my forehead against the shower wall. I tried to think of something, anything… but nothing could take my mind away from what I’d done mere hours earlier… A sickening feeling filled the pit of my stomach and I found myself rushing out of the bathroom, my hands gripping the sides of the toilet as I felt the urge to vomit… but nothing came out.
A part of me was disgusted - sure. But a greater part of me - was satisfied. I got up, headed back into the shower, cleaned up, dressed, and headed to bed.
There was no taking back the past. There was no regretting escape.
Not when I had so much more to deal with.
Not when I was still so far from home.