Chapter 2: The Great Escape
That night I slept a little better knowing I wasn’t alone. My mother tried reaching me through our mind link multiple times during the night, but I kept her - and everyone else - blocked out. I just wanted to be able to pretend last night’s dinner never happened and my own father hadn’t sealed my fate without even thinking about how I would react or feel.
He always treated me like a nuisance, but I was still his daughter. Did he forget that?
I was about to sit down with Kiara and her mate, Garth, for breakfast when the Alpha forced his way into my mind link.
If you aren’t in the dining hall in the next five minutes, there will be severe consequences.
I fumbled with the plate of scrambled eggs Kiara had just handed over to me before I set them down on the table with my shaking hands.
“I have to go. Alpha’s orders.” I explained, my voice quivering. Kiara gave me a look of deep resentment.
“We’re going with you,” she stated in a no-nonsense tone. “Besides, I have some really good news I know you’ll want to hear,” she said with a smile.
“That’s not necessary, Kiara. You just spent the past half hour cooking breakfast, there’s no need for it to go to waste,” I insisted, but she was already shaking her head in reply.
“I’ll put it away and we can eat it tomorrow morning, I’m not letting you go there alone. C’mon,” she insisted while quickly throwing the food into Tupperware bowls and dragging me out of the house. I stumbled over my own feet a few times as my nerves grew until it was nearly unbearable. Entering the pack house, my feet felt like they were made of lead as we became just a few steps away from the room I was dreading entering, though Kiara gave me no choice.
“Head up, chin out, shoulders squared. You’ll face them with the fierce attitude and pride I know you harbor in you deep down within that tiny little body of yours,” She asserted before doing the same herself and throwing the doors open. I wasn’t sure how, or why, but everyone in the pack respected Kiara. She held an air of power and authority around her that even Alpha Rhymes didn’t question, though that didn’t stop him from sending her an annoyed glare after we made an appearance.
I regretted taking Kiara’s advice the second I did. I scanned the room and saw pity and sympathy filled looks staring back at me - most of which came from the women and younger girls of my pack. Well, that news certainly traveled fast I thought with disdain. I heard someone loudly clear their throat from my right, catching my attention. My father’s stormy eyes greeted me as he snarled my way. He averted his eyes towards the empty chair in front of him - which also was right next to Alpha Williams. I took in a shaky breath before taking one step at a time.
With each step, I heard a new whisper from those around me. Some crude, some sympathetic.
Poor girl, she doesn’t even get the chance to pick her own true mate.
Did you hear that she tried running away?
My mom said they’re going to lash her again tonight.
I can’t imagine being stuck with saggy balls for the rest of my life.
I tried my best not to cry and to maintain my composure, though it was much harder said than done. My previous appetite had completely vanished, though Alpha Williams insisted on serving me a plate anyway. I stayed quiet while grabbing my fork, attempting to get some food in my protesting stomach when someone cleared their throat.
“Are you not going to thank your mate for providing your body with the nutrients and energy it needs?” My dad growled, irritation lacing his voice.
He’s not my mate! I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs. Neither my wolf, or I, chose him!
“Thank you,” I spoke with my head slightly turned next to me towards Alpha Williams, my voice barely anything more than a whisper. The bite I just forced down tried to make its way back up as the man in question rested his arm on the back of my chair next to my shoulder and began slowly tracing circles on my bare skin. Curse you, Poppy! This is what you get for borrowing an off-the-shoulder top from Kiara when it’s the beginning of November.
Taking a sip of water, I washed down the stubborn bite of food before clearing my throat and trying to discreetly get his arm off of the back of my chair and away from my body.
“So, darling, your father and I have spoken and we’ve decided the ceremony will be performed between lunch and dinner today so that our packs can have a chance to talk during the feast that will be served tonight,” Williams murmured while staring at the side of my face wistfully. I squeezed my eyes shut, unable to stop the single tear that trailed down my cheek as I fought with my wolf to stay put and silent.
A faint whimper escaped from my chest, my wolf fighting her hardest against me to make her anger and unhappiness known. I rubbed my aching chest with my hand, trying to will the throbbing sensation to go away.
“After breakfast, you will go with your mother to have your measurements taken so she can finish the final touches on your dress for tonight. And you will change into something more appropriate. You look like a common whore showing all of that skin for anyone other than your mate to see,” My father demanded. I lowered my gaze, my cheeks dusting a light shade of pink from having been chastised and humiliated in front of others before nodding and squeaking out a yes, father.
I continued to push my food around my plate for a few minutes, unable to stomach a second bite.
“May I please be excused? I’ve finished,” I asked politely. My Alpha lifted a single brow in question while staring down at my still full plate, but he thankfully didn’t say anything before nodding in approval. I mindlessly made my way towards my mother and father’s room in the pack house, knowing she would have already eaten breakfast while watching over Tansy. I knocked twice on the door out of common courtesy before pushing it open and moping in.
“Dad said to come and find you,” I explained while trying to keep my tears at bay as she gave me a broken look. She clearly didn’t want me to go through with this fabricated mating just as much as me. She kept quiet while handing Tansy her favorite baby doll and walking towards her closet. She came back out with a beautiful and feminine blue, green, and purple polka-dotted dress. It had a conservative sweetheart neckline and cinched at the waist - something that would accentuate my larger than normal hips. I fingered the material as my heart dropped in my chest.
Had the circumstances been different, I would’ve been ecstatic to wear such a stunning, but simple piece.
“Why don’t you go put it on so I can see what needs to be done?” She suggested. I nodded stiffly before taking the article from her hands and shutting the bathroom door behind me. The dress was structured enough that it didn’t require me to wear a bra - well unless I wanted to suffocate myself.
On second thought, maybe I should wear one...
I zipped up the dress on my own with a little difficulty before admiring its beauty in the mirror. It fell a few inches below my knees, giving it a more formal feel while still remaining simplistic. I wasn’t sure what alterations needed to be made as the soft cotton fit against my body like a glove.
Walking out, my mother held her breath as tears sprung to her eyes. I was confused because they weren’t tears of happiness like I’d expected.
“Mom? What’s wrong?” I asked with worried confusion.
“This is all wrong, honey. I can’t do this. I can’t watch you sign your life away to a mating of convenience simply because your father and our Alpha think it’s the best for them. They’re not thinking of the pack’s best interest, sweetheart. They’re thinking of the power this will bring to both packs. It’s wrong!” She ranted, face turning a slight shade of red with her anger.
“Mom stop! Don’t you think I’ve figured that out by now? I know that this is their selfish way of furthering the pack’s agenda, but you and I both know that we need the protection from that beast sooner or later. Alpha Carmichael will not stop until he’s destroyed everything in his path and rules everyone.” I stated knowingly, trying to talk her down from the metaphorical ledge she’d climbed up onto.
“But this isn’t the only way!” My mom yelled.
“But if I back down now, or run, we will all get hurt! You, me, Tansy! I can’t have that!” I roared, tears slipping down my cheeks as my emotions ran ramped once again. Dear Lord, I’ve never cried so much in my entire life.
“I will figure something out! You cannot give up your chance at true happiness with your chosen just because of Tansy and I!” She insisted, “I can find a way to take care of us!”
“Yes I can! I can and I will!” I yelled before dashing out of the room, unable to stare at her hurt face any longer while knowing that I was both the cause and the solution for her pain. I ran as fast as my legs would take me through the pack house, careful not to run into someone that might tattle on me to my father or Alpha. My heart sped up, adrenaline racing through my blood right as my body broke the treeline of our forest. I pulled the hem of my dress up with my hands as I ran like my life depended on it.
This was the first time in years I had been in the forest alone. My entire life, I had been required to have an escort because our Alpha had declared our woods highly dangerous. Our border patrol wasn’t the best (though no one would ever admit it out loud) and our Alpha argued that there was no reason for any unmated female to need to be wandering out in the forest alone in the first place. When I finally stopped, I understood why. There was a creepy feeling of unease that ran down my spine causing me to shudder.
Okay, Poppy. You might’ve gotten a little carried away with how far you ran...
Looking around me, all I could see for miles was trees, trees, and more trees. There wasn’t a single land identifying marker to let me know how far I had truly wandered from the pack house. Now, my heart was beating fast for a whole new reason. I tried to take calming deep breaths to help myself think of a way out of the situation I’d gotten myself into.
A bush ruffled to my left, causing me to whirl around and face it.
“Poppy, I need you to listen to me, and listen to me closely,” Kiara instructed while setting down two large duffle bags. “I called my mother and father and they explained the situation to their Alpha. He’s agreed to take you in and seek shelter amongst their pack. Here are pretty much all of your things. Well, the essentials. When the shock of your disappearance wears off, your mother and I will slowly send you the rest of your things.” She rushed out while throwing numerous things at me.
“How did you find me?” I asked, dumbfounded.
“Your mother knew if she could provoke you enough, you would run for the woods. I just followed you from the start. Thankfully, we’re not too far from the road. Come, follow me,” she urged while picking up my bags and shoving them into my hands before dragging me away. When we reached the road she was talking about, I snapped out of the state of shock I was in and pulled away from her.
“I can’t do this, Kiara! He will hurt-” I started, but she abruptly cut me off.
“No! He can’t and he won’t! Do you honestly think he would get away with harming your mom and sister for you disappearing and disobeying orders? The elders would have his head. Now go. Here are the keys. I’ve programmed the address you need to drive to into the GPS and it has a full tank of gas. You should be able to get a good ways away before needing to fill up. There’s two thousand dollars cash in the glove compartment for hotel stays, food, and gas. It should be enough, but if you need more just link me and I’ll try and send you a money order,” she explained before shoving me towards the driver’s seat.
“Where the heck is this pack located?” I asked in confusion.
“Montana,” she replied reluctantly. My eyes bulged out of my head as I sputtered at her words.
“Montana!” I shouted. “Kiara, that’s basically on the other side of the country!” I hissed.
“All the better! When my parents retired from pack life, they wanted to relocate somewhere spacious that experienced all four seasons unlike here in Charlotte and that’s where they ended up. It’s about a 32-hour drive, which is why I gave you so much cash. You need to leave now so that you get a good distance away before they realize you’re gone and start searching for you. Go!” She yelled.
I stumbled into the driver’s seat as she started the engine for me and slammed the door shut. Rolling my window down as I saw her start to sprint away, I leaned my head out and yelled for her.
“Will I ever get to see you again?” I whimpered, on the verge of tears. She swallowed the lump in her own throat before clearing it.
“Nothing will keep me from my best friend. We’ll find a way sometime in the future. I promise,” she asserted before giving me a small wave and dashing away. I rolled the window back up to keep the cold chill of the November air out before pressing the start button on the GPS system. My hands shook as I pulled off the shoulder of the road and began my journey.
My mind was blank for the first hour of the drive. I think I was in shock more than anything. This spur-of-the-moment decision was the most rash one I’d ever made in my entire life, and I was doing it all alone. Me, a spineless, tiny, sheltered, naive girl. I don’t know how my mother and Kiara expected me to be able to do this all on my own - I mean - don’t get me wrong - I appreciate the confidence they have in me, but I didn’t share their sentiments.
The reason Kiara and I got along so well in the first place was because she was basically my voice. While she was brash and outspoken, I was more sensitive and quiet. I kept mainly to myself my whole life because that’s how I preferred to spend my time. I wasn’t huge on having company, and if I spent time with others it was only ever two or three people max.
Now I was going to be taking on an entirely new pack all on my own. I didn’t even know how many people would be in this pack. There could be upwards of five-thousand with how large of a state Montana was and the little number of packs that were located there.
After traveling for about two hours, my body began to relax as the adrenaline finally wore off. My hands were clenched white-knuckled around the steering wheel and I was allowing the comfortable seat to cushion my body. It was after my body wound down that I realized how badly I had to use the bathroom. I saw a sign for a rest stop and a few fast food restaurants ten miles away and veered into the exit lane to get off the interstate.
Pulling into the convenience store’s parking lot I turned the car off and surveyed the place. It didn’t seem to be too swanky, and from what I could smell, it was mainly humans. Taking a deep breath, I opened the glove compartment and found the cash Kiara had promised me was in there, but there was more than what I bargained for too.
“Seriously, Kiara? A gun?” I asked myself while pulling the small handgun out of the small hiding space. It fit perfectly in the palm of my hand. I’d only ever shot a gun once before in my life at our pack’s training shooting range, but I knew if I had to I could shoot straight. I slid the weapon back into its hiding place with peace of mind that I could protect myself if need be and grabbed a few bills for a water.
I entered the shop with my head low and maneuvered my way to the restrooms. I thanked my lucky stars when I realized it was decently clean and everything appeared to be in good repair. I mentally patted myself on my back for picking a good place to stop before doing my business. I grabbed my water and a few snacks, checked out, and left. I was halfway to my car when the skin on the back of my neck stood straight up. I stopped in my tracks when I saw a group of five rogue men approaching the gas station on foot.