Chapter 22: The Plan
After fixing our clothes, Knox and I exited the bedroom and started towards what would be Knox’s study/office while we were here. I studied the reactions of those we passed in the halls, specifically looking for a half-hidden sneer or eyes filled with distrust. Surprisingly, I didn’t see either. Either we were truly being welcomed with open arms, or I’m just horrible at reading people.
Making our way to our destination, Knox swung the door open and stepped back for me to enter first. I smiled at him before murmuring, “such a gentleman.”
He flashed me a cheeky smile before wiggling his brows. “Or I just wanted another look at your ass before I have to get down to business,” he teased, giving my butt a light smack. I yipped as my cheeks flushed before scolding him with my eyes.
“Bleh, yuck! Enough, you two!” Kiara demanded with a disgusted grimace on her face. I laughed quietly at her reaction before sitting next to her on the loveseat. I noticed that the warriors who followed us here from Alpha Aaron’s pack were present along with three other high-ranking warriors from this pack that I just barely recognized.
Knox must’ve noticed the strangers in the room as well because he zeroed his gaze in on them.
“Don’t worry about them. They’re good friends of my mate. They can be trusted,” Kiara assured him.
“What’s all this?” I asked, motioning towards the haphazard spread of papers and files all across the coffee table in front of us. Glancing over at Knox, who was now sat behind the large mahogany desk, I noticed that the desk had a similar disorganized look.
“Remember all the files Alpha Aaron gave you to give to Knox?” Kiara asked. I nodded in reply. “Well, apparently he was holding up his end of the deal you guys told me about on the trip here. He hired a couple private investigators - and must have paid them a pretty penny, too. There’s years worth of information here. These guys were even able to dig information up from a few years after we were both taken, Knox,” she mumbled before meeting his eyes. They swapped a meaningful look as everyone else averted their eyes out of respect for the siblings.
“There’s too much here for us to read. We’ll never get through it all before my uncle catches on to what’s happening. I don’t doubt he’s been keeping tabs on our parents, too. There’s a high chance he most likely knows where they are, so it’s crucial that we do this as quickly as possible. Where are the files with the most recent updates?” Knox asked no one in particular while thumbing through the papers closest to him. Everyone remained silent as we all got to work digging through the various stacks. Kiara and I began putting the files in order as we went, but hadn’t found the stack we were looking for.
An hour later, we were all still quietly hunting through what seemed like a never-ending sea of papers. I rearranged Kiara and my’s tall pile of papers after finding another older stack when something just barely sticking out from under the edge of the coffee table caught my eye.
I got down on my hands and knees and began pulling out the papers that had fallen under one-by-one. By the time I was finished, I had a pile that was at least twenty pages thick. I began skimming them, my breathing becoming labored as the realization hit me.
“I found them!” I croaked, my voice raising as I repeated myself again and again until they were all looking at me incredulously. Knox shot out of his chair and hurled towards me, gazing over my shoulder at the papers in question. “This entire stack covers everything over the last month. The last time they were seen was two weeks ago on unclaimed land just an hour outside your Uncle’s pack in Greenville,” I whispered, my heart beginning to pound violently in my chest. “Knox, you were right. They’re still alive,” I whispered, a single tear slipping from my eye and down my cheek.
He slowly reached forward and took the papers from my hands. I watched his Adam’s apple bob up and down as his eyes filled with emotion. I examined the rest of his features, noticing how tense his entire body had become. His knuckles turned white and the paper began to shake with how hard he was clutching them.
“They’re still alive,” he rasped out so quietly I was sure I was the only one who heard him. My tears came harder as I watched his own eyes well up with unshed droplets. He brought a hand up to cover his mouth as his eyes continued to scan the documents.
“So, Alpha, what’s the plan?” one of Alpha Aaron’s warriors asked. Knox’s face went from one of hope and longing to the most determined expression I’d ever seen. I watched him closely as I knew his mind was racing a mile a minute to conjure a plan.
“There’s a possible complication that we have to consider,” he began. “This last update is still two weeks old as they’ve yet to be spotted since their arrival in that area two weeks ago. There are only three possible reasons for that; one, they hid well after arriving, two, they packed up and left the territory again without alerting the investigators, or three, my uncle caught wind of their presence somehow and finally decided to capture them for some underlying reason,” Knox explained smartly. I pondered over the options he’d given before a thought popped into my head.
“There’s no way the investigators didn’t see them leave. If they were good enough to be following them this long without losing them - especially into this unclaimed territory - then they’re clearly watching their every move meticulously,” I reasoned out loud. Everyone in the room mulled over what I said for a few moments before nodding in agreement.
“You’re right. So either my uncle has them or they’re still hidden in the forest,” he said with finality. I could see that the possibility of the situation being the former rather than the latter was taking a toll on him mentally.
“We need to prepare for either situation. It will take all of us to search those woods well enough to find them if they are hiding,” I spoke, “and we’ll have to be careful if they’re that close to his territory.”
“But if they aren’t?” Kiara questioned, a look of worry etched onto her face. I bit my lower lip and looked up at Knox for guidance. He ran a hand over his face, his brows furrowing together as his forehead wrinkled with stress.
“If my uncle does have them somewhere in his pack, I don’t know how I’d be able to get in and get them back without getting everyone involved killed or severely hurt,” he rumbled out. Suddenly, amongst the silence of the group, an idea - albeit a stupid one that I knew Knox would shoot down instantly - popped into my head.
“I have a way,” I murmured. All the eyes in the room snapped to me. “You have to hear me out before shutting down my idea,” I stressed while pinning Knox with my gaze. I could tell by the way his eyes hardened and he crossed his arms over his chest that he already knew it was something he wasn’t going to like. I cleared my throat and continued. “What if I approached the border with my scent completely masked and asked for entrance, posing as an unmated female going from pack to pack looking for a mate? Worst case scenario, they tell me no. Best case scenario, they let me in and I-”
“No. Next idea,” Knox stated matter-of-factly before returning back to his desk and shuffling the papers around. I blinked a few times, caught off guard by his abrupt refusal - though I shouldn’t have been. I wasn’t sure why I was surprised, I was expecting this exact reaction.
“I said no, Poppy!” he shouted, slamming his hands down on the wooden desktop.
“What other choice do we have?!” I demanded, angry he wouldn’t even let me finish explaining my idea.
“We’ll figure something out, but I will absolutely not send you into the fucking pack run by the one man who hates me more than anything else. Do you have any fucking idea what he’s capable of? What he would be willing to do to you if he found out who you actually were?” he yelled, the vein on the side of his neck bulging and pulsing angrily as his face began to turn red.
“Of course I thought of those possibilities, that’s why I said you need to hear me out! If you don’t want me going alone, what if Kiara comes with me? We could mask her scent too. It’s not uncommon for unmated women to travel to different packs together in search of a mate and you know it!” I challenged.
“You’re right, but most women don’t travel to that fucking pack because of the kind of leader my uncle is. And Kiara is my sister. Do you think my uncle’s wolf wouldn’t immediately recognize her as his family, masked scent or not? I’m not risking either of you, Poppy. You’re both worth too much to me. End of discussion,” he hissed before giving me a single look of finality that said don’t even think about arguing with me about this.
I huffed out a frustrated breath but chose to keep my thoughts to myself. I understood where he was coming from perfectly. If the roles were reversed, I would have said the same thing he had, but I would’ve at least heard myself out completely. He’s worth everything to me too, which is why I desperately want to find a way to get his parents back home where they’re safe. I can see the hollow, pain-filled look in his eyes whenever he thinks about them. No matter how much he loves me and Kiara, there will always be a part of him that yearns for his parents.
I just can’t stand by and let that wound fester inside him for the rest of his life.
“Could we have a moment alone, please?” I asked while eyeing everyone else in the room. They all nodded before quietly making their leave, casting questioning glances at both Knox and me before finally disappearing. I knew this was going to cause an even bigger argument when I suggested a slightly new idea, and that argument wasn’t something we needed an audience for.
“Poppy,” Knox spoke, his tone taking on an edge of warning. At least he knew I wasn’t going to drop the subject.
“Just hear me out, Knox, please,” I insisted, begging him with my eyes. He sighed deeply before looking towards the ceiling.
“Fine. What’s your entire idea?”
“I get the whole situation with Kiara being instantly recognized by your uncle, but what if it were Grace and me? We could make sure our marks are properly covered and our scents are completely masked. Your uncle would be an absolute idiot to turn away two healthy females of our status. You already said it yourself, women never travel to their pack looking for mates. Their population is starting to dwindle because they don’t have enough females around for reproduction - unless they become really desperate and start reproducing within the same familial bloodlines, which we both know won’t happen. I know that this plan is dangerous, Knox, but I’m partially a Lycan now. I’m the best person for this job. I can protect myself and Grace better than anyone else!” I stated confidently.
“But that’s just it, Poppy. There’s a huge risk my uncle will sense your power and quickly connect the dots. It would only be a matter of time before he’d trace the entire thing back to me,” he stated smartly. I kept quiet as I contemplated ways around the issue.
“What if we were only there long enough to get insight on your parents? It won’t be hard for us to figure out their border patrol schedule while we’re searching the woods in the chance they’re still hiding there. After Grace and I gather useful info, we’ll leave in the middle of the night. They won’t have a trail to follow and what would they say to other pack’s or the council about our quick come and go without sounding crazy and paranoid?” I said. He pulled the edge of his bottom lip into his mouth and thought long and hard about what I’d said.
“I just don’t know Poppy. The risk is so high, it’s just not worth it to me,” he murmured while grabbing my hand and pulling me close. He spread his legs so I was standing between them as he sat in the oversized desk chair - though his massive frame made it look small.
“So how about I stay back here and train? Just enough so I can hold my own in case anything happens. I’m a quick learner. I’ll get stronger and better while you guys search and if they really are being held hostage in his pack I’ll be prepared. Grace and I will stay on our toes just in case anything funny happens. We can discuss escape plans and layouts of his land so I’m familiar with the grounds. We could do this, Knox!” I insisted.
He seemed to contemplate everything I’d said, most likely trying to come up with a different plan that didn’t involve me being on the front line at all. I knew he had nothing when he rubbed his hands over his face roughly, the stress lines on his forehead becoming more prominent.
“Go get everyone else and bring them back in here, please,” he murmured before pressing a kiss to my forehead. I nodded and dashed out of the room to do as he’d asked. I couldn’t believe I’d actually successfully talked him into my plan - and without much of a fight either.
Once we were all in the room again, Knox began explaining the plan to everyone. I interjected a few times, but mostly let Knox speak. The only way the plan would work was if Grace agreed to be my right-hand woman. If I had to go in with someone I wasn’t familiar or comfortable with, it would be obvious that we weren’t just a pair of friends innocently searching for their mates.
“Poppy?” Knox called out. I snapped out of my reverie and cleared my throat.
“Sorry, I was lost in my thoughts,” I admitted sheepishly.
“I said, can you call Grace and Jason and find out if they’ll join us?” he asked. I nodded and grabbed my burner cell phone. My heart was pounding in my chest as I dialed her number, praying she would say yes.