Chapter 24: The Backup
Knox carried me to our bedroom as I continued to stroke the back of his head. My heart was breaking a million times over for him. I knew the second I looked at him as he got out of the car that the search party hadn’t been successful. If anyone else were to examine him, they probably wouldn’t see the disappointment so glaringly obvious in his body language.
But I wasn’t just anyone; I was his mate.
His head was slumped over just a hint more than normal and his shoulders were lacking the tension that I’d become accustomed to when he was in the presence of others. His entire posture lacked the confidence I was used to seeing in him, but that wasn’t the part that really got me. What got me was the expression on his face and the haunted look in his eyes. They told me more than words ever could. He’d gotten his hopes up - even though he’d stressed that he wouldn’t - and now the let down was even more detrimental. I was hoping this wouldn’t break his spirit for continuing with our backup plan.
I expected Knox to set me down once we’d made it to our room, but he didn’t. He lowered himself onto the edge of the bed with me sitting on his lap. His arms tightened around me, almost to the point that it was difficult for me to breathe, but I didn’t say anything. I knew that at this moment all he really needed was my soothing touch.
I wasn’t sure how long we sat there with him not saying a word as his head stay buried in the crook of my neck. Eventually, my stomach growled which elicited a chuckle from Knox. I breathed a sigh of relief that I was able to lift his spirits at least a little.
“Are you hungry, Flower?” he asked quietly.
“Starving, actually,” I laughed. He smirked before pressing a deep kiss to my lips.
“Thank you, Poppy,” he murmured. He didn’t have to say what for, I already knew.
“Don’t thank me, Knox. I love you and I will always take care of you the best way that I can,” I murmured before sliding off of his lap and extending my hand out to him. He took it and hoisted himself up, following my lead as I took us to the pack kitchen. The thing we both needed the most right now, besides each other, was a good home cooked meal.
Checking the digital clock on the microwave, I realized that while about two hours had passed since they’d arrived home, it was still only ten o’clock. Breakfast it is. I felt Knox’s eyes following my body and I pulled out all the ingredients for chocolate chips pancakes - something I’d been craving terribly for the past few days - as well as eggs and some potatoes for hash browns.
“Do you want to start squeezing the oranges for juice?” I asked while setting a large bag of the fruit next to me on the countertop. He nodded and came around to work beside me. After a few minutes of silence, I glanced over at him and saw that he was deep in thought.
“What’s on your mind, baby?” I murmured while pouring my first few pancakes on the Griddler. I turned my attention away from the food and rested my hand on his forearm to catch his attention. He sighed deeply before slamming the half-squeezed orange in his hand onto the countertop.
“I don’t fucking want you going, Poppy. I don’t want to send you in there. I don’t have a good feeling about this and my wolf and I are both having a hard time with this decision,” he growled with anger as he looked to be at war with himself. “I’m scared…” he croaked out, sending a pang of hurt straight to my heart. I flipped the cooking pancakes quickly before setting the spatula down and wrapping both my arms around his own while leaning my head against his bicep.
“I know how scary this must feel, Knox. I’ve never encountered your uncle first hand, but I’ve heard the stories. I’m scared, too, but being alert and understanding my surroundings is going to give me an advantage as will the genes I’ve accrued from our mating. However, you’re the smartest man I know and if you’re having a bad gut feeling then maybe we should follow it and figure something else out. This is your call, Knox,” I stated, wanting to ensure him that he truly was in control of the situation. He hated feeling out of control and I could certainly understand why, but, despite what I’d said, I wasn’t sure what the something else I spoke of would even be.
I took the food off the heat before it could burn and began plating everything up as he mulled things over. I pushed him towards the table and placed a heaping plate of food in front of him before sitting next to him with my own.
I allowed Knox to be wrapped up in his own thoughts throughout the meal, content to just bask in his company while I still could. I was picking food off of Knox’s plate, having already completely cleared my own, when Zane entered the kitchen and broke our bubble of peace.
“Sorry to disturb you guys, but we need to discuss our plans going forward. When you’re finished, we’ll all be waiting for the both of you in the office,” he murmured before bowing his head slightly and backing out of the room.
“Well, time to face the music, Flower,” Knox sighed before standing up and grabbing both our dirty plates. I looked towards the ceiling and mumbled a quick prayer before following him out of the room.
“Alright, Boss, let’s hear it,” Kiara joked to try and lighten the heavy mood in the room as soon as we’d entered. I was thankful for her attitude despite how confusing a time this was for her. Knox didn’t respond right away, opting instead to seat himself behind the large mahogany desk and lean his arms against the top of it first.
“We’re going to continue with the original backup plan we constructed. Poppy’s training has been going excellent and I’m more than confident in her ability to remain safe and in control while in my uncle’s territory,” he rumbled out. A feeling of love swelled in my chest for this man. He had enough faith and trust in me to allow me to assist despite his reservations.
I’m going to screw his brains out when this is all said and done I thought to myself. My pheromones must have kicked into overdrive because Knox’s eyes shifted back and forth between his normal blue color and the yellow of his wolf, his pupils widening with his lust.
“Okay, fucking yuck. Wait to jump each other until this meeting is adjourned,” Kiara grunted with a grimace on her face. I cleared my throat and looked at my feet while brushing a lock of my hair behind my ear to keep my hands occupied.
“Anyway,” Knox muttered with an eye roll, “Grace and Poppy are both going to have tracker devices implanted into their arms tonight just in case, God forbid, something were to happen and neither Jason or I could sense them through our bonds. Zane, you and your other men are going to be placed a mile out from the border at all times. If something happens, Poppy, you and Grace can run for the border. Call them through the mind-link and they’ll meet you. A car will be placed a few miles out for a quick getaway if needed,” he said while looking directly at me. I nodded in understanding.
“When will she be here? Tonight or tomorrow morning before we leave?” I asked.
“She’s already here,” Knox began causing me to perk up in surprise. “She’s unpacking her and Jason’s things as they will be staying with us permanently,” Knox revealed. The smile that overtook my face was instantaneous. I shrieked happily and mouth thank you to Knox who was gazing happily at me, pleased with my reaction. Kiara and I hugged, jumping around a few times in excitement before Knox cleared his throat to get our attention once again.
“Sorry, continue,” I murmured, trying to damp down my overflowing excitement just enough to finish the meeting.
“She’s already been debriefed on the plan over the phone. Tomorrow morning we will all load our things into our respective vehicles and head out for my uncle’s territory. Once we get an hour away from his land, you and Grace will mask your scents just to be safe. We don’t want them having any trace of you.
“Poppy, you and Grace will have a steady supply of clothing from two different women in the pack all of which are saturated with their scents to throw everyone off. You’ll change into your first outfit of theirs just before approaching their border. If all goes well, you’ll be taken into the pack and will face my uncle. He will then decide whether to accept your request to search his pack for potential mates or not. If no, you might have to fight your way out or he’ll just throw you out. However, because they have such a shortage of unmated females, you’ll most likely be taken in. If you are, that’s when the hard work starts. Poppy, you know my scent by heart, so it’ll be easy for you to try and catch any trace of my parents in his pack. When and if you do, I want you to get the fuck out as soon as you can safely escape without causing any unwanted attention to yourself. If you don’t catch a scent in at least five days, I’m pulling you out and I’ll go in myself. From there, both scenarios will end with my group of men coming in and handling my uncle.
“Are we all clear on what to expect and how this will play out?” Knox asked, pausing for any opposition. “Perfect. Everyone go home, spend time with your loved ones, and get a good night’s rest. We leave at dawn,” he finished before waving everyone off.
Alpha Carmichael’s POV
“Come in,” I mumbled after someone swiftly knocked on my office door. I had a big-titted woman on each one of my knees, so I knew it had to be important business. People knew not to bother me when I was busy.
“Sir, Alpha Williams is at the Northern border requesting entry to speak with you,” my Beta, Jensen, spoke after stepping into the room. I hummed under my breath just as the blonde on my left began to stroke her hand over my dick. I removed my arm from around her waist and snatched her wrist in a death grip. I cranked the hand that she’d touched me with back far enough to break it if enough force was applied. Just as she started screaming out in pain, I roughly shoved her off of my lap and onto the floor. She looked up at me with terror in her eyes, trying to slowly inch away from me.
“What did I fucking say about touching me without permission?” I barked out before growling menacingly at her. She whimpered as tears began to collect in her eyes out of fear.
“Alpha?” Jensen called again.
“I don’t give a fuck who he is or what he wants! Tell him to go back to where ever the fuck he came from and try to get ahold of me by phone like everyone else. I have important business to attend to!” I yelled back before focusing my attention back on the dumb bitch withering on the ground in front of me. I wasn’t scared of any man, woman, or child - whether they were an Alpha or not. I’d made enough of a name for myself throughout the years that I didn’t have to worry about threats of war; matter of fact, I welcomed them. So this little Alpha Williams dipshit could fuck off for all I cared.
“He said he has information about your nephew,” Beta Jensen stressed. The second the word nephew flew from his lips I was up and out of my chair, the other nameless bitch on my right leg falling to the ground. Thankfully for her, she had enough of a brain to jump to her feet and drag the other chick with her as she ran from the room.
“What,” I hissed, my heart beginning to pound in my chest.
“I’m just waiting on your okay to allow him into our land to meet with you,” he said. I nodded and growled for him to hurry. He rushed from the room, slamming the door behind him. Once I was alone, I began to pace my office, my mind moving a million miles a minute. I tried to take a few calming breaths to suppress the fight or flight instincts that’d kicked in. I clasped my hands together behind my back to try and stop them from tremoring, but it was no use.
This could just be a false alarm, I assured myself. I must’ve been so caught up in my thoughts that I hadn’t realized how much time had passed since Jensen left to get this Williams man. Two more knocks on my door were the only warning I got of their impending entrance. I breathed in through my nose and out through my mouth before schooling my face into its usual impenetrable stare before muttering for them to enter. I lowered myself into my chair once again and poured myself a glass of brandy to try and seem unaffected by the entire situation.
“Thank you for meeting with me at such last minute, Alpha Carmichael,” the man - who’d I’d figured was Alpha Williams - said. I just nodded once and motioned for him to take the seat in the chair across from my desk.
“Start talking. What you have to tell me better be good or I’ll fucking cut your body up and feed you to the pack hogs limb by limb,” I sneered, letting him know that I meant business. I watched his throat as he gulped in fear.
“Well, Alpha, it all started with you, actually,” he began, piquing my interest immediately. I quirked a single brow and nodded for him to continue. “I’m sure you’re more than aware that every pack is fearful of you and your forces. You’ve grown exponentially and your power expands farther than almost any other Alpha in history. For this reason, Alpha Rhymes contacted me and offered me his Beta’s daughter as a mate in exchange for a treaty between our packs. It was a preventative precaution as both our packs aren’t located too far away from your own. After seeing a picture of the woman offered, I naturally said yes; she was one of the sexiest females I’ve ever seen-”
“Get on with the fucking story, Williams,” I hissed, cutting off his incessant ramblings. I didn’t give a flying fuck how hot he thought this chick was. At the end of the day, she was just that; a useless female. The only thing they were good for was fucking and reproducing, which was the main reason behind why I never understood the point of mating. Why tie yourself down to one woman for the rest of your life and end up like my brother? I couldn’t even Imagine the embarrassment of being forever mated to a broken female.
“Yes, Alpha Carmichael,” the man whispered timidly. “As I was saying, when I showed up to claim her and complete the mating process, I found out that she hadn’t been informed of the plan at all. She ended up running and we spent almost two weeks searching for her,”
“What the fuck does this bitch have to do with my Goddamn nephew you said you had information on?” I growled, my already thin patience becoming microscopic.
“She’s his mate,” he finally blurted out. “The Alpha of the pack she’s been hiding in has a son that wanted to mate her, but Knox beat him to the punch - both literally and figuratively,” he joked with a laugh before realizing I wasn’t laughing along with him and stopped. “Corbin, the son, called Alpha Rhymes despite the fact that she filed legitimate persecution papers with The Council upon arrival at their pack. I guess the little prick thought that was the best mode of revenge.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t know that she’d already fully mated with Knox until we’d showed up to bring her back with us. He ended up killing Alpha Rhymes and taking Poppy’s father, Rhyme’s Beta, hostage. I managed to sneak away, but I stuck around in the shadows to listen in. I found out that your nephew executed a hostile takeover of Rhymes pack and he’s planning on using his newly acquired means to come after you once and for all. I was forced to leave right after making the discovery as I was at risk of being caught. The reason I came to you with this information is because I’m hoping you can help me take care of Knox so I can finally be with Poppy,” he finished, giving me a disgustingly hopeful look. I forced myself to keep from rolling my eyes at the pathetic excuse of a man in front of me.
I didn’t give a fuck about this stupid Poppy bitch, but I would take care of Knox. I knew he could give me more of the information I needed to finally tie up some loose ends once and for all, but I couldn’t get the rest of it out of him unless I made him think I would be giving him what he wanted.
“Well, since you’ve given me some very good intel I’m going to assist you,” I answered plainly. “Jensen, get Alpha Williams a guest room to spend the night in so he can be well-rested for tomorrow’s planning,” I ordered before spinning in my chair and gazing out at my land through the large wall of windows.
A big day of planning indeed.