Chapter 28: A Father's Love
My hands rested on my hips as I paced back and forth uneasily. I wouldn’t be nearly as calm as I was now if it weren’t for Poppy sharing that mental image of the building with me earlier or Grace mind-linking Jason to plan a location and time for their escape tonight. I nearly cried with relief when Jason said they’d already found all the evidence we needed and that they were ready to get the fuck out.
I checked my watch again for what felt like the hundredth time since we’d pulled up to this spot. 10:58. They should be here within the next ten minutes according to Grace’s calculations. Time felt like it was moving at the pace of Goddamn paint drying and it was making my skin prick all over with anticipation.
“Something’s not right,” I abruptly said. I could feel Poppy’s fear plain as day and despite my calm, collected facade I was fucking shitting myself inside.
“What do you mean?” Jason demanded while stepping up right next to me.
“Poppy’s scared, I can feel it. Something’s not fucking right. Can you feel Grace?” I asked in a rushed tone, fighting to keep my tone from being filled with fear for the sake of everyone else around us. His eyes glazed over for a few seconds.
“Yes, but she seems angry and worried, not scared,” he responded, confused. I wiped my hand down my face before burying my fingers in my hair and tugging.
Think Goddammit, think! I internally hissed as my wolf grew more restless. There was a rustling in the woods a few minutes later, immediately catching my full attention. Everyone around took a few steps forward and focused solely on the area the sound was coming from. After a minute or two, Grace came barreling through the foliage. She rushed into Jason’s arms as I shot towards the brush she’d just come through. Where the fuck is Poppy? Why the fuck isn’t she with her?!
“Where’s my mate?” I demanded.
“Your uncle…” Grace panted as tears streamed down her face. I’d never seen Grace look so distraught ever before. “Alpha Williams got to him before we could. He told him all about Poppy and you…” she cried out. I felt like someone had just shot me right in the chest.
How did I not account for that fucking bastard? My God, this is all my fault. I sent my mate on a fucking suicide mission.
“He was just waiting for us to make a wrong move. Poppy had a bad feeling about him from the start. She knew it all seemed too easy,” she sobbed while clutching Jason’s t-shirt as he rubbed a soothing hand up and down her back.
“I’m going in,” I determined, beginning to undress so I could shift into my wolf.
“Wait!” Grace hissed, finally getting her bearings. “This is what he wants Knox. You have to think rationally about this. He purposely let me go so I would run back to you and “tattle”. He’s expecting you to lose all control and come running to him without a solid plan. I heard the men who discarded me across the border joking about the Alpha keeping Poppy for himself once he was done with you - which means she’ll be safe for now, at least. I don’t know exactly where he took her, but I’m assuming the same place he’s holding your parents,” she revealed. I fought against my wolf - who was desperately trying to shift and charge into my uncle’s territory, consequences be damned.
I took a few deep, calming breaths. Grace was right; I needed to think rationally about this or a lot of people were going to get hurt; more importantly, my whole world was going to get hurt. I couldn’t let that happen.
“We stay here,” I growled out, my voice a mixture of my wolf’s and my own. “We come up with a plan of attack before morning and execute it as soon as physically possible. Zane, link Poppy’s mother and have her send every trustworthy warrior available. Jason, link Alpha Aaron and see if he’d be willing to send any men as well. If so, tell him to send them in their wolf forms or they won’t make it here on time,” I ordered to which he nodded in response.
“There’s no way around this without just simply attacking. Once all the men are here, we’ll mask our scent and invade. With it being winter, the sun will come out early so it will be easier for us to navigate his land quietly. I want him alerted of our presence as late as possible so he has to scramble to gather his men. Am I understood?” I questioned. Everyone nodded once before walking off to either do the job I assigned them or find a comfortable spot to spend the night. We would all need our rest for what was to come, that much I was sure of.
I didn’t get a wink of sleep, my mind too preoccupied with thoughts of Poppy and how she was holding up. The people arriving throughout the night provided somewhat of a distraction from the thousands of different scenarios that’d been running through my head. I was more than thankful for the number of men Aaron had sent. after showing up at various times in the middle of the night, they laid down to sleep almost immediately. Altogether, we had about two hundred men. Because of the sheer number, we had to move farther back from the border to keep our presence from being prematurely discovered.
I looked up at the sky and determined that it was about five a.m. - time for us to get up and begin our invasion. I went around, waking up anyone I saw and ordering them to begin masking their smell. They all gathered around once the initial task was done, waiting for me to speak.
“It’s time,” I began, my voice just above a whisper. “Go in pairs of two, but make sure you spread out. No one is to make a sound; I want you as quiet as you can be. Do whatever needed to survive, but women and children are to be spared. Does everyone know the coordinates of the pack house?” I asked, pausing to read their responses. Once satisfied, I continued. “That’s our end position. I have a strong feeling that by the time we arrive, there will be a few men there waiting for us. These men have spent the last year pillaging small and large packs alike, killing anyone who gets in their way in the name of power and greed; it’s about time someone showed them the same treatment,” I hissed, seeing how strongly some of the warriors agreed with my statement. “Alright. We head out now. Remember: stay low, stay quiet, and stay safe,” I said with finality before turning and leading us forward until we were just a mere few feet away from the border.
“Oh, and one last thing,” I murmured, “the Alpha is mine, no one touches him,” I growled before taking the first step into my uncle’s land. A wave of adrenaline washed over my body as my partner, Zane, and I rapidly but stealthily maneuvered our way through the woods. We got about five minutes in - approximately halfway to our destination at the pace we were going - when we stumbled upon a group of five teenage boys. They looked scared shitless as they backed a few steps away from us.
I rose to my full, frightening height. “Either you get the fuck out of your pack before we start killing and come back when it’s safe, or you die. The choice is yours,” I growled out. They looked like they were going to piss themselves before nodding frantically. “Good. And I swear to God, if you alert anyone about our presence I’ll locate your family and kill them first,” I hissed. They turned and sprinted towards the border we’d come through.
Good thing they couldn’t tell I was bluffing.
Zane and I took off once again, slowing our pace only when we grew close to the clearing. As I expected, there was a decent number of men standing around, waiting. I looked to my left, right, and behind me. I was surrounded by my own men, boosting my confidence. I took a deep breath and stepped out into the clearing. I heard the soft footfalls of the other men following my lead. The masking wore off at the exact time we’d planned, letting my powerful essence make itself known. I saw the moment each and every one of my uncle’s men realized I was a Lycan, the sheer terror in their eyes a dead give away.
“Either you get the fuck out of my way, or you go down with your Alpha,” I stated loudly. It looked like the majority wanted to say fuck it and give in, but the man a few steps away from me squared his shoulders and glared at me.
“Don’t worry, Alpha will take care of that pretty little mate of yours once you’re go-” he didn’t get to finish his sentence as I shot forward and snapped his neck. His body fell to a heap at my feet right as all hell broke loose. Four and five men tried taking me all at once, but I was more trained than they were, my senses were sharper, and I was stronger. I disposed of them all before two of the biggest men jumped on me. I was in the middle of taking care of them when someone caught my attention in my periphery. I grabbed both their heads and banged them together, temporarily knocking them out, and turned to face the person who’d caught my attention.
My breath caught in my throat as my heart felt like it stopped beating. Despite the tired, rugged look and the obvious years of difference between the two of us, I saw myself reflected back at me.
“Dad?” I choked out, stumbling forward. A smile broke out on his face as he started making his way towards me. I ran to him, our arms instantly going around one another. My throat tightened as did my arms around him, unable to believe that this moment was actually happening after I spent so many years searching.
“I’m so proud of the man you’ve become,” he whispered to me. A single tear slipped down my cheek before the sound of someone clapping distracted me. The sound of men fighting and tearing into each other became obsolete. I let go of my dad and turned to see my uncle, still clapping his hands while staring smugly at my father and me.
“How lovely! What a beautiful family reunion. I’m so glad you two could finally come together once more before I have you fucking gutted and disposed of for good. Your side of the family has been nothing but a fucking problem for me the last decade, Jim” he sneered, leisurely coming closer to us but smartly remaining far enough away that we couldn’t reach him.
“You brought every single issue onto yourself, Davis. You just couldn’t stand to be seen as number two. Your selfishness tore two families apart all for what? Power? Greed? I would’ve fucking given it to you if I knew you were going to take my children from me. If I knew this was what the outcome was going to be. But now? Now I’ve had enough; enough running, enough hiding, and enough bowing to your reign. I’m going to show you why you were never meant to be Alpha in the first place. This ends now,” my father growled, squaring his shoulders for a fight.
“Do you really think you could take me down? I’ve been preparing for this moment ever since I set my plan in motion. Sure, he may give me some issues,” he emphasized while motioning towards me, “but not you, Jim. You’re old, tired, and weak; like you’ve always have been. I look forward to watching the life drain from your fucking eyes,” he spat with a twisted smile.
“Your demise will be underestimating the love of two fathers,” my dad shot back. Both my uncle and I furrowed our eyebrows in confusion at my dad’s statement. Two fathers? I looked at him with a questioning gaze. His eyes softened as he stared back.
Wait a minute, I thought to myself, Grace said Poppy might’ve been taken to the place my parents were being kept. That means she must’ve met them both, and my father must’ve sensed…
Does he fucking mean that Poppy’s…?
A wave of fierce fury washed over my body as I exploded into my wolf form and lunged for my uncle. I caught him completely off guard, going for his neck instantly. My kill shot was blocked as he shoved my face away and caused me to take a chunk out of his shoulder instead. He shifted into his own wolf and we circled each other. No one else moved or breathed, just watched as things escalated between the two of us. I saw his front paw twitch, a telltale sign that he was going to attack.
He sprang forward just as I predicted, but I dodged it and slid under his body, tearing a chunk out of his flank and rendering one of his back legs useless. I stood as he hobbled on his remaining feet. I could see the determination to take me out in his eyes, but, unfortunately for him, that wasn’t going to be happening. Not now, not ever.
I had a family to take care of and protect.
He stalled, waiting for me to make the next move. I faked left before backtracking and going after his right side. Not expecting the move, he ended up toppling over and allowing me the chance to pin him down.
I thought I had him once and for all when there was a feminine scream from behind me, the voice was one I would recognize no matter where or what was going on. I whipped my head over my shoulder and saw four of my uncle’s men forcing Poppy and my mother onto the ground at the edge of the clearing. My uncle noticed my distraction and kicked me off of him with his hind legs before barreling towards both women.
My father and I kicked into high gear, running after my uncle as fast as our bodies would allow. I panicked when I realized that I wasn’t going to make it to him in time before he trampled them both. I pushed my wolf even harder, not accepting defeat. A flash of fur, which I knew belonged to Grace, darted across my vision, abruptly knocking my uncle off course. My father continued towards my mother and mate as I followed my uncle’s body as it rolled a few feet away. I didn’t waste a single second before grasping his throat in my mouth and ripping it out. The taste of his blood on my tongue was a comforting victory as I continued to dismantle his body, my wolf going into a blood-hungry craze. He and I both needed reassurance that this excuse of a man was done causing issues for my the ones I loved.
Eventually, my father’s wolf came over and grasped me carefully by the back of the neck. My wolf instantly recognized his presence and backed off of my uncle’s dead body. My wolf was pleased with the disfigured sight before us, finally feeling safe enough to turn our back on him and go over to our mate. I changed back to my skin side, taking the t-shirt Jason offered me to wipe my uncle’s blood from my hands and chest. I went to pull Poppy into my embrace, but she stopped me with a hand to my chest.
“I love you with all my heart, but there’s someone else that I think needs your attention more than I do,” she murmured, pointing behind me. I turned and saw my mom staring at me with tears in her eyes. She rushed towards me, pulling me down to her height and enveloping me into a smothering hold. She pressed never-ending kisses to my cheeks and forehead, her eyes roaming my body for any signs of serious injury.
“My precious baby boy,” she sobbed before hugging me again. I couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped my mouth as I tightened my arms around her tiny, lithe frame. “You’re so grown up...and you’re going to have your own family!” she shrieked, looking overjoyed. I nodded, not expecting her to abruptly shove me back towards Poppy - who laughed wholeheartedly at the interaction.
“You’re pregnant?” I asked, my voice barely above a whisper as I wrapped my arms around her and pressed my forehead against her own. Just the general thought had the fierce sense of protectiveness I always experienced when I was around her multiplying by a thousand.
“I think so,” she rasped out with a blissful smile. “All the signs are there, I just need to get checked.” I nodded, realizing that I now had to deal with the fate of the pack I’d just unofficially become the Alpha for.
“We’ll check once I’m done doing some damage control,” I murmured before kissing her forehead, nose, and finally lips. I made a move to approach my parents, but Poppy’s grip on me wouldn’t let up. I glanced down at her, seeing the desperate need in her eyes plain as day and knowing it was her wolf wanting to feel protected and safe after everything the both of them had been through. I wound one arm around her lower back and pulled her into my side, nuzzling her neck for a few seconds to soothe her before guiding us both towards my father and mother.
“Would you do the honors of taking back control of your pack?” I asked them. My mother teared up, grasping onto my dad’s bicep as they shared a look. My dad met my eyes once again and nodded confidently, pulling me in for another hug and clapping me on the back a few times for good measure.
I made my way towards the center of the massive group of pack members that had accumulated. Being taller than everyone in the crowd had its perks as I was able to see every single person I was speaking to. I opened my mouth, but no words came out as all the members kneeled at my feet one-by-one.
“What are you doing?” I asked no one in particular, confused.
“The previous Alpha would beat anyone who didn’t bow to him before he gave a formal speech,” a small woman towards the front explained, her eyes never leaving the ground, though I could hear her fear in the way her voice quivered as she spoke.
“That’s asinine. You can all stand up. A real Alpha sees his people as his equals,” I stated strongly. I could see my dad nodding in agreement in my peripheral vision. A collective look of utter shock swept the crowd as people started rising to their feet with slight hesitation.
“I know this pack, and the numerous packs my uncle’s procured within the past year, have been treated like the dirt under his shoe, but that stops now. My father, the rightful Alpha of this pack, will be taking the position from me effective immediately. Under his rule, no one will go without nor will anyone be treated unfairly. If anyone has any objection to this change you may come forward now and challenge me. It will be a challenge to the death, so I would think long and hard about the decision.” I waited a few minutes, but nothing other than looks of optimism and hope stared back at me. It seemed my uncle had really done us a favor in watching over his people like a total dickhead.
“Then, as you all bear witness, I declare my father and mother - Jim Knox Carmichael and Angela Rose Carmichael - as the rightful Alpha and Luna from this moment on,” I called out, making my way through the crowd towards my father and mother where I kneeled at their feet to show my submission to them both as I passed over the title. My father reached down and squeezed both my shoulders in his hands before I got back up. “If you don’t mind, I’m going to take Poppy to the pack doctor to confirm the pregnancy and find out how far along she is,” I murmured.
“Go, we will handle things from here,” he instructed with a genuine smile.
“Wait!” Poppy called out, coming over to the three of us with a huge smile on her face. “I have a surprise, close your eyes!” she ordered with excitement. I furrowed my brows but followed my parents lead, only to have Poppy pull my hand down. “Not you, silly,” she teased with a smile. I looked behind her as she began motioning towards us with her hand. It was then that I saw Kiara emerge from the woods with Zane. How she got here I had no idea, but I loved Poppy infinitely more for thinking of my parents during such a stressful time.
“Angela, Jim, you can open your eyes now,” Poppy whispered, fighting to keep the emotion from her voice. They did as instructed, my mom’s knees instantly going weak as she fell against my father. Kiara must’ve felt the immediate connection that I felt with her because she threw herself at our parents, happy sobs wracking her chest.
Poppy and I shared a knowing smile before I pulled us away from the scene and started towards the pack house, more than ready to officially confirm some of the best news I’d ever received in my entire life; I’m going to be a father.
That kind of love is unrivaled.