Chapter 22 - Cameron
Despite the crash and burn of his big reveal to Olivia, Cameron’s biggest concern was ensuring her safety. He didn’t have time to mentally beat himself up over how the truth unfolded. His mind was set on one thing and one thing only, and if he came off sounding like an asshole, he didn’t give a rat’s ass. Olivia could deal with it. If she couldn’t grasp the seriousness of the situation, she was a lost cause.
The timing was shitty but he couldn’t rewind time, like he couldn’t go back to when he first left her five years ago in the battle that nearly killed him.
This time, he was stronger and a more skilled fighter. He’d come back to her. Maybe not unscathed, but he had learned from his mistakes before and his family knew about her. If something happened to him, they would contact her.
For now, she needed some time to herself to think things over.
And he needed to kill some rogues before they killed his packmates.
Before leaving for battle, he pulled his mate flush against him and grasped her lips, pouring all of himself into a kiss that evoked the passion burning within him and his possession over her. She was his and he was hers. He made sure that was damn clear before he dashed out of the suite and down the stairs to the back door of the hotel.
Jumping in the car, he slammed on the accelerator and sped away.
It was shortly after five o’clock when he dropped Sam and his mate off at the packhouse. He held the door open to the infirmary for Sam to carry his mate in before ducking out and shifting into his wolf.
There was no one to be seen in the mainland. All of the elderly, pups, and females unable to fight were locked within their secured basements. He heaved a sigh of relief that Luna Aki got herself and her pup to safety this time. Kicking off the front porch, he sprinted across the open green valley to the surrounding forest.
Mentally checking in with his pack, he found that most of the rogues had come in the north end. A few wolves were on the east and west ends of the territory with Aspen Beach in the south-west end of the border.
[To put your mind at ease, guard the south-west end of the border. We’ve got the rogues out-numbered ten-to-one up here,] Alpha Noodin told him telepathically.
[Thank you, Alpha,] Cameron responded and turned south-west back toward Aspen Beach.
Sam must have been guarding the south-west border before his mate passed through.
Cameron’s lips curled up as he pushed himself harder, faster.
That male was trouble. Cameron didn’t know what his deal was but he knew he had to stop the male before he got too far or out of hand. It would take some time for him to recover from the broken bones Cameron inflicted but Sam could use that time to try and win the male over.
The earth flew beneath his paws. The undergrowth of the woods brushed against his shoulders as he hurdled miles through the woods, skirting around farmers’ fields, and splashing through creeks.
He returned to the edge of Aspen Beach and sniffed around for any foreign wolf scents but the town was clean. Relieved, he continued west to the edge of the territory that lined the city limits of the major metropolis. He found Sam’s scent along with his mates, but otherwise, the area was clear.
Hours passed as he trotted up and down the south-western border with no sign of any rogues. Through the pack’s mind-link, he overheard the battle waging in the north. Five packmates were killed and all but two of the rogues were eliminated. More rogues were killed on the north-east and west edges and packmates sustained injuries, but their defenses were stronger than the rogues’ offenses.
The sky was bathed in crimson with the sun setting in the distance. He continued his patrol up and down the stretch of land as darkness set in, waiting for an announcement of victory.
Instead, Alpha Noodin commanded everyone to remain vigilant and spread out. He suspected that there could still be some rogues out there, waiting and looking for an opportunity to pounce on any weak link in the border.
An hour trickled by as Cameron hunkered down under a fern to rest. Perking his ears forward, he listened to the sounds of the forest and the insects that hummed their midnight songs. Small rodents scurried softly around the forest floor while the golden eyes of a hungry owl surveyed the darkness for his next meal from high above. Cameron’s nose picked up the muddied scent of churned dirt as a squirrel buried a nut. Though calm, there was a cautiousness in every movement of the nocturnal wildlife.
The calm and quiet hum of mosquitoes relaxed his mind and as he listened to the sounds around him, his thoughts roamed back to Olivia in his arms at the waterfall. Of her plump breasts pressed against his chest. His hands sliding down over her smooth round ass. Her luscious lips caressing and teasing his.
The memories stirred his loins, but now was not the time to get distracted with a raging hard-on. He pushed the images from his mind and turned his attention to the mess he left at the hotel.
How would she accept him now? Having seen his wolf and learning that Chloe would one day turn into one as well, would she accept that part of him that he could not change? Could she accept his claim and turn into a shifter as well, or would he have to fight with himself every time they got intimate? After all, he managed to mate with her five years ago and didn’t pierce her flesh with his teeth. He could do it again, couldn’t he?
Keeping his thoughts to himself, he dipped into the pack’s mind-link to find his packmates getting antsy. Someone asked what they were waiting for. Someone else responded with: [Alpha’s trying to find out how many rogues there were.]
Cameron’s lips curled. Getting that kind of information meant some level of torture was being conducted and he was glad he wasn’t the one who had to do it. [Sam’s mate was among the rogues,] he said. [I had to knock him out to prevent him from getting to the packhouse or my mate nearby.]
There were some mental murmurings to his use of the male pronoun and before anyone said anything they might later regret, he added, [If not for that, we could have gotten some answers from him. Maybe.]
[How many are dead?] Alpha Noodin interjected.
Wolves responded from their own locations and they added the total together.
While he was listening to the conversations taking place in his head, a foreign scent tickled his nose. Earth mixed with wet dog wafted toward him, creeping softly on stealthy legs.
His ears perked forward. [I got one coming my way,] Cameron said before withdrawing from the pack connection to focus on the intruder approaching. His muscles tensed beneath him, ready to spring forward and attack as soon as the invader came within reach.
A lean male approached, his body heavily coated in mud and infested with fleas. It was clear that he had been wild for a long time. More wolf than man now, Cameron knew he’d have a crazed one that would fight to the bloody end—like the rest of them. Sam’s mate wasn’t quite as feral as this one. There was still a spark of humanity in his eyes, but when Cameron made eye-contact with the male approaching him, he knew this one was too far gone. Sam’s mate could be rehabilitated, but not this one. This one’s mate died and he lost himself in the abyss of madness.
I will reunite you with yours in the moon, he vowed as he bared his teeth and lunged.
The rogue sensed him and as soon as Cameron sprang from his hiding place, the male raised his hackles, spread his legs for anchorage, and flashed his teeth. He met Cameron head-on, snarling and snapping his jaws.
They circled each other around the trees, lunging forward with open jaws and jerking out of reach. Cameron bit into his hunches and tore flesh. The male yowled in pain and kicked Cameron. The air rushed out of him as he tried to regain himself. The male lunged, snapping his jaw and catching Cameron’s ear.
His ears rang as Cameron cried out. He pulled away before slamming his head into the rogue’s ribcage.
Thrown down, the rogue struggled to get back to his paws, but Cameron was on him, tearing his flesh with his claws and teeth. The rogue fought him off as best as he could, tearing open flesh on Cameron’s face, shoulders, and chest, but Cameron was stronger and prevented the male from getting back up.
The rogue kicked and flailed around, trying to escape and keep Cameron away from his throat. Blood splattered in Cameron’s eyes and he could hardly make out his movement as he shredded and gutted the howling male.
Finally, the rogue stopped struggling and Cameron ripped out his throat. Blood spurted, bubbled, and frothed as he struggled to take his final breath before falling still and silent.
One of his packmates reached his side as he panted. The kill was reported and Alpha ordered everyone back to the packhouse.
[I got this,] his packmate told him, referring to the disposal of the body. [Alpha wants you to return to the packhouse immediately to discuss Sam’s mate in more detail.]
Cameron nodded and trotted away. He went a dozen yards before the world began to spin. He paused in his tracked and still the world spun around and around. His stomach roiled. His ears were still ringing. The rogue’s blood was still in his mouth. All he could smell was blood—the rogue’s mixed with his own. He vomited before collapsing. The world continued to spin with the loss of blood and the crash of adrenaline. The murmuring voices in the pack-link dimmed as he closed his heavy eyes. Even then, the world continued to spin in the darkness.
He didn’t know how much time passed before he stirred to the sound of his name. Fingers parted his eyelids as a bright flash of light blinded him for a second. He pulled away, but the familiar hands of his father held him still.
“How are you feeling, Cam?” the pack doctor’s voice asked as he flicked his flashlight away from his eyes and to his damaged ear.
Human vocal cords replied in a garbled grumble. “Dizzy.” The ringing in his ears had subsided. “My ears were ringing before but not anymore.”
“Has your hearing returned to normal?”
Fingers prodded along his ear. He exhaled through his teeth in a hiss when a nerve was struck.
“Sorry,” the doctor said. “It’s healing, but will take some time. Half your ear was torn off on the side of your head where you suffered brain trauma. A nerve must have been torn or pulled and that has thrown off your balance.”
“Sounds great,” Cameron uttered sarcastically.
“You need to spend a day in bed to recover. Let’s get you out of here and to the infirmary.”
“No,” Cameron shook his head and immediately regretted it as the world spun lightly.
“Cam, it’s better you stay with me so I can keep an eye on you,” the doctor stated firmly.
“No, I have to go back to my mate—she’s at the hotel in Aspen Beach. I have to go back. This is my second chance. I can’t screw this up.” Anxiety began to creep up. He couldn’t leave Olivia. No matter what, he had to return.
The doctor sighed and glanced at Cameron’s father.
“He needs this,” his father reiterated.
The doctor sighed again. “Alright, fine. I’ll do a more in-depth examination and treatment there.”
“Awesome,” Cameron said with a groan as his father helped him to his feet. “At least Olivia knows what’s going on, so I don’t have to make up excuses. My head is aching.”
“Come on, son. Climb onto my back so we can get you there faster.”
Cameron chuckled lightly as he obeyed. “Gee, thanks, Pops. I feel like a kid again.”
“Yeah, well,” his father groaned with effort, “you sure don’t feel like one to me.”