Things were better.
I'm not too naive to say everything was good. That was a lie.
Hakota and I were okay now but we were not back to normal. Truthfully, I didn't believe we would ever go back to normal. I could only hope we'd become stronger together as we found a way back and not drift apart.
Widening the gap between us didn't seem like a possibility because I wasn't going to let it happen.
As for everything else, well, we were continuing on as normal. All we could do was wait. Wait and see if the Forest Kingdom initiated a war. We weren't willing to make the first move so it was up to them.
Yet somehow I was less stressed. I slept, holding Winter in my arms, her heat filling me with a bone deep warmth. Breathing in her scent soothed me, pulling me into a deep sleep.
I awoke to dead silence. A chill swept down my spine and I shivered.
Something felt wrong.
My first concern immediately went to my mate. I checked her, feeling her pulse and gave her a little shake to wake her. She moaned, shifted a little. "Hmm?"
"I'm going for a quick walk, I'll be right back," I told her, just needing to check on thing to ease my nervousness.
"Now?" She mumbled out sleepily. She groaned rubbed a hand across her eyes, moving to sit up, but I put a hand on her shoulder to stop her.
"Shh," I soothed her, "go back to bed, I'll be just a moment." I tossed the covers aside but she grabbed my wrist, seemingly alert now.
"No," she told me. "Sitka, something is wrong."
I exhaled through my nose, "You can feel it too." I was more anxious now that it was a shared feeling. "Stay here," I commanded her. "Lock the door and I'll send guards here. I'll be back as soon as I alert Cleo and Hakota, I swear."
Winter opened her mouth to protest but I gave her a hard look.
I held up a hand, "No. You're pregnant and if I really do run into trouble I don't want you with me. Stay here Winter, I mean it." I used a bit of a beta command on her.
She scowled but didn't object any longer.
Doing as I said, I crept through the hallways, sending the werewolves on night rotation to guard our bedroom doors.
Everything seemed normal which only concerned me more because something was definitely not right. I hastened my steps, coming upon my alpha's room only to find the door partially ajar. I pushed it all the way open to reveal an empty room.
Knitting my brows in confusion I twisted to my left and right, wondering where they could have gone. I padded down to Kieran's room, raising a hand to knock on the door when it opened.
I came face to face with Cleo.
A small squeak escaped her lips as she nearly ran into me. She lifted a hand to her heart. "Lune, Sitka," she whisper-yelled. With a deep breath she stepped fully out of the room and closed the door. "I left Elias with Kieran, Nahta's in there too. They should be fine if anything happens." She didn't even ask if I felt the same cloud of unease hovering over our heads.
It was a pointless question because I obviously wouldn't have come looking for her if I didn't.
"I'm going back to Winter then," I said and Cleo only nodded in agreement.
I jogged back to my room, relieved to see it looked undisturbed and the werewolves were still posted outside. I sent them away with a warning, "be on guard tonight," I told them, "there's something sinister lingering in the air."
No one got any sleep that night. We all were holding our breaths, waiting for whatever it was to happen.
It wasn't until the following morning we realized it had happened.
Hakota could relax. None of us could. Currently it was Cleo, her kids, Nahta, Innoko and Roshan, Frayah, Sani and their kids, and of course Hakota and I all sitting together and waiting for the last members of our pack to arrive. Not everyone lived in the castle such as Flicka and her twin mates with their children, also Sasha lived alone and Cahtta and Mathias had their own house just outside of the castle as did Yana and her mate.
Syn, Terrin and Malik walked into the room and another breath of relief was let out from everyone to see more of our pack members alive and well.
I shot the young teenager a look, wondering if he knew something but his usual cocky expression was grim today. He met my eyes and gave a slight shake of his head gravely.
He didn't know either.
Frayah was pacing nervously, bitting at her nails as she waited for her daughter and mate to arrive. Sani just watched her worriedly. The grave expression on his face betrayed that he too was nervous but was trying to be strong for his mate and put her at ease.
When Cahtta and her mate finally entered, Frayah rushed over to her daughter, enveloping her in a hug. "Oh thank Lune," she gasped what we had all been thinking collectively.
Not soon after Flicka, the mute twins, and their younger daughter Galay arrived.
But when Flicka's face paled we all knew something was wrong. "Where is Iris?" she asked, her eyes sweeping over every face in the room.
Innoko and Roshan were on their feet in an instant. "Yana and her mate aren't here either."
"Iris left with them before us," Flicka fretted. "They should all be here by now."
Cleo was already walking towards the door. "Innoko, Sani, Syn, come with me, we'll go look for them. The rest of you..." she looked desperately at her mate, obviously wanting to tell us to keep calm and not panic but that was an impossible thing to ask.
They swept out of the room, the doors banging closed with finality.