Marcus felt Eloise tense as she opened the text messages.
Ellie, I miss you. Why did you have to go into hiding?
I would never hurt my mate, I love you.
Seeing you every day has been the balm to my life.
I took care of Jimmy, he won’t ever touch you again.
I know you are in Texas with that bear.
Don’t think I’ve forgotten we are mates, when you get back, I am coming for you.
How dare you leave!
Have you no idea what being away from you has done to me!
If you let that bear mate you, consider yourself dead!
I love you.
Marcus growled as her hands shook, the text messages became more deranged as they went on. From the time stamps, they happened over a period of seven hours. The longer she went without answering, the angrier the texts sounded.
“We need to send these to Cody, immediately. They can use their IT department and track the number. If we are lucky William used his phone and not a burner phone,” he said. She nodded silently, he worried that she hadn’t said anything. The longer you bottled up your feelings the worse the explosion would be in the end. He got up and grabbed his phone, quickly dialing Cody he put him on speaker.
“Zephyr, why are you calling?” Cody’s tired voice answered the phone.
“Eloise got a string of disturbing text messages today,” he explained.
“Send them to me now, I’ll get my IT guys on it immediately,” he replied, his voice changed from tired to authoritarian.
“Eloise will send it now,” he assured him, watching as Eloise collected the texts in a screenshot and sent the email.
“Did you get it?” he asked, watching Eloise, she was dead silent, pale and staring off into space. He knew that look, it was the look of someone haunted.
“Got it. We will deal with this immediately.”
“Do you have more about Jimmy?” he wanted to know, if they had any more information on his death Marcus wanted it to help him protect Eloise.
“Only that he was intoxicated when killed, the death occurred at five-thirty am and we are certain a mountain lion shifter killed him. Other than that, nothing. There were no prints left behind, not even mountain lion paw prints. Whoever killed him was very careful to cover their tracks. We are still keeping an eye out for William, but he seems to have disappeared.”
“He is in Kill Turn Falls, Washington,” Eloise commented, Marcus was surprised she spoke.
“That is where is family is living. My mom lives there with her fiancé,” Eloise replied.
“We will post a few officers at the airport then,” he answered.
“Good, we will continue to be diligent on our part,” Marcus replied.
“Thank you, Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas,” Marcus said back and hung up. He reached for Eloise, she went willingly into his arms.
“I promise nothing will happen to you,” he told her.
“I know,” she said sighing. He looked down at her and noticed she had closed her eyes.
“Very, this whole thing has escalated to a point I am not sure I can continue to go on as normal.” Her body went limp in his arms and tears were streaming down her face. Marcus wrapped her up in his arms and held her close as she cried. It was sometime later he realized her tears had dried and she was fast asleep. Laying her down, he slipped out of bed and got dressed.
Walking down to the main level, the party was still in full swing. He caught his dad’s eye and motioned for him to meet him in the office. His dad nodded and made his excuses to the group of people he was talking to. Marcus watched his mom stop him, his dad explained and his mom looked up to give him a worried expression.
“Marcus, what’s wrong?” Lola asked, he jumped a little, how had she snuck up on him?
“Eloise got a string of disturbing texts from her stalker on her phone. We let Cody Ling, the sheriff know and he is getting his officers on figuring out who sent them,” he explained.
“This is much worse than before then?” she asked, he nodded.
“Much, we are doing everything we can to make sure your daughter is kept safe,” he tried to assure her.
“I know you will. You are her mate, when can I expect you to propose?” she demanded.
“As soon as I get a ring,” he replied with a smile.
“Do it soon,” she ordered with a smile and walked away to join Joe.
“Marcus,” his dad called, he turned and followed him down the hall to his office. His father’s office was still the same as when he was a child. There was a large oak desk place in the center, his worn leather chair and several bookcases and filing cabinets against the walls. He remembered spending times in here after he did something his mother called stupid getting “reprimanded” for his behavior. In reality, his father usually was laughing too hard about his antics to punish him. Occasionally he would share about a time when he did something similar.
“What happened?” his dad asked the minute they were in the office, the door closed.
“Eloise was sent a string of increasingly dangerous text messages. The last few were the words of a crazed shifter,” he explained.
“Saying things like, if you mate with someone else you will die?” his dad asked.
“Yes. I think the animal has taken over and William is no longer completely in control,” Marcus shared, his dad sat at his desk and turned on his computer.
“The nice thing about technology these days, the shifter community can keep connected a lot easier. I might be able to get you in touch with the mountain lion alpha in White Valley. The same way you had to check in with Alpha Bryson, William should have had to do the same,” his father explained, jiggling the mouse to get past the log in screen.
“What will that do us?” Marcus paced the study, he was too wound up to sit down and wait for his father.
“It should tell us exactly where William is working and the location of his home. We can also tell the alpha what is going on and he can supply a few other mountain lion shifters to help you. They won’t want a crazy shifter around their town.” His father opened a browser window and began to type away.
“William is in Kill Turn Falls right now with his family. I let Cody Ling the sheriff know and he is going to place some of his officers at the airport to keep a lookout. They are going to take him in as a person of interest for questioning,” he told him, his father nodded and continued to type into an email document.
“Perfect, I’ve put everything in an email to Alpha Bryson, he will pass it on to the correct alpha. Where is Ellie?”
“She is resting upstairs, the text messages took it out of her,” he explained.
“That and your constant mating,” his father added, Marcus had the decency to blush at his father’s words.
“That too, no one told me the intensity of your emotions and desire after you mate,” he replied.
“None of your brothers bit their wives, you are the first to pass on part of yourself to your mate. Your mother and I are very happy with your choice, Ellie is a sweet girl.”
“Thanks Dad. She has been a breath of fresh air to my life. I cannot imagine ever living without her. She has agreed to move in with me as soon as we get home. Is Mom planning a girls’ day for the twenty-sixth?” he asked, it would be the perfect time for him to go and get her engagement ring.
“I believe so. Stop and see Charles in Clifton Jewelry, he can get you a ring sized the same day,” his father replied, he wasn’t surprised his dad knew what he was going to do in two days.
“Thanks, I will. I’m going to go back up to Eloise. We will see everyone in the morning to open presents.” He stood and walked to the door.
“I’ll let your mom know. Goodnight.” Marcus slipped through the party and said his goodbyes to his friends before heading up to Eloise.
“Are you going to marry her?” Vincent’s voice caught him off guard, he turned to look at his oldest nephew.
“Yes, I love Eloise,” he replied.
“Are you going to move to Colorado?” Marcus gave him a confused look, where would Vincent get the idea he was moving to Colorado?
“No, Eloise and I have jobs in Virginia,” he replied.
“I hate her,” Vincent snapped and tried to run off. Marcus caught him by the arm and pulled him gently into an empty room.
“Why?” He was curious why Vincent hated his mate.
“Because she is keeping you from moving closer.”
“Vincent, I wasn’t ever going to move to Colorado. My job is in Virginia, my house is in Virginia,” he explained, kneeling so they were eye to eye.
“Dad said you were coming to live near us,” Vincent argued.
“I don’t know where he got that idea, but I am not coming to live near you and your family. I love you all very much, but my life is in Virginia. Eloise is in Virginia and she means the world to me.”
“But we will never see you again!” Vincent was near tears as he yelled.
“That is not true, Eloise and I will come to Christmas every year and we will have you all come visit us for the Fourth of July. I promise you will see us and spend time with us,” Marcus explained, pulling Vincent in for a hug.
“Yes, Eloise loves you all. She would never let me not come visit.”
“Then I guess you can marry her,” Vincent said with a shrug of his small shoulders. Marcus held back his laughter and nodded solemnly at his nephew.
“Aren’t you supposed to be in bed?” he asked, Vincent’s eyes got wide and he rushed back to the room he was sharing with all the older cousins. Marcus laughed and walked back to his room where Eloise was peacefully sleeping in the bed. He stripped down to his boxers and slipped into the bed, wrapping his arms around his mate and falling fast asleep.