Chapter 16: Old Grudges
I turned and strode away, pulling Luca with me as I stormed off.
Poppy and Orion caught up, leading us to a private tent close by. Orion stood by the entrance, going pale at the sight of my limp arm.
“Red, your arm, let me help you.” Poppy said gently. I nodded bracing myself for the pain, I gripped onto Luca’s hand tightly.
With a sickening crunch she pushed my shoulder back in place. I managed to grit my teeth and not make a sound until she was finished.
I could feel the anger roll off Luca in waves. I tenderly placed my hand against his cheek, giving him an encouraging smile.
“Can you both give us both a minute?” I said to Poppy. She nodded silently, pulling Orion from the tent.
“Luca, I’m fine now. I promise.”
“He hurt you Red. I should tear his throat out.” He growled, still not meeting my eyes.
“It was an accident, I’m sure.” I said with more conviction than I felt. “Now are you going to introduce me to your ’best friend?’” I made air quotes jokingly.
He peeked at me from beneath his dark lashes, I could tell that his eyes were still a deeper blue, no doubt his wolf was just beneath the surface. He turned to me seriously, “Red, listen to me. I’m sure you can handle yourself but Nicholai is dangerous and he will want to hurt you to get to me.”
“As I said, I am no one’s weakness.” I smirked, causing him to chuckle.
He gently pulled me close, putting his forehead against mine. I took a deep breath, inhaling his scent. I felt better already. My shoulder was sore, but it would heal quickly.
“Come,” He said, taking my hand standing.
Exiting the tent, we found Poppy trying to calm a pacing Orion. Seeing us, he rushed forward and hugged us both gruffly.
“Careful Orion! Her shoulder…” Poppy scolded him.
Stepping back, he mumbled an apology. I swear I could see his eyes water, “Brother, I am so happy for you –“ He looked from me to Red, “for you both.”
Withdrawing from his grasp, I clapped him on the shoulder. “Red, this is Orion, he is Atlas’ son and future Alpha of the North American Packs.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Orion.” She said, inclining her head.
“The moon goddess could not have matched a better pair!” He hugged us tightly again, Poppy giggling at the sheer joy of the group.
I saw Red smiling as well, she seemed to be getting along with Poppy already.
“And you! You clocked Nicholai, I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone be so brazen! I love you already!” Orion gloated, this time hugging just Red.
She laughed, a sound that caused my heart to melt.
“Yeah, I don’t take lightly to threats, especially when it concerns my family.” She smiled, taking my hand in her own.
Orion beamed at the two of us. “This is cause for celebration! Luca, get your pack and meet us for dinner a sunset tonight.”
“Orion, I don’t know if Red is ready for all that.” Poppy cautioned him.
“It’s alright, we would love to. As long as I have time to change before meeting everyone.” Red replied warmly, referring to the dirt that now covered her pants and arms.
“Of course! You both take all the time you need. Luca, just link with Orion when you are ready. We’ll have things ready by sundown.” Poppy smiled.
Exiting the fairgrounds, Luca and I walked into the woods before I spoke up.
I breathed deeply. “Luca, what quarrel does Nicholai have with your pack?”
He growled next to me, sighing. “It’s not my pack, it’s me.”
I stopped to face him, gazing up in his eyes. “Red, you have to understand that his father, Alpha Sergei is – was a monster. The things he did to his people, to the humans in his region -” His voice faltered.
I put a hand on his cheek gently, encouraging him to continue. “Several years ago, I was sent to investigate some murders in the human region of eastern Russia. It was a remote town where people were going missing at an alarming rate. When I arrived, I found Alpha Sergei and some of his men blood drunk. They slaughtered the entire town.”
My eyes went wide. I had only heard of rogue wolves being blood drunk. That meant that they were feasting on human flesh, human blood containing toxins that would turn even the most composed wolf feral. The effects wore off after the blood worked its way out of the wolf’s system, but supposedly it held a high like no other.
“They didn’t just kill the humans, what they did to them before they finally ended their lives –“ His words dropped off a he shook his head.
Luca looked deep into my eyes, his own flashing the color of his wolfs. “Jarrod and I took the lives of each of his men and I personally left Sergi with a broken spine. I wanted to make sure that he would never inflict such evil ever again.”
I wrapped my arms around him. Pulling him as close as I could.
“The pack has declined since then. We took in all of his people that wanted to leave. When Nicholai appeared yesterday, claiming that he murdered Sergei –“
“He murdered his own father?” I whispered, eyes wide.
Luca’s lips twitched, nodding. “He brought proof.”
He sat across from his beta in his tent at their makeshift camp site, mulling over the events of the day. His men were still battered and broken from the confrontation with Luca and Orion last night. Not that their pain was any concern, but the incessant grunting and groaning from their injuries was working at his nerves.
“I thought our target was Luca? Why attack Orion’s Luna?” Alexei questioned, frustration lacing his questions.
“What better way to weaken our enemy than to hurt his allies?” Nicholai retorted with a menacing glint in his eye.
“Ok, then why are you ordering the men to follow this new she wolf? What is she to Orion?”
“Were you not paying attention to Luca’s reaction? She is special to him, maybe even a mate.” Nicholai sneered, a devilish grin spreading across his features. “Besides, so wolf should be able to lay a hand on me, especially no she wolf.”
Alexei averted his gaze, knowing what storm was coming. Instead of anger he saw something more terrifying in his Alpha’s eyes. Possession.
“What are your orders, my Alpha? Should we dispose of the woman?”
“No. Not yet, when she struck me her eyes flashed the most alluring shade of grey.” Nicholai smiled further.
Alexei swallowed hard. Not believing his ears. “What of it Nicholai? The men say that she is a commoner, an orphan no less. You cannot be suggesting…”
“We will need to see the eyes of her wolf to be sure, and the color of her coat.” He paused, thinking. “Just observe her from a distance for now, see what she is to Luca and when she shifts, report to me immediately.”
Alexei bowed, silently retreating from the tent.
Nicholai chuckled at his fortune. After all this time searching, his wolf growled, lips curling up in excitement. We may have find the blood wolf yet, Nicholai smiled.