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“So,” I mumbled as I looked up at Kieran. “What do you think about me going back to the foster house?”

His blue eyes blinked down at me, his lips curling into a confused frown. He ran a single hand through my dark locks, slowly, as he processed everything in his mind. Kieran was silent for a long, grueling moment. I closed my eyes as I gently turned my head from where it laid across his lap.

“Not to live there, right?” He eventually said.

“Of course not, no! I just want to say bye to everyone, let them know that I’m okay and not laying dead somewhere. I mean the last news they heard about me was that I mysteriously disappeared.”

“Wouldn’t that older woman there have told them something?”

“Mrs. Donna? I mean, I guess she probably would’ve. Since, for some reason, she put her entire trust on you not being a crazed serial killer.” My thoughts briefly swayed back to last week, when I managed to escape from the cabin and ran all the way back into town and to the foster home, only for Mrs. Donna to let Kieran in and basically give me to him. I never questioned exactly how she knew she should trust him, or maybe her gut just had extremely good instincts.

Softly smiling, Kieran looked away from me before responding.

“She had a faint werewolf scent on her, and we spoke while you were in the shower. She had a mate. He’s dead, though. I think he was killed by another wolf.”

“That’s terrible,” Closing my eyes, I realized that Mrs. Donna never spoke about her late husband, or mate, and she had zero photos of him on her wall. Maybe it was too painful for her to see him everyday but not actually be with him. Mates were different than just husbands, or lovers, since mates were destined to be together. People can have two or three marriages in their lifetime and never quite reach the love that can grow between mates.

I didn’t know if I’d grow to love Kieran and Ezra, but ever since I met them, I knew that I could never be apart from them again.

It was weird. Feeling this dependent on two people.

“You can go later. Wait for Ezra to get back from work.” Kieran decided, running his thick fingers through my hair again.

“Cleo!” Alla shouted, charging at me with both of her tiny arms outstretched. She jumped without warning, but thankfully, due to her minimal weight, I was able to catch her with ease.

“Alla!” I copied, engulfing her into my chest. After a moment of intense squeezing, I set her back down on her feet. Alla’s honeydew eyes grew wide as she caught sight of the two men flaking either side of me, only they were a few steps back. Ezra and Kieran opted to be a few feet behind me, and awkwardly stood there, not saying anything. I don’t know if they liked children or not, or if they were unsure as to how to speak to foster children. A lot of foster children don’t exactly turn out great due to the system, and maybe they were weary to approach one.

Silently, I chuckled, at the idea of Alla making those two mountains of men nervous.

I focused my thoughts back onto Alla, whose entire demeanor abruptly changed. My heart stopped in my chest as she seemed to be struggling to keep her smile up. The light from her grin never did reach her eyes, and I wanted to know instantly who was causing her this emotional strain. No five year old needed to fake being happy. Especially not Alla.

Suddenly, in a single moment, all of Alla’s features drooped. Letting out a whined sigh, she hastily glanced behind her at the front door of the foster home before turning back towards us.

“You shouldn’t have come back, Leo.” Craning her neck to fully meet my eyes, rather than step back a little, Alla twisted her hands together, stress present in her features. “Mrs. Donna told us all that you found some sort of family to live with, that you had left,” She gulped in a breath of air, and for a moment, I caught a sight of tears present in her big eyes. My heart clenched. “So those nice people came back and they weren’t happy.”

“What nice people?”

“Alla?” Came Mrs. Donna, from inside the foster home. She was now standing in the front doorway, only her eyes froze when she saw me, and my two mates, behind me. Rather than smiling, her mouth dropped open in slight horror.

It’s only been about a week since I left and everything seems worse here. I doubt my leaving had anything to do with it, but what had everyone acting so worried? I even felt Ezra and Kieran shift uncomfortably behind me, as if they too wondered.

But then Mr. and Mrs. Elison walked up behind Mrs. Donna, their faces torn between anger and anguish.

Shit. That was why.

The people that were supposed to adopt me. I had no idea how Mrs. Donna got them to not contact the police or any authorities when I mysteriously disappeared and suddenly wasn’t available for adoption.

“You told us some of her distant family discovered her and she went to live with them!” Mr. Elison pointed accusingly at Mrs. Donna, who turned to face them. She opened her mouth but no words came out. She was just there, silently, as if time had frozen over her while we remained unaffected. “You convinced us that she had finally found family, and that she was moving a few states over!”

His beady little eyes then turned to rank over me, Kieran, and Ezra. Alla perched behind my legs, her fearful eyes now weary of the Elisons. I felt her small hands wrap around one of my lower thighs, clutching it desperately to her shaking frame.

“You expect us to believe that these - these random guys are her family?!” He furiously roared as he pushed past Mrs. Donna to come angrily at us. His wife followed, her silent yet brooding glare told us she agreed with her husband yet let him take the lead. She still kept a few feet of distance between her and her husband, though.

But, Mr. Elison wasn’t wrong in his accusations. I had darker, tan skin, with the deep locks to match. Sure, Kieran and Ezra had darker hair, not nearly as black as mine, but they were both fairer and much paler than me. We definitely did not look like family from an outside perspective, we looked like a couple with someone third-wheeling, or a group of friends.

The Elisons were no longer buying what Mrs. Donna was selling.

I felt Kieran tense up next to me, and Ezra took a step forward.

“Look,” Kieran began, but Mr. Elison brutally cut him off.

“I don’t know what is wrong with you people, or what is even happening anymore, you crazy -” Mr. Elison went to jab me in the chest with his outstretched finger, only Kieran suddenly seized his wrist before he could even get close to me, effectively cutting him off in the middle of his sentence.

Kieran immediately yanked Mr. Elison away from me, twisting his wrist to lock his entire body in place. Mr. Elison cried out, his old and feeble body no match for Kieran’s young strength. “Don’t you fucking touch her,” He seethed.

“Nigel!” Mrs. Elison called out, but her own fear caused her to back up until she stood next to Mrs. Donna, in the front doorway. Still unable to do remotely anything, Mrs. Donna only blinked at us with her mouth agape. Mrs. Elison soon resembled the other woman, becoming a voice trapped inside her own head as she said nothing more.

“Let go of me you freak!” Mr. Elison hissed, the words sliding out of his clenched teeth. He tried to break free of Kieran’s grasp, which only made Kieran twist his wrist even further.

“Kieran!” I scolded, grabbing onto his bicep. I attempted to pull at him, to make him release the old man, but something made Kieran stay rooted in his place. His blue eyes narrowed with so much hatred that even I grew momentarily scared of him. Ezra was silent next to me, probably secretly approving of what his friend was doing.

“Patricia, call the c-” The old man began, but once Kieran gave another flick to his suspended wrist, he closed his mouth in silent defeat.

Mrs. Elison ran back inside the foster home, breaking Mrs. Donna out of her frozen trance. She raced inside, following the old woman, briefly glancing behind her at where Alla still stood behind me.

“Kieran,” I pleaded. “Let him go, they’re calling the police, come on, Kieran,” I yanked on his arm again, looking at Ezra to see if he’d offer any assistance, but he just stood there with his arms crossed, his eyes slightly glazed over. One look back at Kieran told me his eyes were also glazed over.

They were doing their weird mind jujitsu and not even listening to me. Great. Fucking great.

Once Mr. Elison clued in that Kieran was distracted, he started to speak once more. I let go of Kieran, since my efforts were futile, and sent a glare at this insensible man. I can’t believe they were about to adopt me. Who knew what angry interior was hidden under their nice exterior.

“I thought that girl over the phone was crazy, that she was just messing with us, but coming back here and discovering exactly what went on with you,” He turned his head toward me, a painful grimace etched on his face. “I believe her. Whatever Donna told us was clearly a lie, clearly she was trying to cover something up.”

A girl on the phone? What was he talking about?

I hastily glanced back to the foster home, and through the open front door, I saw Mrs. Elison with a phone to her ear and Mrs. Donna nowhere in sight.

Out of his trance, Kieran blinked a few times, and seemingly Mr. Elison’s words only just registered in his mind because he noticeably loosened his grip on the old man’s wrist, and hissed out, “What the fuck are you talking about?”

Somehow, maybe since his wrist got some slack, Mr. Elison managed to smile. He directed his words at Kieran, and partially Ezra, though he was a few feet to the old man’s left. “My wife and I got an anonymous tip that Cleo didn’t leave voluntarily, and that we should investigate for foul play. And after seeing you two with her,” He took a deep breath before violently yanking his wrist free of Kieran’s grasp. He slowly backed away from all of us, his hissed voice coming out forcefully. “I know that you must’ve taken the girl, and the only reason as to why she thinks you like her must be due to the effects of Stockholm Syndrome. And then you threatened Donna to make up some story to us, so that we wouldn’t question anything. You thought you were so clever, so smart, well, you’re not gonna get away with this!” Backing away from us, he cradled his hurt wrist to his chest. “I hope you go to prison for the rest of your lives!” Then, being the coward that he is, Mr. Elison sprinted back inside.

In the distance, an array of sirens started up. Already, they were on their way, and we had to leave. And now. If the police caught us, I didn’t want to think what would happen. Kieran and Ezra, they’d get arrested, and then I’d be all alone. Just like I have been my entire life. I couldn’t go back to that. Not after this last week of my life.

“Fuck,” Kieran mumbled, turning away from the house to kick a rock. “Fuck!”

I pulled Alla from behind me, urging her to go back inside. She was hesitant at first, but after tightly squeezing my legs in one of her hugs, she took off.

“We need to leave,” I repeated, frantically looking between Ezra and Kieran. They had to know what to do, they just had to! I wouldn’t let them take them away from me.

The sirens grew louder, causing more anxiety to swell inside me. Sweat beaded down my forehead as I looked down each side of the neighborhood street. We had maybe two minutes, or three. That was enough time for us to leave. Right?

“If we run, we look guilty,” Ezra reasoned, but that didn’t calm my flight instinct screaming at me to run. Kieran ran his fingers through his hair as he paced back and forth.

“We have to do something,” Frustratedly, I whined. The stress turned to annoyance that they just stood around, acting casual, as the cops got closer and closer.

However, their calm demeanors made me stop and think.

So let’s say we run. We may get chased by the cops. They may catch us. If they don’t, we go on a wanted list, and live on the run, where being captured is always nipping at our heels until one day we slip up and are caught.

Maybe our capture is inevitable and this was the best outlook for us.

Maybe. Just maybe.

A loud, blaring siren alerted all of us of the cars zooming down the street. It was too late. The decision was made, the deed, done.

All feeling except for the coldness of the handcuffs left me.

A/N - Another long chapter! Things are getting intense! What do you think will happen next?

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