Ezra squatted by the silver bars of the dungeon scrutinizing the three rabid wolfs snarling and hissing at them.
"We tried everything we could but they won't shift." Luke reported from over her shoulder. "We managed to get their blood samples. They're werewolves."
Cole observed them from over his knuckles with narrowed eyes. "I don't get why I can't smell them though."
Ezra stood up and dusted his hands. "Luke. Five packs were attacked simultaneously. What have they reported so far?"
"Same results." Luke told him. "None of the prisoners are shifting. They carry no scent and they're genetically werewolves. Additional information is that they're all the same breed, same family bloodline. We compared the samples in the lab and the reports are accurate. All of these weres are from the same family tree."
Ezra glanced at Luke and nodded. For a brief moment, he wondered why he never included him in his friends. The ones he had proved themselves to be idiots. Luke was intelligent and short spoken.
"Something is not adding up." He scratched his chin. "How can a family breed rapidly and in such large numbers? They attacked five of the strongest packs on one day. And I'm sure there are more out there."
Before Cole could voice his opinion, the wolves in the prisoners started howling in pain. They whined and whimpered, shaking their heads vigorously. All of a sudden, their bodies exploded. Cole, Luke and Ezra jumped back from the flying flesh and splatters of blood.
"What the bloody fuck." Ezra stared wide eyed at the mess.
Cole caught the surprise in Luke's eyes matching his. "Did they just- the- whuh..."
"You understand what this means right?" Luke asked, guaging their expressions. "I think, it's witchcraft."
"You mean magic." Cole said. "Search the bodies... or whatever is left of it. If there's no trace of mental in that mesh I'm going with your theory."
Ezra shook his shoe to rid of the stray piece of flesh on it and swiped his hair. "Witches were banished from our lands decades ago. They made a treaty with us of never interfering in our lives. No witch would be stupid enough or strong enough to do any of this."
"Then maybe there are more than one involved." Cole interject.
Ezra shook his head and strode out of the dungeon. "Let's see if there's anything poisonous in their system or something that could explod first. Luke, see to it and Cole check the warriors. I'm going to see the injured pack members."
Lily swam in her head for hours, slipping in and out of consciousness. Her body was sore, her throat parched and her ears ringing when she mustered enough energy to peel her eyes open. White bright light stung her eyes. She squinted and blinked several times to adjust her sight.
"Lily? Oh my goddess, you're finally awake!"
A soft hand clutched hers firmly. Her head moved to the side on a soft pillow. She realized she was in a hospital bed, dressed in a blue gown.
"Marie?" She heard herself ask. The voice was too scratchy to be hers.
"Yes. Goddess danmit! I've been biting off my nails for hours. What took you so long?"
Lily tried sitting up. Another pair of hands gently held her shoulders and helped her up.
"Thanks, Sam." She smiled at him. "How long have I've been out?"
"Six hours." Marie answered her from her beside chair. "The moment I heard, I drived back to the pack like a madwoman."
"You didn't have to–"
"Shut up." Marie cut in sternly. "I've been so busy with the whole mating event setting, I needed a break. But not like this." She gestured at Lily. "I thought I'd come back to a round and heavy Lily ready with a dreamy story of her mate."
The words tore past her heart. Lily felt the familiar ache rising in her chest. She had tried not to think about him to spare herself the pain but it was back with a vengeance.
Marie noticed the light dimming in her eyes. "What's wrong?"
Sam drew a breath and silently took a seat on the bench in the room. Marie gazed at him quizzically then back at Lily.
"I asked something. Excuse me, anyone here?"
Lily giggled at her antics. "I'm alright, drama queen. I just woke up from a six hours nap. Just a little disoriented, that's all."
"Should I call the nurse?"
Lily shook her head slowly. "I can handle it. Why am I here, though? I don't remember..." Her eyes flickered in confusion. The last she remembered, she was throwing up on the muddy ground of the forest. Was she attacked after she passed out?
"The doctor said you had a panic attack." Sam answered her from across the room. "He said you have unhealed trauma. Something triggered it after a long time. That's why it affected you so much."
Lily sighed and leaned into the pillows Sam had placed behind her back. "The blood kind of–" she shot up and winced at her dizziness. "Joey! He was in danger. Where is Joey?"
Sam gestured her to calm down as Marie helped her with a glass of water.
"He's okay. He's fine. The guards found him after you chased the rogues away. He's with his mother right now." Sam explained hastily. "The doctor said you'll have to spend the night here and then we can leave in the morning. I'll take you to see him, don't stress."
Lily heaved a sigh and drank the water Marie gave her. It soothed her sore throat immediately.
"Who brought me here?"
Something flickered in his eyes. "Ezra."
Lily gulped. "Hmm."
Marie scooted her chair closer to her bed and clasped her hand again. "Let me tell you something juicy to cheer you up."
Lily smiled broadly at the chasire cat eyes Marie made. "Go on..."
Marie was literally bubbling on the inside with excitement. "The royal prince is going to be attending this year's mating event!" She squealed. "The event manager had already put up a throne for him on the podium."
Lily's jaw slackened. "I thought he's a myth. My school teacher always used to say the prince died at birth."
Marie scoffed and waved her hand. "We all grew up to that shet. That's why I asked a few guys at the manor there. One of them was trained from the royal guards. He said that story spread because the prince was never seen. When his age of coronation came, he eloped. None of the werewolves except the royal servents, royal guards and councilmen had seen him. That's why this year's event is going to be G.R.A.N.D."
Sam rolled his eyes from his seat and made gagging faces. Marie missed it but Lily could see it. Laughter erupted from her belly.
"What?" Marie queried. "You don't believe me?"
"I do. I do." Lily rushed. "I'm just really... excited."
"Yeah so, anyway, should I reserve a seat for you? Because I'm guessing you haven't met your mate yet."
There it was, the blooming pain in her insides. Before she could cover up the heartbroken gleam in her eyes, a knock at the door shifted their attention. It took her a second to recognize the scent. Her mind went blank.
Sam opened the door and faltered when he saw who it was. Anger forced him to slam the door in his face but he was an Alpha. He caught it with ease and pushed inside.
Marie was bewildered at the aggression between the two men. Sam stood in front of Lily like a rock.
"Get out." He gritted his teeth. "You've done enough already."
Ezra had a few inches on him so peered over his shoulder at Lily and sighed when he saw her awake.
"Lillian. We're two adults. I need to talk to you. Hear me out, please. If you decided you don't want to listen, I'll come some other time. But this isn't helping either of us."
"Wait, wait," Marie stood up. "What is going on?"
Ezra ignored her and caught Sam's wrist before he could shove him. His desperate eyes never left her. "Listen to me, Lillian. Talk to me."
"I will," Lily's monotonous voice stung him. "I will talk to you, listen to you, try to understand only on one condition."
Ezra jumped at the chance. "Anything! I promise."
Lily nodded firmly, still looking at her lap. "This is the last time we're going to talk."
Ezra froze. A chill sprinkled down his spine. After a deadly long pause he drew in a heavy breath. "Okay. Deal."
Sam was reluctant about leaving her alone with him but he gave up and dragged a confused and questioning Marie out of the room with him. Ezra bit his lip and sighed after taking a seat on the beside chair. He opened his mouth, then closed it and repeated. He was both acting like a fish and feeling like a fish on dry land. His shoulders sagged when he reached for her hand and she pulled it away.
"No apologies. You came here to talk."