39 Too Easy
Finally everything in my life has been going smoothly. Chris coming over to help with everyone then doing regular daily things has really brought us a lot closer. Having introduced him formally to Trish kind of just made our relationship more real.
Jude has spent more time at the pack then away from it. He has joined regular training, which I have started to watch. He’s stronger than the average wolf, so most of his real sparring is done with Jace now after the main training time. He has taken a few rounds with Xavier, but I think he’s actually stronger than him.
I can’t help but hope that this is their way of bringing him in, but after last time’s screw up, I’m keeping my mouth shut!
‘He’s already in, it’s just a formality now.’ ‘God I hope so, he deserves it.’
“Enjoying the show?” Jace asks, heading over to me. His signature playboy smirk plays across his face as he towels the sweat off of his chest.
“Not gonna lie, it’s better than main training. It’s like watching a kids’ concert versus a live concert from your favourite band.” My words are true, not that the other warriors are children but the matches between Jace and Jude have a whole different level of power and dynamic.
“He’s got some moves, I’ll give him that. It’s nice to have a little challenge,” Jace laughs. “Not that Xavier’s a wimp but maybe I’ve just trained with him for too long. I actually have to think and work to keep up with Jude.”
“I’m sorry, was that a complement?” Jude cuts in, taking a seat with his own crooked grin.
“Cool it boy scout,” Jace grumbles, rolling his eyes dramatically.
“Imagine how hard he’ll be to beat with a bit more formal training,” I tease. “Fortunately he’s holding back.”
“Jess,” Jude warns, pinning me in place with a hard glare.
“Is that so?” Jace asks, brow raised.
“She’s just trying to get a rise out of you,” Jude dismisses.
Jace just looks at me, suddenly unsure, so I grin and clarify, proud of my own powers of observation. “Jude has a tell. When he trains with me and lets me win, or take him down or whatever, he gets this look in his eye. The same one I caught a few times before he lost to you.”
“This true?” Jace asks, eyeing up Jude.
“One more round, and don’t hold back this time,” Jace’s tone leaves no room to argue. With a sigh, Jude stands up and brushes himself off, sparing me one last frown.
Sara takes a seat beside me as the guys make their way back to the center. “Is he finally going to actually try?” She asks, making my eyes go wide.
“Oh please, you don’t think I saw the look he makes when he pulls punches with the other warriors?” She scoffs at my look. “I didn’t get my job by missing little things, you know? I saw a lot of potential in him. That’s why I brought him into Challenge and he didn’t disappoint.”
Her gloating is cut short when the men square off in the field. This time Jude hangs back, waiting for Jace to make his first move. Jace starts with an obvious lunge, which he expects Jude to side step and is already mid-swing with a kick where he expects Jude to be. Jude however is ready for it, dropping and dodging before swiping Jace’s other foot out from under him.
Chris walks up and quietly watches the match as well with an unreadable expression on his dark features.
Jace takes the momentum of his fall to try and drive an elbow into Jude’s ribs, but instead catches Jude’s raised knee, flipping him over. In an instant, Jude jumps on him but Jace flips him, off using his own momentum against him.
The guys trade blows back and forth without either getting a clear upper hand. This match is already considerably longer than their previous ones with no end in sight.
Jace stumbles, giving Jude an opening that he blindly takes, landing a savage left hook to his jaw. Before I could tell what is happening Jace has Jude’s arm twisted awkwardly, legs wrapped around his waist, with his other arm tight across his neck. Jude struggles a moment more, pinned beneath him before tapping out.
I let out a breath I was holding as Jace rolls off him, laying on his back and panting to catch his breath.
“Where the hell were you hiding that man?” Jace finally asks, still laying there trying to catch his breath.
“You’ve been holding out on us Jude,” Chris says, ticking his jaw with a dangerous edge to his voice. His hazel eyes are nearly brown as he glares at Jude.
“S-sorry, I um-” he stammers. Jude knows he’s in a dangerous position but there’s no clear way out.
“Clearly my Beta needs to step up his game if a lone rogue can give him such a hard time.” Chris has gone straight past dangerous to threatening and it sets my teeth on edge.
“Chris!” I snap, balling my fists.
There’s no need to be cruel.
“Sorry, I should go clean up,” Jude says, keeping his gaze down.
Eventually Chris nods, letting him off the hook and Jude takes off. Irritation flares at me at Chris’ behaviour and I give him one last hard look before taking off after Jude.
“Jude wait, I’m sorry,” I call after him, jogging to catch up. Jude pauses, looking over his shoulder and waits so I can catch up.
“For what?” Jude asks, raising a brow. He looks unphased, as if that final match never occurred.
“I shouldn’t have told him-” He cuts me off with a wave of his hand, flashing a smile as he shakes his head.
“You did nothing wrong, I shouldn’t have held back. I gave as good as I got this last round though eh?” He says with a goofy grin. “But I fell for the bait at the end. He gave me that opening to sucker me in to get the pin.”
I didn’t even realize that’s what happened but once Jude points it out, Jace’s trap was clear.
Playboy is sneakier than I give him credit for...
“I’m good. I need to shower up and head out for a bit. Assuming I’m not in shit, I’ll see you later on tonight,” he smiles, dismissing me.
I head back to the kitchen to grab a late lunch, since everyone else ate while Jace and Jude trained. Claire greets me warmly and passes me a plate that I gladly take and head to a table while she continues cleaning up. Left to my own devices, I play with my phone, answering a few texts as I pick at my food.
“Stay here,” Claire says out of nowhere. Her eyes look far away telling me she’s linking someone.
“What’s wrong?” I ask with an edge of concern in my voice.
“Not sure, maybe nothing. Patrol has linked about a suspicious scent. I’ll be back, I need to lock things down.” I nod as she heads off, quickly disappearing out the back door.
Eager to keep my mind occupied and nerves at bay, I clean up my plate and set it in the dish rack as the back door flies open, revealing Derek.
“Have you seen Ethan?” He asks, the concern clear in his dark eyes.
“No he’s not here, probably in his Swiss tree, can’t they link him?” I ask, frowning.
“No, he’s blocking the link. Where’s this tree? Can you take me?” He’s getting anxious now and it only feeds my own nerves.
“Yeah let’s go,” I say, slipping my hoodie back on and following him out the back door.
We take off across the back lawn to the woods. His powerful strides outmatch mine easily. A shrill howl in the distance sends a shiver down my spine, freezing me in place.
Derek grabs my hand, dragging me along faster. I point which path to take focusing all my energy on my feet and not tripping. After zigging and zagging through the spider web of paths in the woods, we finally make it to the clearing that Ethan spends most of his time in. A large rotten out oak stands by the edge.
“Ethan,” Derek calls in a desperate whisper. There’s no answer, not even birds are chirping. The forest is eerily silent, setting my nerves off further. Every fiber of my being warns that something is very wrong and time is running out, but about what I’m not sure.
“Where else would he be?” he asks, dark eyes lock on me, demanding I think faster.
“Wait,” I slow my racing heart and feel around us. Suddenly I feel Ethan’s familiar energy, he’s here, hiding in the tree, and terrified. “He’s up there.” I nod at the tree.
“You’re sure?” I nod again and we take off to the base of the tree. “Ethan, we have to go, now!”
“I’ll go up and get him,” I reason. He’s already scared, his uncle yelling at him to come out before it’s too late isn’t going to help.
He frowns, considering his options before nodding reluctantly. Before I move, he turns to face the far side of the clearing. Derek drops his shoulders, squaring up his feet as he drops into a defensive stance.
Something or someone’s coming... and we’re running out of time.
“Hurry up princess,” he calls as I shimmy up the tree.
I slip my fingers into the craggy bark, using the branches for hand and foot holds to pull myself up the ancient tree. The hair on the back of my neck stands up as a sense or urgency grips me, forcing me to scale the tree at a reckless pace. Ethan is hiding up in the highest cavity, so narrow that no adult male would be able to reach him. I barely manage to squeeze through to him before he realizes it’s me. His eyes are impossibly wide with terror but they lock on mine, then he reluctantly takes my offered hand and follows me out.
Derek looks up as I slip out of the cavity. “Times up, they’re here,” he growls in warning. “No matter what, you see make sure he’s safe. Do you understand me?!” His tone leaves zero room for question and spikes my anxiety into overdrive.
A moment later, wolves start to break through the clearing as Derek takes off for the opposite end. Suddenly, a large brown wolf jumps on his back as a mousy grey one goes for his legs. I push Ethan behind me against the tree and out of sight as I watch the fight below.
Derek grabs the large brown wolf, ripping it off his back and snapping its neck before tossing it aside and going for the mousy grey. Two charcoal greys jump in on him while he’s busy, ripping into his shoulder with their savage teeth.
‘Fuck, do something!’ ‘What!? I’m unarmed and have to keep Ethan safe!’
He’s so focused on fighting the three wolves that he doesn’t see a thin man sneaking up behind him. “Behind you,” Ethan screams in a high pitch, shrill voice as I shove him out of sight again, ducking with him and praying no one saw.
I cover his mouth, drawing my trembling finger across my lips and begging him to be quiet. My heart’s racing, threatening to burst out of my chest. “Stay hidden! No matter what, stay here ’till it’s clear then you run as fast as you can to the pack house. Don’t stop for anything! Do you understand me?!” His wide, golden eyes lock on mine but he eventually nods.
The snaps and snarls from the fight below die down, drawing my attention. My heart hammers against my chest as I strain to hear any hint of what is going on below, a sign to tell me what I should do next.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” a creepy man’s voice calls up, sending a cold shiver down my spine. I freeze since Ethan’s panicked scream told them exactly where we were.
If Derek couldn’t hold them off, I’m screwed.
More so, I had no chance to get Ethan out of it.
Quickly I peel off my hoodie, pulling it over Ethan and motioning for him to stay and be quiet. I creep to the edge of the branch, feeling my body trembling as I struggle to see what is happening. Derek is down on his knees, restrained by three large men and bleeding from numerous wounds. Multiple dead or unconscious wolves lay sprawled across the clearing as the creepy man paces at the base of the tree with two others.
Fuck! If I stay up here they will come up and find Ethan. If I run they’ll catch me but Ethan will be here safe.
My eyes lock with Derek’s as I drop from the tree, landing on the far side. He roars as he breaks free, fighting to distract everyone as I take off in the opposite direction. The first attack comes over my left side, but I saw him coming and, thanks to Jude’s training, I fall to my left side, tucking under a fallen log. My assailant over shoots, crashing into the thick underbrush and allowing me to bolt once more.
The next hit comes from the right as another man aims low, taking out my legs. There’s nowhere for me to go and he manages to tackle me to the ground hard. On reflex, I draw my foot back and stomp hard, hitting my attacker square in his face and snapping his head back. I felt his nose crumple under the impact but don’t waste a moment, rolling back onto my hands and knees then launching myself back into a run.
The air is knocked out of me by a third attacker I never saw. In a blink, a large man has me pinned face down in the dirt. His weight presses down on me makes getting any air impossible. My heart hammers as my mind reels, desperate to come up with my next move.
“Give her to me, that bitch needs to learn a lesson,” a man sneers.
Just as my vision threatens to black out, the third man gets off of me, letting me finally get some air. I lay there coughing and gasping, fighting the blackness as my heart races.
A large calloused hand wraps around the back of my neck, dragging me up off the ground. I swing wildly but the man has more reach than me. He catches my wrist with his other hand twisting it painfully behind my back, drawing a painful hiss through my gritted teeth. He lets go of my neck long enough to capture my other arm, twisting it with the other to pin them together in the same hand. Grabbing the back of my neck once more he pushes me forward.
“Walk,” he snarls.