Chapter 1: Scarred Blood
People walked around the streets of New York completely unaware that the supernatural existed.
Over hundreds of centuries, werewolves have wandered these lands without being discovered. They hid in plain sight as regular business employees, students, lawyers, doctors, cops and even drug dealers. And in this secret society of werewolves there’s also a hierarchy, and no matter where one went on this planet, a hierarchy always called for trouble. The shifter world is ruled by the strongest alphas, and their packs have been following them since beginning of their creation.
However, for this system to run smoothly, all the alphas must follow a code which was created by their ancestors. Although, the one that ruled them all, protected them all and created them, was their goddess, Maya. She was the deity that all werewolves’ evil or good worshipped. If someone ever wondered why a wolf howled towards a lonesome moon? It was because that beautiful beast knew that Maya would always listen to his prayers. All maybe except one wolf…
Sunrise wasn’t the most ideal time to commit the deed that the entire world found sinful.
Although, the man or beast known as Adrik Vasiliev who walked confidently in the darkest and most dangerous parts of the shadows, didn’t care for such trivial sentiments. His morals weren’t considered righteous or dutiful. In fact, he was known to be ruthlessly brutal and cold.
Many even doubted if blood ran through his icy veins. They all believed that he wasn’t a mere wolf shifter anymore. He was a beast worse than any predator they’ve come to know. He had been trained to kill and never lose any fight he was put into- the side he chose did not matter. The people that considered him an ally were still weary of his presence. But they were right to do so, because the rumours of his reputation were all true.
There was a fine line between good and evil, believed Adrik. And somewhere, in the shadows, he was sent in that darkness to find it. This highly trained beast got dirty and that way the world stayed clean. That was the mission for wolves like him. And the mission was to be performed with stealth, precision and with no survivors on the enemy’s side. That was how Adrik was raised by his family.
He was raised amongst the vilest wolves who tortured all the rules into their offspring. And then, once the children grew older and killed their siblings as a rite of passage into the pack, the kids realized that they grew into the very monster, which they swore never to become.
A monster worse than any predator known to mankind, had no idea what he would become once he turned his humanity off. This switch took away his heart and replaced his blood with black ice. The ice that slithered into his entire body had transformed him into a wicked beast with no loyalties, but to his own desires.
The monster that Adrik grew to be wasn’t what his father took into account. He raised Adrik to kill and survive all on his own. But what Adrik’s father didn’t realize was that he had only strengthened the very child who would kill him in cold-blood. That’s the thing with raising a weapon; one must never turn their back to it, otherwise when it strikes, it’s the end.
Adrik endured what he needed to, in order to, survive the longest from the other pack members. But he wasn’t the only one to live. His cousins survived with him, and they all didn’t just survive. The formidable Iron brothers were the one leading the coup against their fathers. The night Isaiah Iron had broken Adrik out of their cages, he knew the time had come for bloodshed and revenge. Adrik had been waiting his entire life for that very moment to use his skills to kill the ones who tortured him.
Adrik fought alongside his cousins to free themselves from their fathers who brutally tortured them into submission, but it hadn’t worked. They may have bowed their head, but it wasn’t from fear, it was calculated patience that helped them survive those brutal days in cages.
Although, none of them considered that being patient would also steal a part of their souls only to never be returned to them.
“Adrik, are you in position?” a voice in Adrik’s ear spoke sternly; it was Lazarus Iron- the beta of the Iron Blood pack.
“Why are you even asking him, Lazarus?” jested Zeiden Iron. “You know Adrik doesn’t talk when he’s in the mood to kill.”
“Can both of you shut it,” whispered Ronin strictly. “They’re here.” The comms fell silent again.
In a large warehouse was where the last group, that was associated with Vito Donovan had stationed themselves for the past few months.
Three years ago, Vito had stolen Isaiah’s assets and tricked them into selling him weapons. Isaiah was furious when he found out and was on the hunt after Vito since. But then, Isaiah had found his mate Ashley Hartling who was kidnaped by Vito as a trick to get Isaiah to give more money. However, Isaiah rescued his mate and killed Vito. Except, that didn’t stop Vito’s crew to continue on his dirty legacy.
Since then, Isaiah took it upon himself to end all of Vito’s teams. That’s why they were all gathered in this dingy warehouse to end the final squad, that was wreaking unnecessary havoc.
Adrik moved from the shadows unseen. His body stirred with command and complete agility, never letting himself make any mistakes, just like how he was trained to do so. Every muscle in his threatening body was used with control and influence. Nothing ever got in his way when he needed to kill or hunt his prey. And right now, six men stood in front of him. Guns propped in their hands, their heads faced away from the danger lurking behind them.
Adrik’s strong, rough hand was about to grab the neck of the first target, when suddenly, the comms turned on and his cousin’s voice streamed through.
“Pull back,” warned Lazarus.
Zeiden groaned. “Now, what’s wrong?” he asked.
“What is Marcello Tricomi doing here?” asked Lazarus in a hurry.
Adrik’s icy blue eyes looked past his prey towards the centre of the warehouse, where the infamous Marcello Tricomi had sauntered inside to the place, that was about to turn into a war zone.
The man was dressed as a gentleman in a fine blue suit and a navy-blue overcoat, but Adrik knew not to be fooled by his clean attire, because this man was dangerous. A businessman who owned chains of property, weapons dealerships and much more under his hand. They had the honour of meeting the man three years back when Marcello had issued an attack on the Centauri pack. That dispute had been solved without a doubt, but no one ever was able to convince Marcello to cooperate with them.
“Is he trying to die?” mocked Zeiden who was propped on the second-floor railing watching from the bird’s eye view.
“Is he here to make a deal with Ian?” prompted Ronin.
“Maybe,” replied Lazarus. “Let’s just see what the man has planned.”
Ian Villers was the man who lead the last of Donovan’s gang. He was also the man that the Iron Blood pack had come to annihilate this morning. But it seemed their plan wasn’t going as smoothly as they hoped with Marcello’s interference now.
“What should we do?” asked Zeiden. “We can’t just attack while Marcello’s down there. He can get hurt in the crossfire.”
Lazarus drew in a harsh breath and cursed. “Isaiah’s on his way too,” he growled. “We need to clear this mess out before our alpha arrives.”
“How do you want to play this out?” asked Ronin.
“Zeiden will cover Marcello,” instructed Lazarus. “Ronin, you join me and we sweep the east side of the building-” Lazarus grew quiet and they all knew right away who he was going to give the next order to. And Adrik stood ready to get going as well. “Adrik,” he called out grimly. “You know what to do.”
Adrik took his cousin’s command and vanished under the cover of the darkness. The rush inside his body was so feral that he didn’t even notice when his pack members had moved from their positions and onto their next motive.
Adrik only concentrated on the rage inside his icy veins. The adrenaline that pumped ferociously made his wolf growl darkly for blood. He clawed to be let out, but that was the one thing Adrik never made a mistake of doing.
Adrik and all his pack members, even his enemies knew that if Adrik’s wolf appeared then no one would survive; no friend or foe would leave this building and they would face the most gruesome of ends.
Adrik locked eyes with his first target. A guard that protected Ian, but before the scrawny little man could let out a scream, Adrik severed his frail neck with his bare hands.
Adrik’s body finally relaxed when he heard the shattering of bone and the rupture of veins; it was like now Adrik’s bloodthirst had been sated, and so did his wolf’s from seeing death befall on the thug. The lanky man flopped lifeless onto the cold ground only to be under Adrik’s leather boot.
Adrik stepped over the man and vanished under the shadow before the next guard could catch him. His movements were swift, clean and as if he instinctively knew when and where every guard would be.
The trace of gun powder overpowered the odour of sweat, concrete and tobacco. These scents weren’t foreign to Adrik though, because ever since he could remember these scents were the epitome of his childhood. But those times weren’t something Adrik relished in as others would. His childhood was the cause behind his uncontrolled and monstrous nature.
No one knew the real secret behind Adrik’s past apart from Isaiah and Lazarus; only because they were raised with him, trained alongside him. They lived in the same cages as Adrik growing up. The three of them were bred to be predators and to one day end each other to be the strongest alpha. But that had all changed when Isaiah had slaughtered their entire pack and set them all free.
Adrik’s blood boiled when he thought about that time. He moved around the next target and snapped the man’s neck in half again. He didn’t use any guns because it’d reveal his location and he didn’t need the enemies blood making a mess either.
One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven… Adrik’s wolf counted the bodies that dropped, like he was beyond amused. His wolf liked to keep score against Adrik to see who killed more. Adrik never won and the wolf inside him was always proud of that fact.
Adrik positioned himself right behind Ian Villers. A few feet distance between them and Ian had no clue of the threat prowling behind him. Ian stood completely at ease, as he negotiated a deal with Marcello about the next shipment of drugs or whatever the fuck rich people talked about all day.
Adrik’s sharp gaze surveyed the entire ground, and although his pack members were hidden very well, it didn’t matter because nothing ever hid from him. He could see Ronin and Lazarus taking out the fleet of men on the east side of the building. Zeiden had pointed a sniper from the top floor to keep Marcello safe. Adrik had locked eyes onto Ian’s back, but he wouldn’t touch Ian because Isaiah was coming to kill that man himself.
Adrik studied the inner security ring that surrounded Ian and Marcello. Adrik located seven men who stood on guard with loaded rifles, shotguns and other weapons of their choice no doubt. They looked like a SWAT team with their bullet-proof gear and black clothes. Adrik didn’t attempt to attack yet, because it didn’t seem appropriate to interrupt the conversation between Marcello and Ian.
“Why hasn’t the shipment come in yet?’ Marcello asked sternly. His golden gaze had hardened and he appeared displeased, like always.
Ian raked a hand through his short buzz-cut brown hair. “There’s a new big shot in town who is climbing up the ranks,” he explained. “He’s made it difficult to do business.”
“Who is this man?” asked Marcello.
“I don’t fucking know,” scoffed Ian. “All I do is sell the goods. So, do you want to buy or not?”
“I’m not here to buy anything from a thug like you,” retorted Marcello.
Adrik couldn’t see Ian’s expression, but from his stiffened body language and fisted hands, Adrik could tell that the man was angry.
“What the fuck you doing here then?” Ian gritted out.
“I need to know about Reaper’s whereabouts,” said Marcello.
Adrik’s ears perked when he heard that name.
“Why is Marcello looking for Reaper?” Zeiden asked over the comms.
“Whose Reaper again?” asked Lazarus who was out of breath.
“The man hunting Zero,” reminded Ronin, his voice coming out in a low gruff too, probably because he was killing someone.
“And us,” added Zeiden.
“Why would Marcello need to know that?” asked Lazarus and Adrik wondered the damn same.
Ian laughed which interrupted their conversation. He pulled out the glock from the holster strapped to his shoulders and pointed it at Marcello’s face, unlike the other men, Marcello hadn’t even flinched.
“How do you know about Reaper?” asked Ian.
“He’s going to shoot him,” mumbled Zeiden. “Should we help?”
“Not yet,” snipped Lazarus. “Don’t blow our cover until Isaiah comes.”
Adrik changed his location past the four-columns made of steel and towards the far window. Now, he had a better view on Ian’s weapon, the guards and on Marcello too. Things looked as if they were about to get heated. So, if Isaiah didn’t come soon, a shoot-out was about to begin and Marcello was right in the middle of it all.
“Reaper’s targeting men like us,” explained Marcello. “I need to talk to him before he ends us all.”
Ian scoffed. “Reaper isn’t a man you can negotiate a deal with,” he said.
“Do you know where he is or not?” asked Marcello a bit more sternly this time, like a gun wasn’t pointed between his furrowed golden brows.
“If Reaper finds out that I told you anything, he’ll kill me,” said Ian grimly. But then, Ian’s inky black eyes lit up like Christmas. “But if I kill you right here and take your body to him, he should be quite pleased with me. Might even hire me and my crew, since Vito was such an utter failure for targeting that Iron alpha’s mate and lost his life. Isn’t that right, boys?” he hollered to his crew who grew excited too, despite not knowing that the only crew left were the seven men around Ian himself, everyone else was long dead.
“Marcello’s going to get shot if he keeps that smug look on his pretty face,” mumbled Zeiden, as he viewed them all through the sniper’s lens.
“This isn’t good,” said Ronin who took his next position across Adrik. “When’s Isaiah coming?”
“He’s here,” said Lazarus. “So, let’s get into position-”
“Fucking shit!” Zeiden’s harsh voice ripped through the comms and Adrik knew why. Ian pulled the trigger hatch back and Marcello was about to fucking die.
Zeiden pulled his own trigger back and took the first shot, aiming for Ian’s closest guard. Now, everyone knew about their cover, but at least Marcello was out of the range of fire. Zeiden had jumped off from the second floor, right towards Marcello who was damn surprised of their appearance. All of the guards held their guns at Zeiden who stood in front of Marcello.
“The Iron Blood pack,” Ian growled as he hid behind the only six guards left now.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Marcello seethed at Zeiden.
“Saving your ass apparently,” Zeiden snapped back. “Stay behind me if you don’t want to get shot.” Marcello complied without a fit. Well, he didn’t really have a choice because Zeiden held him back regardless.
“Where are your other brothers?” Ian’s eyes widened with realization. “Vito told me that you never go anywhere without each other.” But Ian realized too late, his entire crew was dead and he was outmatched entirely.
That was when the warehouse doors swung open. The bright light of the sunrise outside streamed through the dark warehouse. The bright light revealed the dark threatening figure of the alpha, that the Iron Blood pack followed with every bone in their body. The bond they had with their alpha was much deeper and thicker than any blood relation. Isaiah Iron was not only humble and ruthless, but dangerously violent when it came to protecting his pack.
“How’d you find me?” Ian astounded.
Isaiah’s steel grey eyes lifted and his masculine face revealed under the beam of sunlight from the top window. “Finding trash like you isn’t hard,” he said austerely. “All I had to do was pick up on your putrid scent, which lead me straight here.”
Adrik wasn’t going to let his alpha stand alone, even though Isaiah was perfectly capable of protecting himself. But that didn’t matter to Adrik, because if any bullets or blades were going to target Isaiah, they’d have to get through Adrik first. Without a single word, all the others stepped out and rejoined Isaiah’s side.
However, like Adrik was trained to do. He stood in front of his pack as the main defence. The most violent, the most vicious from all of them was him, and he did whatever his alpha required from him. The horrific scar slashed across his eye was a testament to that.
The six guards stood no chance against Adrik. They held their guns pointed directly at him, but that didn’t stop him in his tracks at all. There wasn’t any fear in Adrik’s eyes, as he stared down at the useless, frail cowards who called themselves fighters. They weren’t even close to what Adrik was. They had no ice in their heart, no black empty void in their soul, that stopped them from seeing nightmares of all the death and gore.
“Adrik,” Isaiah called out sternly.
Adrik didn’t need another command. He moved with speed as he locked onto each target and slaughtered them all, before any of them could even pull the trigger to defend themselves. They all dropped to the ground leaving Ian defenceless in the middle of the bodies.
“Negotiations are over, Ian,” said Isaiah as he stepped through the pile of dead bodies. “Now, time to die.”
Isaiah used his bulky tattooed fist and rammed it against Ian’s jaw. The bone cracked and the heavy golden rings on Isaiah’s fingers imbedded its mark on the man’s left cheek. Isaiah grabbed Ian’s neck and snapped it in half. The ligament shattered and the head flopped to the side, Ian’s eyes wide open to still witness Isaiah even after death. Like a piece of trash, Isaiah dropped the body on the ground.
In the distance, like a hollowed void, Adrik heard his name being called out, as he stared at the lifeless body, that definitely wasn’t as lifeless as Adrik was despite being alive.
“Adrik,” it seemed the voice was real.
Adrik turned and met Isaiah’s steel grey eyes.
“You good?” he asked out of concern. “You froze up there.”
Adrik knew that he had frozen up. The normal reaction would be to tap the person on the shoulder or nudge them, but no one made that mistake around Adrik. Unless they wanted to feel the wrath of his wolf on them. Even Isaiah never touched Adrik, it’s been like this ever since the days in cages had ended.
Isaiah knew that Adrik liked to kept to his solitude, so he didn’t push anymore when Adrik didn’t answer back. He turned towards Lazarus next. They exchanged a few words and Lazarus ran a hand through his long blond hair.
“Clean up the bodies,” Isaiah instructed them. “And make sure to be done in the hour, we need to get back to the pack territory.”
Ronin cracked the kinks in his neck. “Killing is fun and all, but the cleaning really makes me feel old,” he commented.
“Maybe that’s because you are old,” said Zeiden. Ronin would have punched Zeiden if they weren’t standing two feet apart.
“What are you doing here?” asked Isaiah as he faced the man who looked quite angry, despite them just saving him.
“Why do you care?” snapped Marcello.
“Watch your tone, Marcello,” Lazarus gritted out and Zeiden got in the middle to stop a fight from breaking out. Adrik was surprised that Zeiden even cared that much.
Marcello glared at the brothers and especially at Zeiden for getting in the middle. “Get out of my way, pup,” he gritted out.
“Oh, great, another one that calls me pup,” scoffed Zeiden.
“That’s some way of saying thank you, Marcello,” remarked Ronin from the side as he dragged Ian’s limp body by his leg.
“You just cost me the thing that could lead me to Reaper,” said Marcello. “So, no. I don’t feel like thanking you.”
“We just saved your life,” added Zeiden.
Marcello glowered at him, his eyes lowered over Zeiden’s face. “I never needed you to do that,” he said coolly. He turned on his feet and left the warehouse without looking back.
“We’ll be in trouble if he reveals what we did here,” said Lazarus. “Let’s just kill him.”
Adrik was thinking the same thing.
“As much was I love that idea, we can’t,” said Isaiah, he swept a hard hand through his dark, styled hair. “Zero wouldn’t approve and neither would Gabriel.”
“Maybe we could say it was an accident,” reasoned Ronin with a chuckle. “Marcello had bravely taken a bullet for us and died in vain.” Isaiah laughed along with Ronin.
“Marcello killing us is more believable than that,” scoffed Lazarus. “I don’t know what his deal is. I thought we worked past our issues. He’s even in leagues with Zero now, they did a few missions together. So, why is he so adamant on playing the bad guy with us?”
Adrik knew why. Marcello wanted to keep everyone at arm’s length. So, no one got hurt because of him. That was the same reason Adrik never laid his hands on anyone, and quite literally so.
“What mission?” asked Zeiden.
“Cage fights and auction houses,” answered Isaiah. “Gabriel told me the other day over the phone.”
“Zero still has a long way to go before all that shit is cleared out,” said Ronin.
Isaiah nodded. “But if anyone can do it, it’s her,” he added. “Come on, let’s go. Just leave the bodies to decay on their own.”
“Maybe we can leave it as a gift for whoever tries to grab Vito’s mantel next,” prompted Zeiden who joined Isaiah’s side.
“Great idea,” replied Lazarus.
“Come on, Adrik,” Ronin ushered and they walked out together.
Adrik didn’t care of the bodies or the weapons either. He shrugged off the dust from his suit and joined his pack to leave this hovel for good.
The sun was high up in the blue sky, not like when they left before sunrise.
Adrik let out a groan when the sun blared through his eyes. He merely pulled out his sunglasses and covered his eyes from the bright day.
Zeiden and Ronin had continued talking as they got closer to their cars. Adrik really didn’t understand how they had so much to talk about all the time, especially Zeiden. If it was in his will, he could probably kill an enemy merely by talking them to death.
Marcello saved himself when he left, otherwise Zeiden would have looped him to into one of his thrilling conversations. But despite that, Zeiden’s loyalty to his pack was unquestionable. He was slimmer than them and his blueish-silver eyes always had a glimmer of amusement and spirit. He woke up with a smile and always cheered them up no matter what the mood. It was probably his way of taking care of them, Adrik guessed.
Dressed in fitted black suit like all of them, Zeiden really had embodied his older brothers, by training as hard as them. And out of all of them, Zeiden had the most control over his wolf.
Zeiden was younger than all of them. So, Adrik supposed that was the reason Zeiden was always in high spirits. But it was also because Zeiden hadn’t experienced the same torture and abuse as his older brothers. When Zeiden was born, Adrik remembered how Isaiah and Lazarus ruthlessly fought their father to keep him safe. But it was all in vain, they still ended up chained in cages.
Adrik never did that for his siblings and his siblings would rather kill him than protect him, that much was for sure. Adrik never talked about his brothers, he couldn’t after what happened. Now, it was Zeiden, Lazarus, Isaiah and Ronin that were his brothers because they saved him from becoming a monster with no code.
“Hey, you alright?” Ronin joined Adrik as they moved alone to their separate car.
Adrik looked to his side where Ronin stood with frown lines on his rugged but handsome face. Ronin was a private detective before he joined the Iron Blood pack and Isaiah’s side. He had short auburn hair, which was always kept neat and tidy even during his detective days.
Even through the shade of his own sunglasses, Adrik could see Ronin’s bright hazel eyes, that were greener in daylight. Ronin always had a towering, intimidating built and he was definitely a skilled fighter, but more than that, he had honour and valued friendship more than anything.
Adrik knew the day he had met Ronin that he could trust him, which was why Adrik even let Ronin drive the mustang, rather than Zeiden who was a wildcard.
“I’m fine,” answered Adrik, a bit too sternly. Sometimes he forgot what his voice sounded like to his own ears. It’s not that he didn’t like talking, it was just he never wasted words when they weren’t needed.
Ronin tugged on the tie collared around his throat. “I can’t wait to get home and take a shower, eat some breakfast too,” he said.
Home, thought Adrik. He never knew what that meant until recently.
Adrik shut those thoughts down and got in the black mustang with Ronin. They drove through the streets of Manhattan back to their property on the rural side of town. It was more secluded for wolves to shift and go on their runs without the fear of running into humans.
The engine of the car was all that was heard as Adrik rested back in the leather seats. Ronin didn’t mind the silence as he drove either, that’s why Adrik stuck with him more. He never tried to hold a conversation or try to fill the silence with words because the silence hadn’t bothered him either. Occasionally though, Ronin would play his favourite Zeppelin CD. He would have Ramble On and Traveling Riverside Blue on repeat, which weren’t so bad.
In a matter of thirty to forty minutes, they arrived at the tall black gates that protected the entrance of their pack property. Adrik loved the new territory over their old one. There was a lot more room to train, more woodland than buildings and their new house was better than the jail cell they called home a couple years back.
Anything was better than being under the same roof as his father Samuel Petrov. The bloodline Petrov wasn’t something to be proud of or hold with much regard. In fact, Adrik wished everyone forgot that bloodline even existed.
Well, nowadays it seemed people were forgetting the Petrov family. But what they remembered was how the sons of Petrov were the ones to annihilate the bloodline and take on new identities.
All of them took different last names; Isaiah used Iron as his legacy and so did his brothers. Adrik had used his mother’s maiden name.
The last thing he remembered about his mother was her regal beauty, that had forced her into a marriage with Samuel Petrov. Annika Vasiliev never met her true mate, because she was caged like a bird never to use her wings or voice against the Petrov pack’s law.
Adrik knew from the day he was old enough that his father wasn’t his mother’s true mate, because if he was then he’d never hurt her the way he had all the time. But that’s all Adrik knew about her, because she died before he could get to ask her anything. Annika Vasiliev’s body had been found hanging from the chandelier in their house and Adrik didn’t blame her. He never blamed her for wanting to escape that hellhole and reunite in their goddess’s arms. Adrik contemplated ending his own life- many times too, but Isaiah had stopped him each time.
Through his grim thought, they finally arrived home. The car rounded the large pavement driveway over to the front entrance of the manor. It sat proudly, as the sunlight beamed on the white structure that had six columns supporting the enormous house.
Adrik climbed out from the mustang and went to the house with everyone. Usually, they would go their separate ways; take a shower, clean up and do some training or head to bed. However, since the day Isaiah had found his mate, the days of solitude or loneliness had vanished.
Their house that was merely a place that they rested had become a home because of Ashley Hartling. The alpha-female of the Iron Blood pack and the most delightful person Adrik had ever met in his life. She radiated like the sun itself and she shined no matter where she went. Nothing ugly or dark touched her exquisite beauty and she was beyond strong for helping Isaiah and the rest of them.
Lazarus unlocked the door to the house, pushing the doors wide open, they all entered.
“You’re finally home,” Ashley’s voice echoed from the top of the stairs. “I was just about to call you.”
Adrik caught Isaiah’s grey eyes when they flared alive, like he had seen the most precious thing to him in the world. Adrik knew that Ashley was his alpha’s saving grace, his soul and heart. There wasn’t a doubt in any of them of how much Isaiah loved Ashley and how much she fell in love with him.
It was few years back when Isaiah helped Ashley with her car on the side of the road, and Ashley was infatuated with Isaiah. She had tried her best to win his love, which she had and now they were happily mated with a pup of their own who resembled her bumbling mother every day.
They had a beautiful family, and Adrik believed that Isaiah deserved nothing less than that for all he had done. However, for himself, Adrik doubted the possibility of that ever happening.
A dark pit grew in his gut when he realized that he could never have a bond like Isaiah has with Ashley. None of this was in Adrik’s destiny because he was fucked up from inside out.
Adrik achingly looked at the pair and knew that he was undeserving to find love like that. He was too tortured, too dirty to find something as pure as a bond between wolves. He would never feel the deep hunger one feels for their mate, and he didn’t search for it either.
Isaiah crossed the room and went up the stairs to his mate. Ashley stood dressed in a beautiful bubble-gum pink dress, that reached her thighs with a flared skirt that highlighted her curvy hips and small waist. Her perfect golden hair was curled and clipped back with a glittery butterfly, exposing her delicate face that had a lovely charm. Adrik always thought that her eyes looked that of a bobcat rather than a wolf. Sharp, almond like eyes with long golden lashes and the brightest blue he’d ever seen. She really was a striking young woman who had a chic style no matter what time of the day it was.
“How’d the mission go?” Ashley asked as she hugged Isaiah close.
“It was great,” answered Zeiden from the bottom.
Ashley smiled at him and she came down the stairs with Isaiah. “That’s good to hear,” she added.
Adrik moved past the crowd and went to the kitchen to get a bite of food before he headed to take a shower.
“We ran into Marcello though,” said Ronin as he took a seat on the couch.
Adrik came back with an apple and joined them in the large living room. This was the heart of the house where they all hung out, that’s if they weren’t in the gym downstairs or in the gaming hall.
“What was Marcello doing there?” asked Ashley as she sat down too, crossing her leg at the knee and the light hit her white strappy heels.
“He was looking for a lead on Reaper,” answered Lazarus, as he took his gear off and put it on the coffee table. The heavy holster clanked against the glass and the four pistols sat on each other.
“Mom!” a sweet voice bellowed from the far bedroom, which resonated down to the living-room. They all knew whose voice that belonged to, since it was the light of this house that called out.
Ashley moved to get up. “I got it,” said Isaiah instead. He turned on his feet and eagerly went up the stairs to see his daughter, Evelyn.
“Can I have a bite?” Zeiden popped up beside Adrik.
“Just one,” muttered Adrik, as he passed the green apple along. Zeiden didn’t just take one bite, and neither did Ronin or Lazarus.
“You all should eat breakfast before we head out,” said Ashley.
“Oh right,” Zeiden looked at his sister-in-law, “we’re going to a school today.”
“Not just any school,” Ashley grinned. “A ballet school for Evelyn.”
“Ballet?” All the men spoke up, even Adrik.
Ashley beamed. “Yes. Ballet, boys,” she said. “Don’t look so surprised.”
Isaiah returned with his daughter in his arms. Evelyn Hartling-Iron was almost four years old now and she had grown to a beautiful supple age. She resembled her mother’s beauty, charm and elegance with a small face, rosy cheek. Except, she had grey eyes like her father and her hair which they all thought would’ve been blonde, ended up being a shade of midnight black, like her father. It was tied up in a bun with a pearl white ribbon knotted into a bow.
Adrik could sense Ashley and Isaiah’s bond from their daughter. Dark as burning wood like her father, but sweet as roses like her mother. The scents that were separate had now gelled into one through their daughter.
“We’re all ready to go,” said Isaiah.
Evelyn smiled at her parents. “Will everyone come with us today?” she asked as she looked directly at Lazarus, Zeiden, Ronin and Adrik. “I don’t want to go without you-” Evelyn wriggled out of her dad’s arm and got on the floor- “It won’t be any fun if we’re not together.”
Ashley laughed and gathered her daughter into her arms. “Your uncles can’t go to ballet school with you, Evelyn,” she explained.
“Yeah, we’re way too manly for that,” remarked Zeiden.
“I just never want to see Lazarus in tights,” jested Ronin surprising Lazarus. Adrik laughed and so did Isaiah at the poor man.
“That’s not an image I need in my head,” said Isaiah.
Evelyn went up to Lazarus. “Won’t you join me, uncle Zar?” she pouted.
Lazarus doted on his niece the most- anyone could see that. “We’re all coming to drop you off don’t worry,” he told her as he swooped her off the floor and into his arms.
She was high off the ground and hugged her uncle to reach his long pony-tail. Evelyn always liked to play with Lazarus’s long hair, she even braided it and accidentally dyed some of it pink too.
They loved their niece and gave her anything she ever asked for. However, even Evelyn knew not to touch Adrik. She never understood why, but she followed her parent’s instructions. Even though she always tripped over any flat surface, she was careful to hand him things without being clumsy. Adrik adored his niece and he’d protect her from the world, even if it meant from himself too.
“You’ll have to make new friends at the school, Evelyn,” said Zeiden. “Don’t follow your uncle Zar’s lead and scary everyone away.”
Lazarus glared at Zeiden. “Evelyn, just study hard and beat everyone there,” he explained, but Evelyn titled her head in confusion. “Don’t be a knucklehead, like Zeiden.”
“We don’t talk about my school days, Lazarus,” groaned Zeiden.
“Which were definitely painful memories,” said Isaiah. “We could barely keep you in school.”
“I hated that place,” Zeiden shivered and shot off the couch to get a drink.
“Why are we doing this again?” Lazarus asked. “My niece doesn’t need to go to any school.”
“It’s the Hartling family tradition for the girls to learn ballet,” said Ashley. “Me, my mom, her mom, her mom, and then so forth, all did too.”
As the two disputed, Zeiden came back with coffee in his hand. He took a seat on the couch and Evelyn came to him after Lazarus let her down. Zeiden entertained her with his holster, that was strapped underneath his suit, and around his bulky shoulders.
“Get that gun away from my baby girl,” Isaiah growled at his brother.
“Relaaaax,” Zeiden said. “The lock is on it. She can’t kill us even if she manages to pull the trigger. Isn’t that right, Eve?” Evelyn’s small hand went around Zeiden’s that held the weapon. Her grey eyes brightened and seemed enchanted by the deadly toy.
“Yeah, because no one wants you getting shot in the face,” remarked Ronin.
Zeiden sulked at him. “You’re such a meanie,” he pouted.
“Teaching your niece how to handle a gun before she learns how to dance is uncivil, Zeiden,” Ashley advised. “Besides, this isn’t some ordinary school. It’s the school that any mother would send her child to learn ballet.”
“And why is that?” asked Ronin as he got his own cup of coffee too.
Ashley’s eyes gleamed with excitement. “Rosalie Lenoir was the top-ranking ballet dancer in Paris. Exclusive tickets were sold for her shows and they were expensive, but it was worth the money,” she said. “I was blessed enough to see one show in Paris and a few here too.”
“Why did she open a school if she was such a great dancer?” asked Zeiden. They were all wondering the same.
“I actually don’t know why she quit dancing,” said Ashley. “The media is saying that she had some family troubles.”
“Don’t we all,” groaned Isaiah, rolling his eyes.
Ashley looked down at her wristwatch. “We should head out if we want to make it to the orientation and complete the registration on time,” she told Isaiah. They all got to their feet to go with them. “Er-” Ashley looked at them wearily- “I think if we all go we’re going to scare a bunch of kids and their parents too.”
Ronin laughed. “That’s for sure,” he remarked.
“I’m not sending you alone,” said Lazarus and Adrik was sure on that too.
“But daddy is with us,” Evelyn’s voice chimed.
Ashley gave an approving look to her baby girl. “That’s right, Evelyn,” she said. “Daddy’s with us.”
Isaiah shook his head. “You three stay back,” he told them.
Ashley trudged off with her daughter who wore a matching pink frock like her mom. They both got into Isaiah’s car together. Their laughter, sweet voice could be heard from the open doors.
The men all gathered near the foyer with a deep look of concern on their faces.
“You’re not seriously thinking of letting Evelyn and Ashley be there alone?” astounded Lazarus.
“If someone finds out that Isaiah Iron’s daughter and mate is there-” all of their grim looks stopped Zeiden before he could finish.
Isaiah’s eyes darkened. “I won’t let anything happen to them,” he said sternly. “I need one of you to follow behind us. Scope the area and keep it secure. I don’t want anyone in that school getting hurt because of us either.”
“Won’t you tell Ashley?” asked Adrik.
“I’ll tell her tonight,” Isaiah answered. “But for now, let them enjoy the moment. They don’t always need to be scared before stepping out the door. That’s not the life I want for them. Besides, what are we all here for-” Isaiah stared at them with a strong resolve in his dangerous eyes- “we can keep them safe… and do so, quietly.”
Isaiah closed the buttons to his jacket as he joined his mate and daughter outside. The four of them watched as Isaiah got in the car.
“Why don’t we all go?” suggested Zeiden. “We can even get take-out and wait for them.”
“I’m cravings tacos,” added Ronin.
“Sounds like a plan,” said Lazarus. “Let’s go once they leave.”
“Do you have the address of the school?” asked Adrik.
“Nope,” said Lazarus. “But I have trackers planted all over that car. We’ll find them.” Lazarus pulled out his phone and showed Adrik the tracker flashing.
“You’re freaky, do you know that?” Zeiden shook his head was he regarded his brother like he had two heads.
“Let’s go,” said Adrik sternly once he saw Isaiah’s car clear out. He got out of the house, his body still mounted with weapons, that were ready to use if anything compromised his alpha’s safety.
Adrik drove the car, as Lazarus placed the screen with the tracker on the front dash. Adrik made sure to keep a great distance between them and Isaiah, because Isaiah would easily catch on that he was being tailed.
None of them wanted to risk it when they were following their alpha and not listening to his instructions. The four of them weren’t known for disobedience, but occasionally they liked to bother the fuck out of their brother.
In a half an hour, they arrived outside an impressive glass building called Lenoir Academy of Ballet. Adrik parked on the side of the road avoiding the oncoming heavy traffic. This street was hectic and many people used the main bus routes here, which was good and he approved of it. Not many people would attack here, since it was a central street and the route for a highway. There was even a public school a few blocks away from this academy.
“Where’d they go?” asked Zeiden from the back seat.
“Right over there,” pointed Ronin. “Nine o’clock, near the light post.” All of them found Isaiah holding is daughter in his arms and Ashley holding his hand.
“Where?” asked Zeiden. “I can’t see them.”
“Not your nine o’clock,” said Ronin. “My nine o’clock.” He clambered over Ronin pressing the man into the seats, so Zeiden could get a good look. Ronin glared at Lazarus and Adrik. “How is this pup one of our best fighters?” he astounded. Lazarus and Adrik shook their heads because they had no clue either.
“They’re going inside,” announced Zeiden.
Adrik turned his head towards the main entrance on the side of the rectangular building, which was mainly made from glass and metal. Adrik didn’t approve of the structure being glass because glass didn’t withstand bullets, like bricks or concrete would. There was no security at the doors, but there were a few cameras at the main entrance. He counted five in total that surrounded the entire perimeter, which was less and he was sure that those cameras weren’t the best of quality either.
“There are only five cameras,” said Adrik.
“Six, if we count the one near the bus-stop,” added Lazarus.
“That’s not good,” responded Ronin. “There should be at least thirteen from what I can see. And I know for sure that the parking lot doesn’t have any either.”
“We can’t just install cameras here,” said Zeiden, but then he met all of their smug looks. “Can we?” he asked.
“More cameras never hurt anyone,” said Ronin. “Other than that, I think the building is secure enough.”
“Nothing is secure enough,” remarked Adrik. “Isaiah’s in that building alone. I don’t like that at all.” All the men agreed to that statement without a doubt.
Zeiden slumped back in his seat. “I guess we just wait now,” he said. “This should take an hour or two.”
“Should we get food?” asked Ronin who was surveying the street with his cellphone in his hand. “There’s a taco place down the block. We can get quesadillas there.”
“I want a chicken burrito, with extra jalapeños,” listed Lazarus without hesitation.
“Wait, I’m not going,” said Ronin. “We send the youngest for this.”
Zeiden grumbled a curse. “Then I’m not paying for the food, because you all eat like hungry wolves and empty my stash all the time,” he said angrily. “Isaiah is stingy and only gives me a small allowance too.”
Adrik bit back his laugh.
“Well, that’s what happens when you get your credit card taken away,” mocked Ronin.
Zeiden gaped at him. “It wasn’t my fault that my new ride cost a lot,” he said. “The bike was calling my name in my sleep.”
“Whatever, just get me my food-” grumbled Lazarus. He smacked a hundred-dollar bill in Zeiden’s hand- “and lots of it.”
“That’s what I’m talking about,” Zeiden palmed the money with a grin. Everyone else gave their order and Zeiden left to get them their food. “I’ll be back,” he said before he closed the door and went down the street alone.
After a minute or two; “He’s going to get drinks, right?” asked Ronin wearily.
“He better,” retorted Lazarus. “Otherwise, I’m going to send his ass right back.”
Ronin chuckled. “You torture the pup way too much,” he replied. But it didn’t affect Lazarus’s laid-back attitude.
Adrik always admired Lazarus for being level-headed and in control just as much was Isaiah. But even Adrik and the rest of the guys knew, that Lazarus had more control of his temper compared to Isaiah. Lazarus was the perfect choice to be the beta of this pack. Although, Adrik was older, he approved of Isaiah’s choice to pick this domineering man who never missed a single second as he hunted, schemed or fought to protect Isaiah, Ashley, Evelyn and the pack.
Lazarus was a scary man who stood over six-feet and his wolf was even bigger. Zeiden resembled Isaiah with their matching dark features. But their third brother had blond hair, that was kept long and it sat around his wide shoulders. He didn’t have icy-blue eyes like Zeiden or steel grey eyes like Isaiah. Lazarus had eyes the colour of the green grass after spring arrived. He was covered the most in tattoos compared to all of them. From the early mission today, it seemed he was too busy to shave, so he had a five o’clock shadow now, that framed the sharp lines of his taut jaw.
He usually had a calm domineer when he approached any situation, unless that situation involved his pack’s safety. Then, a man who was trained by the Petrov wolves appeared, and that man should be feared.
More than that, Adrik understood the loyalty Lazarus and Zeiden had for Isaiah. They both would lay their lives down for Isaiah, his mate and pup. There wouldn’t be any hesitation in any of them for their alpha, and that trait wasn’t inherited from the Petrov pack. This quality set them apart from their fathers, because loyalty was in their code now. To protect their alpha and the ones they loved was the code that made them formidable wolves.
Zeiden appeared again, his hands full with white bags of food. Ronin opened the car door for the man to get in.
“Did you get drinks?” Ronin asked before Zeiden could sit down.
“Oh shit,” groaned Zeiden. Ronin called it and they all sighed. Zeiden popped his head into the car. “I need more money, Lazarus.” Lazarus gave more cash and the man jogged back to the restaurant to get drinks.
“I told you that he’d forget,” mumbled Ronin, as he scavenged through the bags. “Here’s your burrito-” he passed the brown bag full of burritos to Lazarus at the front seat. “Adrik, your tacos and salad-” Adrik reached back and grabbed all his food and a fork too.
Zeiden returned with drinks, of course it was only soft drinks and not alcohol. He got in the back of the car. “I got dessert too,” he held a box up, “churros.”
They all dug in, enjoying the breakfast that they missed this morning because of the mission.
Adrik was quick to finish the salad as his eyes stayed on the glass building. He couldn’t see much through the windows, except a bunch of girls and their parents walking around the halls of the building.
From the parking-lot alone, Adrik could tell that this building would only hold forty to fifty people at most. This school must be very exclusive for it to be small despite a famous dancer running it. A slight interest struck through him as he wondered why a renowned dancer would quit and open a school. But, everyone had their reasons, so who was he to judge or assume anything.
After all of them finished breakfast and listened to the entire Zeppelin album, they were exhausted in the car.
“It’s been over two hours,” Zeiden grumbled at the back seat. “Why are they taking so long?”
“Today was the orientation,” answered Lazarus as he eyed his cellphone. “The teacher was probably showing the school and the program to the parents.”
Zeiden groaned. He settled back on the seat, with his head against the glass. “I can’t believe I’m spending my Friday stuck in a car with you three.”
“It’s not like you have anything better to do,” remarked Ronin.
“Actually, I do,” added Zeiden, his blue eyes flared with excitement. “I was thinking of going to the Underworld.”
The Underworld was a notorious nightclub, that was the haven for rogue wolves to hang out. A place that was away from the wolf shifter policies and rules. But the owner of that nightclub held a tight reign of the conduct in that place. The nightclub was run by the Luciano brothers who were known for being legendary fighters and dangerous businessmen.
Adrik knew little about the brothers, but he was sure that the club was separate from all the laws in the shifter world. Humans and wolves enjoyed the club equally, and if there was any trouble, Trez and his brother Axe would handle it personally, which was just the way they liked to maintain their dominance on their territory.
“The club huh,” said Ronin. “That actually doesn’t sound too bad.”
“Right-” Zeiden patted Ronin’s shoulder in approval- “we should all go.”
“I doubt Isaiah will come,” said Lazarus.
“That’s fine,” said Ronin. “We can go.”
“A night outside, in a dingy club, with annoying people and loud music,” Lazarus grumbled. “Yeah, no thanks.”
“Don’t be such a buzzkill,” reprimanded Zeiden. “Even Adrik is coming with us. Aren’t you, Adrik?”
Adrik met his cousin’s keen gaze from the rear-view mirror of the car. They clearly begged for him to play along. However, Adrik thought about going for a swim or a workout after this, his legs needed a good stretch, so a run would be a better option. So, now he was in a bind.
“Why not,” Adrik agreed with a sigh.
Zeiden rejoiced. “Now, you have to agree,” he turned to Lazarus with a confident card to lure his brother in.
“No, let’s just go home after this,” said Lazarus.
Zeiden groaned. “Why are you such a hard-ass?” he asked.
Lazarus turned at his brother with a glare. “What’d you say?” his voice grumbled.
Ronin shook his head and sighed; “Oh boy,” loudly. He quickly reached into the middle and held them both back. “Stop it, or you’ll make Adrik mad and he’ll kill you.” The brothers didn’t stop regardless.
Suddenly, a knock on the glass interrupted the fight and Zeiden jerked in surprise against Adrik’s seat. Ronin and Lazarus took out their guns and they all freaked out, which wasn’t impressive at all.
It was Isaiah.
“Fuck,” groaned Lazarus.
Zeiden rolled the window down. “Hello, brother,” he smiled up at Isaiah. “What a wonderful surprise to see you here.”
Isaiah’s glare could be felt though the metal of the car. “What are you doing?” he asked.
Zeiden put his chin up proudly. “We were guarding you with our lives,” he said trying to sound as patriotic as he could.
Isaiah didn’t look impressed at all though. “So, why’d you get scared when I booked you then?” he retorted.
They all froze.
“Well-” Zeiden didn’t know what to say, neither did the other three.
Isaiah sighed as he saw their failed attempt. “Drive to Baskin Robbins,” he told them. “Evelyn and Ashley want ice-cream.”
“We’ll be right behind you,” said Lazarus, trying to sound confident.
Isaiah went back to his car and the men slumped in their seats in defeat and utter embarrassment.
“That wasn’t so bad,” chuckled Zeiden.
“Are you kidding?” scoffed Ronin.
Adrik started the car’s engine. “He knew from the start we were tailing him,” he said.
“Are you serious?” asked Ronin.
“Why do you think he didn’t get so mad,” said Lazarus who guessed the same. “Our alpha knew for sure.”
“What a bloodhound,” astounded Zeiden.
“Don’t let Isaiah hear you say that,” advised Ronin warning the youngest who still didn’t have the full taste of Isaiah Iron’s disreputable temperament, unlike the other three.
“Right,” Zeiden settled back after biting his tongue back.
Adrik drove following his alpha’s car to the bright, busy ice-cream shop across town. They all arrived in due time, through city traffic which was horrendous in the afternoon. Adrik parked their car on the side of the road again.
As Adrik crossed, he didn’t need to look on either side because cars willingly stopped for him. They knew who he was as he strode down the road. Maybe it wasn’t from respect, but it was definitely terror of his dangerous reputation here. People didn’t dare honk the horn at him either, they merely waited until him and his pack members crossed the way.
It was the same wherever they went. Regardless if people knew them or not, it didn’t matter. When someone faced Adrik, they weren’t especially bold to fight him back or disobey him. And it wasn’t just the scar slashed across his face that scared people away, his glare and scent was enough.
They settled at the ice-cream parlour for little lunch date. Adrik didn’t really prefer the sweetness of dessert. So, he just sat with his pack and drank a cup of coffee from the café beside the shop.
Unlike Zeiden who had piled up a bowl with round balls of cream of various flavours to a mountainous height. He was just like Evelyn who put tons of strawberry candies on her favourite bubble-gum ice-cream. Ronin enjoyed a cup of mint-chocolate chip ice-cream. Ashley and Isaiah enjoyed the strawberry ice-cream and Lazarus also got a latte with Adrik.
“How was the orientation?” Ronin asked the couple.
“It was great,” said Ashley brightly. “I thought that Ms. Lenoir would be stuck-up or strict considering her famous career. But she was wonderful, right Isaiah?”
“As long as she teaches Evelyn fairly, I don’t really care,” he replied.
Ashley waved her hand. “She’s even more beautiful in person,” she awed. “On stage her smile and eyes were so captivating. But when I saw her without all the makeup and close up, she definitely is a head-turner.”
“Like roses, mom,” added Evelyn.
Ashley chuckled. “Yes, baby, like roses,” she agreed.
“Oh, I just wanted to let you know that we’re all going to the club after this,” informed Zeiden calmly.
Isaiah’s ears perked, he looked at his pack members particularly at Lazarus. “What’s he talking about?” he asked.
Adrik knew that Zeiden was a sly wolf for convincing Lazarus to join them, because Isaiah trusted Lazarus’s decision the most. And if Lazarus wanted to go to the club, then there was no stopping Zeiden to get his way.
“We were thinking of going out to the Underworld,” said Lazarus. “After we drop you home, that is.”
Isaiah looked Zeiden next. “This was your idea, wasn’t?” he acclaimed.
Zeiden scooped more ice-cream and stuffed his mouth, so he wouldn’t have to answer to his brother.
“Oh, don’t be so hard on them,” said Ashley, smiling at them. “Let them go clubbing. I used to go all the time during my rebellious days.”
“What’s a club?” Evelyn said over the tall table. Her short arms reaching her food. She may have looked enchanted by the dessert, but the pup’s ears were working perfectly to hear them.
“It’s a place where we make friends and have fun,” Zeiden answered his niece.
“Can I go, uncle Zee?” She asked, with a big smile from excitement.
“Not on your life,” growled Isaiah and he glared at Zeiden. “And you, stop teaching her stupid stuff.”
“It’s okay, Evelyn,” said Zeiden. “In fifteen years, I’ll take you to your first nightclub.”
Ashley laughed, but Isaiah wasn’t feeling that joke at all. If they weren’t in public, Adrik was sure that Isaiah would’ve shifted into his wolf form and killed Zeiden to prevent that from ever happening. Isaiah’s wolf was capable of doing that without even batting an eye too.
“Will all of you be going?” Ashley asked, as she wiped Evelyn’s dirty lips and cheeks. Evelyn took the tissue from her mom and did it herself.
“Yeah,” said Ronin.
“Even Adrik?” astounded Ashley.
Adrik looked across the table at Zeiden pacifying Isaiah’s anger. “I don’t want Zeiden going alone,” he told her. “That’s all.”
Ashley’s smile grew. “Of course, we can’t have Zeiden causing more trouble for himself,” she jested.
They finished their small treat and returned to their cars to go back home.
Adrik wasn’t really looking forward to going out, but at least, he was with his pack members. So, it shouldn’t be so bad. Well, considering his ill fate, he’s not known for having the best luck around here.