Thorn (Werewolf)

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Chapter Thirty-One

THORN

Being able to see in the dark is a life-saving advantage. Kira matches my speed and we cover miles of distance within minutes. We’ll reach the pack sooner as wolves but I’m still very aware that I am leading the alpha and his army right to the community.

I can hear them behind us. There’s a thirty second gap between safety and death. They can’t kill me due to their warped beliefs that it will bring a curse upon them but they can kill everyone I care about.

They’re not after us. They already know that Devon has left. The alpha has probably sent a group into the human villages to find them. We’re racing to the community.

Kira stops suddenly and I almost trip over my own feet trying to stop too. I circle back frantically as she lifts her head to the sky and howls. We’re in close enough distance to the pack, they should be able to hear her calls.

I growl at her to let me in. She holds my eyes for several seconds before she surrenders the minding connection over to me. We continue running as frantic voices try to push themselves into the connection. I filter most of them out.

How many? Lucias demands.

Does it matter how many? I hiss. Get the children out of there!

I have three of the children, Balan says. I can’t do this on my own. I need help!

I’m coming, several voices say simultaneously.

They have left us in peace for a century, Thorn! Lucias screams. What the hell have you done?

Everyone split up, I order. They won’t attack together if you’re scattered. Get to water, wash your scents off.

You are not the alpha anymore, Thorn! Lucias says. Do not split up! Stay in your groups and your chances of survival will be greater.

I shake my head angrily. Kira eyes me sadly but Lucias has every right to override my orders. I lost that right a long time ago. I can’t let him do it. Their survival and safety comes above his pride and even my own conflictions.

I am the alpha and I am ordering you to split up, I say tensely. The scents will confuse them. It’ll force them to break into groups.

There is a long and awkward silence.

Defend your position, Lucias, Daria interjects. We are the ones in charge.

No, you’re not, Kira says. My brother is the blood alpha and he has given his orders. Feel free to challenge them in the morning but right now we’re about to be ripped to fucking pieces so do as he says!

We’re splitting up, one voice says. The minding connection is filled with sounds of agreement.

There’s two children left! Balan says desperately. We can’t carry this many. They’ll be left behind. What do we do?

Can anyone get to the village? I ask.

I’m running as hard as I can, a female werewolf says. My son is in there, Thorn.

I exchange a look with Kira and we run harder.

Leave it with us, Kira says. Get to safety.

I can’t leave them, Balan cries.

We’re almost there. Get the children that you have out. They’re seconds behind us. Run!

Kira and I reach the small village a minute later. The children left behind can’t be older than three or four. We don’t even stop. I pick the male toddler up by the back of his shirt and I hold him in my teeth as I run straight through. Kira has a little girl hanging from her mouth. It’s much easier to track a human form than a wolf form so we split up and head in opposite directions.

I can hear the army breaking out into smaller groups which is exactly what I knew would happen. It makes listening out for his vibrations clearer, just like he’ll be listening out for mine.

The wolves are scattered all over. I can hear vibrations everywhere. I come to a slow stop and I gently release the child to the ground. The children have been around wolves for a hundred years so they’re not afraid. They haven’t aged past their mental states that they were in before the curse. It amazes me that the pack have managed to keep them from seeing the transition for so long. Some of the other children have been born out here and have also grown up around wolves.

I don’t recognize the child below me so he must be a new member. He isn’t afraid either. He reaches up and pulls on my fur.

I sniff the air as the breeze blows past me. I can only pick up the scents of my own pack that are hiding out nearby. Maria is in a cave to my far right. Balan and the other children are down near the river.

My head bows slightly as I bend my body forwards to the ground. The only way to stop an attack of this magnitude is to take out their alpha. They’ll have to retreat and regroup while the second in command adjusts to new leadership—that’s assuming the alpha doesn’t have children. He doesn’t strike me as the doting father type.

Taking out the alpha is a strategy that I’ve used countless times around the world. I didn’t go into their territory intentionally seeking a war but some werewolf packs were living isolated with humans chained in their basements like pets. Some human women were being used as sex slaves for alphas and their betas. It was an odd and barbaric practise that my pack had never come across before.

I killed my own kind to save innocents from a fate worse than death which always felt right. I built a rapport from every victory. My name was known. I was feared. Atticus was the only alpha that heard the stories but didn’t fear me. He was the only fighter to ever leave me with scars.

I can’t imagine that this next alpha would have similar strength but I’m not letting my guard down. Nothing is as it seems when it comes to this pack.

Hardly anyone is minding because they’re focusing on other senses to stay alive. I tap into it for a moment just to hear complete silence.

I have fought dozens of battles with this pack by my side and we have always relied on our communication to win them. But that was over a century ago. They’ve lost touch with their courage and have become too comfortable with the peaceful life to engage with their pasts.

We are not the warrior pack that we once was. Lucias turned them into a community of labourers.

I react instantly to the set of thunderous paws bolting in this direction. I grab the child with my teeth and I run towards the large hill.

Kira? I say. What’s your position?

I’m a little busy here, Thorn. This asshole won’t-

She cuts off.

Kira? I demand. Talk to me!

I pause at the edge of the hill, scouring my eyes over the darkness. I see the scuffling of two wolves around a mile away. One white and one dark grey. I jump the twenty feet distance to the ground and I see the glowing eyes of the alpha making his way towards me.

His identity is unmistakable. He is the same wolf that cornered me up a tree during the eclipse. Black fur with a large and intimidating form, he is almost my size. I place my paws onto the nearest tree trunk and I swing the boy onto a branch. He climbs up higher.

He’s alone which is good. He could have help summoned here in seconds but he holds off. I assume it’s because of ego. Typically, we’d circle each other. But I have no intention of leaving the boy exposed so I remain in front of the tree as the alpha wolf creeps closer and closer.

The mighty Thorn, the alpha says. We finally meet.

I shake my head. It’s very rare for an enemy to allow you into their minding connection, normally we’d just fight. It’s an odd and uninviting situation. It makes me feel queasy.

We met earlier today but I was in a tree.

In the same parts of the woods as the girl, he says. You knew who she was. You had her right there. Why didn’t you kill her?

Because I’m not like you.

I lost two of my pack members because of that girl and I think that you know exactly where they’re going. Tell me and your pack lives.

I snarl my fangs. He takes the threat seriously, snarling back.

If you won’t trade that information for your family’s safety then that only means one thing. You’ve mated with her. I just love a good, sickening twist. I’m not interested in harming her as long as she stays away. I merely want the siblings back.

I don’t know where they are.

You looked through her fucking eyes! he yells as he paces back and forth. I could have thirty wolves here in less than a minute if I wanted. That little boy will be torn to pieces. He glances up the tree.

So could I.

You want to go to war with me? he says. This is our territory. And you are living here rent free.

If it wasn’t for that child hiding for his life above me then I’d engage in a fight here and now. It’s pissing me off that I’m this close and I can’t do anything.

Heed this as a warning, he says as he backs up. Tonight it’s just one. If you don’t give me a location then we’ll be back to slaughter them all. You have three days.

What the hell is he talking about just one? He cocks his head up and howls before turning and running away.

The name is Cole, he tells me before the connection ends.

The vibrations become louder and more powerful as I hear his army follow him back to the mountain. I push myself up against the tree and the boy climbs down carefully. His small arms grip around my neck and he slides himself down my back. He tightens his grip as I jog through the trees.

I enter the minding connection to hear utter chaos. It gives me a headache so I filter out Kira directly.

Where are you?

I’m safe. Is all she says.

Is the girl safe?

Yes. I took her to the river. Balan’s with her.

I’m coming to you, I say.

No, Thorn. Don’t. Everyone’s meeting at the river, just go there.

Something’s wrong. I make my way back to the village and I follow her scent from there. The scent is mixed with another wolf, the one that I assume attacked her. That trail ends at the place where I saw them fighting but there isn’t any sign of a dead or injured wolf. The wolf followed her.

I keep following her scent all the way to the river, where I drop the boy off to be reunited with his parents, and then their mixed scents lead me around the bend of a high hill. I jump to the top and I see Kira and the stranger sitting together at the edge with their backs to me.

Tell me this isn’t what it fucking looks like, I growl at her as I approach them angrily.

They both turn around. Kira doesn’t make any effort to distance herself from him, she stays by his side and even positions herself in front of him as if to protect him from me.

I told you not to come, she says.

He’s one of them!

The wolf snarls his teeth at the statement but Kira calms him with one quick look.

Do you think we had a choice in it? Now I understand why you couldn’t reject Devon. The pull is so strong, it’s hard to resist. You mating with her must have broken something in the curse.

Who is he? I ask

His name is Shadow. He’s Cole’s new beta.

I blink in astonishment. There’s no way. Kiara-

I know, she says softly, turning to glimpse her forbidden mate. I’m sorry, Thorn.

She jumps down the hill and he follows her. I watch as they run off together into the distance.

I know what it’s like to be chained to someone that every fibre of your being is telling you to hate. I know that giving in is easier than resisting. Kira has never felt the affects of the bond before, she doesn’t understand how manipulative it can be. Shadow could be a brutal and stone-cold killer. He could be possessive and abusive. She doesn’t know anything about this stranger except that a mysterious connection is telling her to fall in love with him.

It’s telling her to do other things too and I curl my claws in anger at the thought of it.

I keep her new status a secret when I return to the river. The wolves are crowded around something on the ground. Balan is whimpering more than usual. Even Maria looks like she’s in shock.

I edge closer, glimpsing the dead pack member for the first time. Her white fur is coated with blood, her golden eyes are wide open in terror.

It’s Daria, Lucias says. He turns from her body and stares right at me. Just in case you don’t remember her name.

I swallow nervously. This is what Cole meant. One tonight. This was his intention from the beginning of the attack. Daria wasn’t exactly my favourite person on the planet but I still feel sad about her death. Not sad enough to be crying like some of them are but it affects me even if Lucias thinks that it doesn’t.

You did this! Lucias charges at me. She’s dead because of you!

Lucias halts as several wolves form a barricade around me in an instant. Pal is at the centre and he snarls his teeth, giving Lucias a warning to back off. I don’t need the protection but I’m grateful for it. And slightly confused.

You would stand beside an alpha that abandoned us! Lucias screams. He is the reason that our home was attacked. He is the reason that we’re all trapped in this fucking loop with no escape.

I walk out from the small army that have gathered to shield me and I look Lucias directly in the eye as I stand a breath away from him.

I have no intention of resuming my position. Every decision that I made was in the interest of keeping this pack safe. But they cannot ignore the order of a blood alpha, just like you can’t.

Your father would be ashamed of you.

My father died because of a war that you started, I hiss back at him. Have I ever held you responsible?

Lucias flicks his eyes to the tense pack members and backs away slowly. The truth hurts. I could go into specific detail about how his sheer stupidity got my father killed but I’ve always been forgiving of his mistake. Grudges are deadly within our species, they never last long before someone ends up dead. It’s always better to let them go. To move on.

I’m staying with her until morning, Lucias says. The rest of you, do what you want. I don’t care. He lays down beside his dead companion and rests his head against her face. They’re going to pay for this.

The others mimic his statement. Their eyes full of a new-found fight and retaliation.

Finally, we can agree on something.

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