We managed to escape the scene just long enough not to have to deal with the police. The store was destroyed and since it’s one of my properties, I won’t have to worry about incriminating evidence.
Although, I’m sure I’ll have the authorities on my back for quite some time while they investigate what happened, unless I bribe them and save myself all the bullshit. Right now, my only concern is Xander.
Where the fuck is he and who was an asshole enough to dare challenge me in such a way. Many possible culprits come to mind, but only one name repeats itself like a goddamn recording loop in my mind, mocking of me and slipping through my fingers every time I’ve had the slightest chance to take care of it over the years.
That simple name makes the bile rush in my throat when I pronounce it. My tongue scrapes like sandpaper and I come up with a million amusing ideas to take care of him, if after all, he is the one responsible for the kidnapping of my partner... Though, the odds of me being wrong are minimal.
By the time we arrive at The Mansion, I’m out of my mind. My lungs are working so fast and so hard, I’m afraid they’ll be pulverized. I see red all around me, my claws pierce the skin of my palms.
The henchmen rush to help the wounded out of the cars and quickly drag them in, to attend their wounds. Maxim finally regained consciousness, though he looks a little shaky.
Yaakov had to feed his blood to Lev so that his leg would heal faster. Adrik was treated and his stomach is now covered by a huge bandage that surrounds him through the back. Nikon was by his side at all times, and seeing them like this, only makes my concern for Xander’s welfare worse.
I still can’t feel his presence through the bond and that can only mean three things: He’s unconscious, he’s intentionally blocking me, or he’s... Dead.
I want to destroy everything that comes in my way and the only reason I’m controlling myself, is because I need to get answers and it better be fucking now.
So, I ordered everyone in the tent, wounded or not, to be gathered in my room. It’s the only place in The Mansion that is soundproof and has no camera that can witness the crucial information being shared. I refuse to make any more mistakes, I was careless, otherwise, none of this would ever have happened.
They all look tired and overwhelmed, but I force them and myself to focus on what’s important right now: figuring out who the fuck is behind all this and where the hell my partner is.
—Somebody better start talking right now and give me the answers I need — I look around at every man present, they remain with their heads down and silent, which makes my impatience hang by a thin and fragile thread —. Well?! — I shout and I realize that several of them are shaking —. Speak, damn it!
The brief silence is so dense, that it could easily be cut with a knife. Until finally, someone deigns to respond:
—We did everything we could — Nikon says, his voice low but firm —. When we arrived, we followed all the protocols, Alexei. We checked under the rocks, the cameras were disconnected and the personnel stripped of their cell phones. The security was perfect.
—We lasted there a little over two hours without detecting anything or anyone suspicious — Adrik seconds, determined —. Everything was fine.
—Obviously, everything wasn’t right at all — I mumble, placing the hands on my waist, and wander around the room to see if I can hold back my anger a little longer —. Since the store is completely destroyed, one of my men is dead, almost all of you are injured, the police are on my back, and my fucking partner is missing! — I take off my vest, my tie and I loosen some buttons on my shirt since I feel suffocated —. What the fuck happened?!
—We were about to leave — Jackson stands up, pours a glass of cold water from my fridge, and hands it to me in an attempt to calm me down. I drink it in one shot, clearly, it didn’t work —. Just as Xander got out, four cars came and surrounded us. We were able to defend ourselves well at first, but just as we were getting the hang of it, three more arrived.
—It was too much, Alex. Even for us... — Lev whispers, his eyes clear and hiccupping from time to time —. Almost all of us were hurt, and Markov died trying to protect Xander. He was kidnapped when he was trying to help me...— He gets up and limps over to me, Yaakov tries to help him but he stops him by raising a hand, then he turns and looks me straight in the eye —. I’m sorry, Alexei — tears run down his cheeks —. It was m-my fault, if he hadn’t... If I... Forgive me, I-I can’t...
I wrap my arms around him and pull him into a tight embrace. Lev gives it back to me barely, crying inconsolably in my chest, his body trembling and clutching the fists in my shirt.
Some of the anger seeps out of my body, replacing it with uncertainty and helplessness.
I should have been there, I should have left Yaakov in charge and never allowed him to be separated from me. I knew something was wrong, I sensed it, but still, I did not think that something of such magnitude could happen.
—It wasn’t your fault, Lev — I whisper in his ear —. Don’t punish yourself for that.
—But it was all very strange, Alex — Nikon adds after a few seconds of silence. His words quickly catch my attention, so I raise my face and look at him in confusion.
—What do you mean? — A scowl between my eyebrows.
—They knew exactly when to show up, they were well equipped and prepared — a hand is run through his hair in frustration —. Fuck, after they managed to capture Xander, they started throwing grenades at us, that’s how they almost killed Maxim— pointing at the named one, who had been silent since the meeting started.
—He’s right — Maxim supports, chin up —. And then, as if by magic, the other three cars arrived. It’s too much of a coincidence for a random attack, if you ask me— understanding illuminates me as my mind organizes the pieces we have, assembling the puzzle.
—Someone gave the alert — the words come out of my mouth and I finally see that we are getting somewhere —. Someone informed that you all would be there.
—Damn it, that’s all we need — Yaakov raises the hands in the air in exasperation —. A fucking rat in the organization!
—Maybe it’s one of the new ones, boss — Maxim suggests, with his prominent Japanese accent. He’s of Asian descent, with slit eyes and straight black hair.
—Impossible — Adrik intervenes, offended —. I investigate them all myself and you can be sure I do a damn good job.
—But then, that just means it might be someone who’s been here for a while — my cousin adds.
—We have to check them all out, new or not — Lev commands, finally detaching from me, wiping away his tears, now a little calmer.
—He’s right, this is not the time to assume or deduce anything— I agree —. If we’re going to point our fingers at someone, we have to make sure it’s the right person — Lev looks at me and smiles sweetly, bends over, and leaves a small kiss on my cheek, taking me by surprise. I don’t overlook the wrinkling of Yaakov’s face out of jealousy, but he limits it to that.
—Thank you, Alex — Lev whispers to me —. I swear I’ll do everything I can to bring Xander back.
—Not just you, Lev — stiffness takes hold of my limbs, my wolf growling and tearing at the limits of my consciousness where I keep him locked up, demanding the recovery of my Omega. I look at all men again and raise my voice so that they listen to me properly and the weight of my words sink into their bones —. Security at The Mansion will be tripled if necessary. We will all dedicate ourselves to this, no one will sleep or rest until we succeed in rescuing my partner.
At that moment, I hear a snort from Derek that gets my attention. I turn in his direction, he’s sitting on the couch next to Fredek and I realize he’s watching me with a scowl and his body in tension, with one arm around my brother’s waist. The sight doesn’t amuse me at all, much less the closeness between the two.
—Do you have anything to say, Derek? — my deep, grave voice rising from my throat.
—The hell I do — he suddenly stands up and approaches me threateningly —. None of this would have happened in the first place if Xander hadn’t been with you! — Everyone’s shocked, including me. Though, I’m more pissed off than stunned. The hair on the back of my neck starts to stand and my wolf roars, furious to defend his position.
—You’d better cut the bullshit and back off if you know what’s good for you — I’m imitating him and getting closer. Lev tries to intervene between us, but Yaakov takes him by the arm and pulls him away —. Xander’s mine, so get the fuck over it.
—Don’t make me laugh — Snorting, humorless —. You’re a danger, Alexei Magnus, to him and even to yourself — I’m seconds away from beating his brains out —. You can barely keep your brother safe and look at what happened to Xander because he was with you — his eyes turn bright yellow and I watch his claws grow longer —. You know perfectly well that none of this would have happened if he had chosen me!
—That’s enough! — My brother stands up quickly and steps between us —. Stop fighting at once and concentrate on what’s important! — Silence falls over the room, but his words fail to appease the anger bubbling up between Derek and me, who looks at me as if he wants to rip my throat out. And I’m inches away from jumping on him with the same idea in mind —. Bring him back, Alexei. Do you understand me? — He turns and points a finger at my chest with force —. Bring him back!
—Don’t ask so much, Fredek — Derek smiles, staring at me up and down like I’m some kind of shit he’s had the misfortune to step on —. He couldn’t even do a decent job of keeping Yurik Ivanov alive, so no...
My fist bursts in his face so quickly and with so much power that it takes him by storm, stumbling backward with unstable feet. I immediately rush at him and start hitting every part of his body within my reach, although, the bastard does a very good job of defending himself.
He manages to reach me on the side, stomach and cheek, breaking my lip and making me bleed. The pain spreads, though I ignore it and continue to hit him as well, each impact stronger than the other.
I hear in the distance the cries of Lev and Fredek, and Yaakov giving orders to God knows who. But I disregard it and concentrate on continuing to hurt Derek as much as I can.
I feel the change taking over my body. My wolf is desperate to take control and tear and sink the fangs into every inch of flesh within his reach, when just at that moment, we are separated. It took a total of ten men to hold me down, as I screamed and raved insults against Derek.
Seven others succeeded in restraining and dragging him out of the room, being followed by my brother. But who the hell does he think he is to talk to me like this and bring my father into the whole thing?
I swear to God, I’ll make him regret those words, all he’s done is condemn himself. When I am finally released, Yaakov orders everyone to abandon the room, leaving only the two of us.
—Stop it, Magnus. Calm down — he’s holding me by the shoulders and forcing me to sit on the edge of the bed. My chest starts to hurt from the effort of breathing, I am bathed in a layer of sweat and my knuckles are broken from having hit that miserable son of a bitch. I feel the metallic taste on my tongue because of the wound in my mouth.
—He spoke of Yurik, Yaakov — grumbling, drilling him with his eyes —. That motherfucker had the nerve to bring him into this. He has no right!
—I know, I know — he grabs a chair and sits down in front of me, pulls out a cigarette, lights it, and gives it a deep inhale —. For now, you must let it go. Okay? — He passes me the cigarette and I hold it between my fingers, take it to my lips and smoke it slowly —. The priority is Xander. I guess I don’t need to remind you, though. Right? — I look at him for a long time before I continue.
—No— I grant him —. You’re right.
—Good — he smiles at me, but soon his face becomes serious —. Can you feel him through the bond?
—No — I close my eyes tightly, take another puff on the cigarette before passing it back to him —. And honestly, I’m scared to death. You know what that can mean, Yaak. I don’t know what I’d be capable of if Xander...
—Enough, Alexei — his serious and firm tone, I’m surprised he called me that, he’d never done it before, not that I can recall —. No negative thoughts. Now, let’s focus on finding out who this fucking rat is. Okay? — I place the elbows on my knees and sink my head into my hands. Unable to respond, I just nod —. We’ll find him, brother. You have my word— I raise my face and Yaakov smiles at me. He stands up, holds me by the arms, rising me as well, and embraces me.
It may seem ridiculous, but it’s just what I need. His support has always been unconditional and I am glad to have him by my side right now, when I am most urging for his help.
—Thank you— My voice comes out in just a whisper, not having Xander with me, and not knowing what state he’s in, causes me to feel weak, powerless and yet angry as shit.
«Be strong, kitty. Stay alive and wait for me».