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I watched Luna through the dirty glass of Janus’s truck as they pulled away, her head turned and our eyes locked until they disappeared from view. There should have been four more nights of running, three more stops before we reached the ocean, my Territory ending just south of San Diego at the coast. I’d wanted to take her there, wanted to watch her face as she saw the Pacific for the first time, wanted to see the sun dance against her flaming hair as it rose with the day. Another time, I promised myself. I’ll show her everything if she chooses to stay.

Turning and shifting in the same movement, I started pumping my legs to a brutal pace, tapping into every bit of power I could muster to cover the remaining miles before the night ended. I would shadow travel when I made it to the end, and if I pushed myself I would be home with plenty of time to prepare for the arrival of the new Alpha.

I growled as I ran, furious at the nerve of the young Alpha, furious that he would once again be able to lay his eyes on her after everything. I let my Wolf snap and rage in the darkness, flying over my land with the fire of anger and jealousy to fuel me. My mind ran through all the possibilities of the upcoming confrontation, how he might behave in Luna’s presence, what he might say to win her back or get a rise out of me. We could meet on the patio, at the large table often used for gatherings in the pool house beyond the Pack’s main building. There would be fewer eavesdroppers away from the main house, and fewer opportunities for destruction if things got out of hand.

As my legs moved and paws slapped against the ground beneath me, I sought out Janus with my mind. It took a while to find him, driving along with a silent Luna to his side, but I focused my attention away from her to give him instructions. He would need to move training away for the day, maybe sending the new recruits into the Valley for some formation practice. His most trusted and well trained regiment would be stationed around the Pack house property, five of which would be present at the meeting to keep any hot tempers under control.

I instructed Janus to summon Mira, Jessamy, and the rest of the inner circle, all to be present at the meeting. Any and all projects or training being managed by the others were to be temporarily paused, all attention on preparing for the group that would be arriving in the afternoon. Everyone living at the house needed to be given the option to leave until nightfall, or directed to remain in their quarters while the foreign Pack was on the property.

Janus listened without comment, ever the dependable Beta I needed him to be during situations like these. I expected that something would eventually go wrong once our guests arrived, the nature of dominant males like these predictable and likely volatile considering the circumstances of their arrival.

Collecting my thoughts and retreating from Janus’s mind, I focused on the breath in my lungs as I chronicled what I knew of the young Alpha. Luna called him Draven, her face pained any time she said his name. The youngest was Bennet, but I had no name for the middle brother I anticipated would tag along for this event. Draven was untested as an Alpha, and that would likely make him reckless. I expected him to challenge me for Luna, to pitch the traditional fight to the death between Alphas to establish dominance. I had no interest in bloodshed, not for my own sake but for Luna’s. She was already walking such a fine line between the life she left and the one I hoped to offer her, and I had no way of knowing which way she would go when she faced him again.

But Draven was wild, hot-tempered and inclined towards violence. The bites he left all over Luna in her memory were evidence enough of that, but my scouts reported details regarding the slaughter of his father that cemented my beliefs. They had described him in their reports as impatient, quick to quarrel with others in his Pack, and his reputation was suffering after the brutality he executed to claim his position as Alpha.

He may not have many friends within the members of his own Pack, but I wasn’t naive enough to believe they would be disloyal to him. Then there was the matter of Luna’s father, and the Alpha to her Pack, who were both confirmed to be traveling with Draven and his entourage. As the land blended together before me, I went over my options as they came to mind, working through the problem of the honey-scented female I couldn’t seem to push out of my head.

Jessamy reached out to me in mind just before dawn, her voice quiet and calm as she reviewed what transpired between her and Luna. She showed me her memory of exposing Luna’s magic, and I watched as the colors and light danced around with my shadows. The wonder in Luna’s eyes at the dome of color pulled at something buried within me, a warm feeling that Jess’s scolding about my secret wards couldn’t chase away.

You had no right to ward her without her permission, especially the blood wards!” she chided, but I shrugged at her in mind.

“Jess, you know as well as I do that my interference was necessary. I knew the wards would be exposed when she got to you, and it was a risk I was willing to take.” I slowed my pace, the coast finally in sight in the distance. It was getting light too quickly, and there was still ground to cover, but I knew this conversation wouldn’t wait. I could feel Jess huffing through our connection, but did not allow myself to Visit to calm her personally.

“I understand your desire to protect her,” she insisted, “but you could have at least told her. As your advisor, I know you have a duty to keep things close to your chest when it involves the Pack, but she’s not an idiot! She sees and observes everything we do. You could have expl-” I cut her off, my tone firm in mind and in my decision to shelter Luna from the protections I had placed around her.

She had little to no magical knowledge when I placed them. It didn’t seem important at the time to try and explain.” She grumbled, frustration spiking through our connection.

Knox, I know-”

Jessamy, I cannot begin to explain the lengths I would go to in order to ensure her protection. I’m aware of the rules and conventions governing magic, but as Alpha I also know when to bend them. I won’t overwhelm her with the differences of our Pack and lifestyle when she’s still being hunted by her ex lover. If I have to, I’ll cloak her in a thousand blood wards, bleed myself dry before breaking my promise of safety within my lands.” She fell silent, a tinge of guilt passing down the bond. I didn’t need to explain myself to Jess, but I did so out of respect for our friendship. Whatever reaction Luna had at discovering my magic around her, I was expecting and would respond accordingly.

But I valued the advice of my favorite witch, and knew her chasting came from a place of concern and love. I sighed, softening and apologizing mentally. “That’s all I’ll say on the matter. Tell me about the other enchantments you detected.”

Jess had nothing conclusive on the other source of magic she felt containing whatever it was Luna possessed, and we agreed to look into it further once the new Alpha had returned home where he belonged. She briefed me on other details regarding the other services she provided the Pack, finishing her report as morning crept in around me. We said our goodbyes and she retreated from my mind, the warm feeling from her memory of Luna still lingering in my chest.

I shifted and summoned a cloak, wrapping it around my shoulders and hiding my nakedness from any early risers I might encounter. Jogging the rest of the distance to the ocean, I kept my head on a swivel and released my power along the Perimeter. Once satisfied, I headed up the beach to the shadows of a lifeguard tower, already shrinking and moving as the sun rose higher. Body fully in darkness, I closed my eyes and focused inward to the raw part of me where my shadows lived, allowing myself to dissolve into nothing but blackness.

Stepping out of the shadows still lingering in the closet adjoined to my bedroom, I immediately searched for Mira in my mind. I summoned her quickly, only catching a glimpse of Luna wrapped in a towel with wide eyes. I didn’t let myself reach for her mind, retreating back to my own room to afford her privacy, as well as myself a moment to breathe through the straining of my cock at the sight of her barely clothed. She had wrapped herself the same way after the first night of the run, appearing freshly showered and smelling of linens and pine trees. I hadn’t been able to keep my distance, seeing her like that, and barely managed to maintain my composure.

Once in the shower, I’d taken my throbbing cock in hand and came quickly to the thought of her, unable to help myself when the smell of her was everywhere. I knew I was in trouble then, as if I hadn’t been already, when I immediately re-hardened at the sound of her moving around in the next room.

Pulling myself from that memory, I cleared my mind and headed to my bathroom, showering quickly before Mira came knocking at the door. I didn’t allow my hands to linger below my waist, ignoring the growing burning in my chest that had rumbled to life that night. I knew it was the haze, responding both to my desire for Luna and the intensity of her scent. While she slept, I added the blood wards to the ones already in place, wiping just a drop of my blood on the inside of her ankle while she twisted in the sheets.

It was necessary, I reminded myself, shutting off the water and reaching for a towel. I had seen no other option after I’d taken myself in hand again and fallen into her fantasy, unable to clear my head of her even after a run and some sleep. The scent of her had seemed to strengthen by the hour, waking me from fitful rest and forcing me to repeat my command for her to sleep. There hadn’t been another choice, not with several days left in the run ahead of us.

I groaned, toweling myself dry and summoning fresh clothes to change into. Disapproval from Jessamy had been a quiet thought in my mind, one I knew was inevitable but wouldn’t dissuade me from my decision to mark her with my blood.

It was necessary, I repeated in my mind. It was necessary to protect her from yourself.
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