Comfortably Numb

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Chapter 23

I wake up in Ryker's bedroom, but his scent doesn't calm me like it normally does. I'm too preoccupied with the thoughts that have been twisting in my mind since I passed out.

I can hear someone shouting from somewhere beneath me, and when I turn my attention to it I recognize it as Ryker.

"But how did they get in the locker?" He is livid. I can feel his anger seeping through the floor. My own rises to match his for the briefest of seconds before the crushing sadness presses in. I think back on the days when my feelings were so far removed from myself.

"I don't know!" Someone I don't recognize booms back. "I told you everything we know!"

"Something had to have been out of place!" I strain my ears and deduce that they're standing in the living room, and it's more than just them. I grit my teeth and focus back on their words.

"Ryker, calm down." Alpha Cardinal's voice is steady, but I can hear the edge of anger he is trying to bury. Ryker's teeth nash together, but he doesn't respond.

"I don't know what happened. After lunch, we stopped at our lockers to drop our bags off and grab our things for math and history. She threw her backpack in the bottom of her locker and snapped the lock shut tight. Whoever did this had to know her combination, at least."Arrow's voice is tinged red with her anger. Multiple someones growl before they start pacing.

"We need to go over this again." Ryker growls. "After last period we all went to her locker. She had to unlock the lock, so it wasn't tampered with. There were no new or out of place scents anywhere in the hallway. The roses were sitting where she'd thrown her backpack after lunch, and her backpack was gone."

"Not gone," Rowan speaks up, "The janitor found it in the second floor girls room after we left." My jaw clicks. We'd stopped there after lunch, before going to our lockers.

But I had dropped my backpack in my locker.... hadn't I?

"But you said she put it in her locker?" Blake accuses someone, speaking up for the first time. He sounds frustrated, and so confused.

"She did." Ryker rumbles. Arrow speaks at the same time.

"We were there with her when she did. She opened her locker, tossed her backpack inside, and then closed the door. The backpack was definitely in her locker before class, and there were defintiely no roses."

"And it wasn't you?" Blake questions. Ryker growls. "Why would I leave flowers in her locker instead of just giving them to her?" He spits.

"It w-was Seth..." I breathe.

Below me, everyone freezes. A second later, four pairs of feet come sprinting up the stairs.

I push myself to the edge of Ryker's bed as he hurls the door open. His eyes are wide and anxious, and seeing him causes something in my chest to kick. I wrap my arms around my chest, hoping to mute the feelings.

"H-he was w-watching me." I murmur. Blake, Arrow, and Rowan enter the room as Ryker moves further in, coming to settle beside me on the bed. I shift so my hair is between us, protecting myself from their gazes.

"H-he's been w-watching me." I whisper again.
"Andy..' Ryker sighs. I refuse to look up at him.

"So m-much like last time...." My lips barely touch as I whisper the words, not actually thinking about them, or what they reveal. Ryker shifts beside me and I have to fight the urge to turn and fold myself into his arms.

"Are you OK?" He whispers. I flick my eyes shut and a tear falls down my cheek.

"So m-much like last time." I murmur again. He reaches out and brushes the back of my hand. I shudder, the electricity that always plays between us a bit too strong for this moment.

"He's not going to hurt you again." He rumbles, a silent promise in his words.

"H-he's on his w-way." I whisper.

"He's still locked up, Andy." Arrow whispers from across the room. I nod absentmindedly, caught up in memories of the last time, of the months before my birthday. I think of the first batch of roses he sent to me, the excitement they caused because I thought he only liked my dancing.... How wrong I turned out to be.

"I d-don't know how to d-do this...." I speak up. Ryker shifts beside me, and I finally give into the urge to lock my gaze to his. His eyes are a swirling mass of black, and the thought of his anger causes a shiver to dance down my spine.

"Do what?" He breathes. I suck in a deep breath, a second tear falling.

"Tell you." I breathe. His eyebrows furrow, and he opens his mouth but I shake my head. I reach up and wipe the back of my hand against my cheeks to get rid of my tears. I turn to face the rest of the room.

"B-Blake..." I call. He is staring at the ground, no doubt sadness keeping him from locking eyes with mine. "C-can you get the others?" His gaze snaps up to mine.

"Are you sure?" He whispers. I nod, the lump in my throat growing under the weight of his gaze.

"I-it's time I tell them... e-everything." His eyes go wide, something shining for the briefest second, before he nods and races off to do as I've asked.

"You don't have to tell us anything." Ryker whispers to me, a soft touch to my mind reminding me that he will support me no matter what. I press my lips together before shaking my head.

"N-no. You need to k-know to know what's coming." I sigh before locking my eyes with his. "It s-starts with roses, and it ends...." I shudder, unable to say the words out loud. He clenches his jaw and offers me a jerky nod.

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We move to the living room to wait for the others. I hear Blake's car rev and pull out as we are walking down the stairs, and my heart aches painfully as I realize that he's probably getting the rest of the memento's from my time in the Devil's playhouse.

The minute I had left Ryker's room, my wolf started shifting. While I'd been in there, surrounded by his scent, I felt more protected, like I couldn't be hurt as long as I stayed buried in his sheets. But the longer I stayed there, the weirder my wolf acted. She always got.. Fluffy around Ryker, and being surrounded by his scent seemed to make her wobblier than usual.

Alpha and Luna Cardinal are waiting for us in the living room. We sink into the plush sofas, Ryker to my left, and Arrow beside him. Rowan walks over and sinks into the chair beside her.

A few minutes later, Beta Nick Deacon and Gamma Bruce King, the Alpha's second and third, come in and join us. They look concerned, like they aren't really sure why they are here.

"Just waiting for Blake." Alpha Cardinal whispers to them. They nod and settle into the other couch.

"Does anyone want any snacks?" Luna Cardinal mutters, wringing his hands together. I shake my head after no one else answers, all preferring to turn and look at me. He nods and chews his lip.

The air is tense around us, and I can't find the courage to start speaking. So I use the excuse that Blake's not here yet, even though I know he knows the story almost as well as I do.

The crunch of his tires on the gravel outside comes too quickly.

I reach up and twist my hair into a bundle on the top of my head, to give me an excuse to not turn and look at him when he comes in.

He stops at the doorway and I feel everyone's gazes on me once again. I tighten the band on my hair before turning to look out the window.

"My p-parents died when I was 10, in a house f-fire. My mom w-was a d-d-dancer..." I breathe. I worry for a second that they won't be able to hear me, but then remember their ears are as sensitive as my own.

"I a-always wanted to be like her..." I sigh as the first tear dances down my cheek. "B-ballet was my l-life. Mine and S-Steven's." My breath catches when I say his name. I shake my head and push on.

"Our p-parent's were best friends b-before I was born, and f-from the minute we met... Steven was mine. H-he was two years older than me, but didn't c-care. We were b-best friends." I rub my hand over my face and turn to look at the people gathered around me.

"W-we were also d-dance p-partners." It's harder than I had imagined to talk about my career, but I push past the part of me that is screaming for me to keep my secrets. "We were h-hired by the C-Canadian Ballet Company when I w-was 14." Arrow gasps, but I don't acknowledge it. "I w-worked my butt off to earn that s-spot, and Steven... he waited until I got a-accepted before accepting their offer as well. He always s-said, without me, it meant nothing... So w-we joined the troupe. And it was..." I pause to bite my lip and think back to all of the wonderful things I learned in those first two years.

"It was amazing. And j-just after my 16th b-birthday I earned the lead in Swan Lake..." I turn to look at Arrow, and regret it only because of the stab of pain through my chest as I realize she's connected the dots.

"Lila McKinnely..." She breathes. My eyes flick shut and I nod.

"What?" Ryker murmurs, confusion lacing his voice. I turn to look up at him. "M-my stage name was Lila McKinnely. And S-Steven's was Jason Baymont." He flicks his eyes briefly at Arrow's, and then turns back to me.

"I think... she's mentioned those names before?" He whispers. I nod.

"S-she's got our p-pictures on her w-walls...." His eyes glint as he connects the dots as well.

"So.. you're pretty famous?" I give him a sad smile and Arrow gapes at him.

"I was, in the b-ballet world." His eyes cloud over for a second before he nods for me to continue.

"We d-did one tour of Swan Lake, and our p-performance in Victoria, BC was filmed...." Arrow gasps, and when I turn to her she looks horrified. I frown and she shakes her head.

"The video..."She whispers. I shrug, not wanting to think about the day we'd watched our tape and I'd melted down. A tear falls from her eye and I turn away from her to keep my own tears from taking over. I clear my throat after a second and turn my attention back to the rest of the room. The others are listening intently, getting the history I am so sad to share.

"Our f-fifth show was in Toronto, and that's where... t-that's where the f-flowers started." I wipe my hand over my face again before straightening my back. Blake captures everyone's attention when he starts to read from the first note, a copy he's pulled from the duffle bag he retrieved.

"The way you dance is enchanting. Enjoy the flowers. I will watch in awe until the last one dies. SM" I remember the first card I'd gotten, nestled in the fake petals of the 12th rose just like the ones he'd snuck into my locker today.

"I g-got the same roses delivered every s-show, for the entire tour. Each one h-had a note like that one. Each one had 11 real r-red roses, and one p-plastic." Blake flicks to another photo, another note.
"Each day I watch you is a gift. Ask me for anything, and it's yours. SM." He flicks through a couple more, reading the notes out- his anger growing with each one.

"If I know what love is, it is because of you. Herman Hesse said that, but you make it true. SM. Each breath you take steals mine from me. Run away with me and I will do whatever you ask. SM. I dream of the day you fall into my arms. Until then, I watch from the crowd. SM The greatest pleasure of my life is being in yours. I will follow you to the ends of the Earth, forever. SM"

"When the r-run ended, and w-we went back to normal practice, I assumed the f-flowers would stop. The o-other leads had things like that, but t-they always ended when the s-shows did... But they d-didn't stop."

"Audrey Hepburn once said that the best thing to hold onto in life is each other. When you are wrapped in my arms, I will never let go. SM." Blake reads from the next note. I shiver, remembering where I'd found these flowers.

"He d-dropped the roses with that n-note on my dressing table in the s-studio." I whisper. Ryker growls beside me, but I ignore it.

"What did you do?" Alpha Cardinal spoke, shaking me from my thoughts, I glance up at him.

"I w-went to my instructor, and s-showed her the notes. I t-told her everything, and s-she promised to take care of it."

"Did she?" He questions. I lick my lip before nodding.

"She c-called the police. They s-started an investigation but... '' I shrug and pause to gnaw on my lip.

"They told her without anything other than flowers and a few notes, their hands were tied." Blake speaks, seemingly having gotten himself under control.

"They d-didn't consider him a threat..." I whisper. Ryker growls again.

"He l-left a music box with pictures of me s-stuffed inside next. There were so many.. And most w-were of me, not my d-dancing persona." A tear falls, but I ignore it. "Each one that Steven was in, h-he'd scratched him out of. P-pretending like he didn't exist."

I suck in a deep breath. "I d-didn't report it this time. After the p-police wouldn't do anything... I didn't see t-the p-point." I glance up at Ryker and he looks so sad, it takes all of my strength to keep from touching him. I clear my throat and continue.

"At C-christmas, he left another gift, and h-he asked me to m-meet him..."

"My light, my love, my everything. Wear this when you meet me tonight. Follow the curtains to the end of the hall and I'll be waiting for you. Yours forever, SM." Blake reads. I shiver, remembering so vividly the fear I'd felt.

"He left a d-dress on my b-bed." Ryker shifts beside me, almost like he wants to pull me into his lap. I push those thoughts aside and continue on.

"Did you report it?" Alpha Cardinal questions. I flick my eyes shut and say nothing. Ryker growls after a second, but something tells me that he's frustrated with his dad for questioning me rather than my silence. I swipe my hand across my face and turn to glance out the window again.

"A m-month went by, and n-nothing else was delivered. I t-thought he had forgotten about me. I w-was wrong. Steven and I w-went out to celebrate my 17th birthday..."

"He grabbed you." Alpha Cardinal states. I say nothing, unable to agree.

"Andy...." Lun Cardinal murmurs, sadness leaking from his voice. I shake my head.

"He h-held us in an abandoned f-factory, in the b-basement. He t-tortured us f-for months..." I whisper. Ryker growls beside me, and I turn to him.

His jaw is clenched so tightly I can see his pulse, but even more prominent than the anger on his face is the sadness. I know that he's hurting from what I went through, and that makes me feel worse, somehow. I reach over and wrap my fingers lightly around his own. His eyes snap to mine. The sadness has turned his eyes a deep brown, and I can almost see the thoughts he's thinking- all about protecting me.

I haul in a breath and find myself talking to him. "And now he's back..." I whisper. He grips my hand tighter.

"He won't touch you again." He promises. I swallow past the lump in my throat and squeeze his hand.

"He's a b-bigger monster than you know..." I breathe. His eyes swim with unshed tears.

"Andy... I won't let him hurt you again." I give him a watery smile before turning away, back to his family. I can't bring myself to tell him that if push comes to shove, I will surrender myself to protect him, to protect the rest of the pack.

"Seth w-watched me for months b-before he-" I cut myself off to take a shaky breath. "If he's s-sending flowers again, it's b-because he's ready for me to know h-he's-" I shake my head. "He's ready f-for me to know he's on h-his way."

"OK." Alpha Cardinal stands and walks towards me.
"Then we will be ready to protect you with everything we have." I lock eyes with him and the sincerity I find there has my heart beating a bit faster.

"I c-can't lose anyone else..." I whisper. He smiles and Ryker squeezes my hand again.

"And we can't bear to lose you."

"W-what would you have me d-do?" I whisper. "Have you all d-die for me?"

He shakes his head. "No. We're going to stand together to protect you. He won't get the chance to hurt anyone else." He locks eyes with me, and the honesty is clear in the gleam of his eyes. "I promise you, Seth won't have a hand in hurting you anymore, in any way."

Ryker squeezes my hand, and for the briefest second I feel a swell of hope in my chest.
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