Now they were back, and Luna Cardinal was directing me to my room.
"You can stay here, Andy." he points to the door beside Ryker's room.
I smile and thank him. He takes off, leaving me to get set up. Arrow, Ryker and Rowan help me and I'm finished in no time.
I glance around the room, taking everything in.
There is a queen sized bed with five pillows, a black and grey striped duvet, and a solid wooden headboard in the middle of the far wall. There is a single nightstand on the right side of the bed, and it has my alarm clock resting at the back. There is also a large closet that is just shy of being a walk in across from the bed. There is a wooden dresser beneath the only window in the room, and grey curtains are pulled back to allow the moon to shine in.
The room is nice. And although it isn't my room, I don't feel like staying in it will be that bad. It would be comfortable enough.
Once I am all set up, the twins and Rowan leave for their own rooms.
Flopping onto the squishy mattress, I let out a sigh. We'd had dinner, and the twins had wanted to watch a movie before we went to bed but I feel exhausted.
And while I don't intend on sleeping, I really just want to spend some time alone.
Somehow, I had managed to convince Ryker that it was a good idea to let our connection break. I want my walls up to protect my nightmares, but now that he's gone from my mind I feel.... empty. I shake off the thoughts and focus on the person-Arrow- shifting repeatedly on their mattress across the hall. I'm very careful not to listen to the other side of my wall, knowing that Ryker is laying just on the other side.
"So...." I push into her mind. "I hope your dreams are of Rowan." I tease. I hear her growl across the hall and chuckle.
"I may be regretting pushing for you to stay over..." She hisses. I laugh louder and push back into her mind. "So you can d-dream of Rowan in peace?"
"I hope you forget that we're mates." She snarls back. I laugh again and settle more into the bed.
"Not likely. You two would be cute together." I can practically feel her rolling her eyes.
"We would have been already..."she trails off. I sigh. "Row.... The p-past is the past. When we live in it, we miss out on the p-present. And believe me when I tell you that the past is not s-something worth revelling in." I purse my lips. "Rowan c-cares about you, in the present. Trying to make him suffer for what he d-did as a stupid kid is only going to end up hurting you."
"I really don't like that you're shipping us." I smile and shake my head.
"It's your own f-fault for being so damn shippable."
I want Rowan and Arrow to be happy. I can see that they are constantly fighting their urges to touch each other, or even to look at each other. I know now that most of that is what is called the mate bond, but it looks exhausting. And if shit is going to hit the fan between me and my demons, I at least want as much of this family as possible to move past it and be happy. And with every day that passes, I can feel the shit moving closer to the fan.
Mate won't be happy without us.. my wolf whimpers into my mind. I shake the thoughts off, focusing back on my conversation with Arrow. I don't want to think about that.
"I'm just so scared." She breathes. I nod to myself.
"Fear is a powerful thing...." I breathe back. Arrow sniffles and I know she's crying again over Rowan.
A minute later, I hear her door open and massive feet shuffling in.
"Hey!" Arrow screeches. I listen more intently, trying to figure out what is going on.
"Move over." Rowan's Voice rumbles and I let out a bark of laughter. On the other side of the wall I hear Ryker join in.
"No!" She screeches again, and I hear the definite sound of skin hitting skin.
"Ouch!" Rowan whines. I shake my head at the two.
"Hey! Don't!" Rowan chuckles at Arrow's cry.
"I'm just going to hold you." I hear him sink down on the bed, and Arrow's protest get weaker until they just completely stop.
"Give him a c-chance, Row. It might even lead to some kind of happiness..." I push into her mind. I hear her scoff but she doesn't say anything back. I smile and push my headphones into my ears to start my distraction through this long night.
The two week vacation from school flies past in a blur of sleepless nights. I spend most of them in the basement, switching between running on the treadmill Ryker showed me my first night here and working my way through their massive collection of movies.
Ryker doesn't approve of my sleeping routines, but he doesn't say anything after I wake up screaming from a catnap on my third day here.
The time had flown by, and Christmas and New Year's had both come and gone. It is now January 2nd, and my 19th birthday is creeping ever closer. I glance to my phone as the movie I'm watching draws to a close. It's some romantic comedy starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. The clock reads 1:50 am and I decide that I don't want to watch anything else. Bored, I open up my phone and start playing candy crush.
After two hours of scrolling through different games and stalling on each of them, I find myself pondering the idea of returning to Facebook. I'd shut down my account after being rescued- the messages of "encouragements" and "positive vibes" and "sorry for your loss" became too much. Steven's Page had become a memorial of him, and seeing as he was my only real friend I hadn't seen the point in continuing on a site meant for friend counts.
I consider the options before finally deciding to sign in to my old account. Worse case scenario, I could always delete the account again.
Pulling up my feed, I notice a lot of things have changed since I'd last logged in. The site looks totally different, and there are about 50 new agreements that I have to accept before actually getting into my news feed. The first thing that flashes is the amount of unread messages I have sitting in my inbox, but I ignore them for now. Instead I start scrolling through my friend's status updates and photographs, pages they've shared and things that they've liked.
There is the lead ballerina at the Canadian Ballet Company, a tall leggy brunette who'd been simultaneously encouraging and incredibly generous when I had beat her out for two different lead positions, and her Update whining about Spinach and Kale diets.
There is a photograph of my dead mother's best friend, holding her husband's hand on a beach in front of a sunset.
There is a meme shared by my last dance coach, one of those Keep Calm and pictures that has "Drink Tequila" in a fancy font underneath.
It bothers me how completely everyone has seemed to move on; how easy it is for myself and Steven and Seth to have all been forgotten. Picture after picture is of smiling couples, goofy children or stupid inspiring quotes.
Realizing no one cares about us anymore causes anger, hurt and relief to course through me. Anger because Steven deserved better, Hurt because I haven't been able to move on, and the world has continued, Relief because no one but Seth seems to be chasing after me.
Frustrated with the news feed, I look at my message folders. The most recent one is from a couple of months after I'd been rescued. The subject line reads "Thoughts and Prayers to You!" I delete it without opening it.
This continues for an hour. There are hundreds of messages from people I have never met, or the occasional acquaintance. Each message is the same drivel of crap - we're so sorry about what happened, your friend was such a good boy, you must have been so scared - blah blah blah over and over and over. I delete every one without giving it a second thought.
I can feel my anger rising, frustration at all of these fake friends that didn't know me, didn't know Steven but feel the need to comment on our lives.
My anger grows and grows and grows, until it breaks.
My throat closes up and my heart stops beating.
Because after all of the same messages, after reading through months worth of the same thing, there is a message that is different. A message that was sentin the middle of the trial, while I'd still been battling for my sanity in the hospital. A message that screams out at me in agony.
The subject line is "Please Read This" and it comes from another person I've never met- someone I had never known existed, but hurts me nonetheless. I open it, lungs screaming for me to breathe.
Hello, it begins.
My name is Kelly Meyers-Tilcox. My brother's name is Seth. We share a father and our hair colour, but that is where the similarities end.
I don't know if you're ever going to read this, or if you're even going to survive from the injuries he left you with. I don't know why I'm reaching out to you, when you probably would rather not know anything about the man that's tortured you for months now. But there's something inside me, begging me to talk to you; to help you in any way I can.
I want to say I'm sorry. I'm sure that Seth will never say so himself, but someone needs to. You didn't deserve what he did to you, and neither did the man he killed. The things that he did to try to get what he wanted most in this world are horrifying. He is horrifying. My brother is a monster, and a very sick man. I never imagined that his delusions would lead to him kidnapping an innocent couple, or doing any of the many many horrific things I have heard in the evidence against him.
There are things I want to tell you, but can't. There are things in this world that are outside the normal, and things that I can't tell you without hurting you. And I don't want to cause you anymore hurt. But know that if there is ever anything I can do for you, I will.
I have not spoken to my brother since shortly after I married my soulmate, and he lost his mind in a fit of jealousy. He has always been a selfish man, jealous of things that others have that he doesn't. When things in my life changed, Seth wanted them too. But it was not meant to be. And then he twisted his mind until he saw a way for him to get what he wants. And I'm so sorry that you got caught in his twisted fantasy. I'm so sorry that he ever touched you, that he ever had the opportunity to lay his hands on you.
His evil overtook him long ago, and I can't help but feel that me and my family are partially responsible.
If there is ever anything you need, I will move heaven and earth to help you. You are an amazing woman, from what I've seen in the case file. You truly went through hell and somehow managed to come out of it. I hope you make it through all of this.
I am so very very sorry, once again.
I read the message four times before anything she wrote sinks in. Tears are streaming down my face, my breath is stuck in my throat, a loud roaring is in my ears and overtaking everything else. Before I can read it a fifth time warm arms wrap around me.
Sparks erupt where he touches me and I start sobbing harder. Ryker holds me tighter to him, running his hands up and down my back in soothing strokes. He whispers kind words to me, things that I can't quite make out but the emotion behind them warms my heart even through the pain.
He holds me as I cry until there is nothing left. And still he holds me. Once I get myself under control, I focus back on my phone. I turn it so that Ryker can see the screen, and let him read it. Gently I hand him the phone and, once he takes it, I focus on my breathing, matching it to Ryker's so as not to start hyperventilating. Moments later, Ryker squeezes me tighter.
"S-she sent that while I w-was in the h-hospital..." I cry. Ryker brushes his fingers down my back again.
"I know." He whispers into my hair. I shudder and reach around until I find my phone. Opening the app, I tap through until I reach her profile.
"What are you doing?" He presses a kiss to my forehead and shifts us so we can both see the screen.
"I'm g-g-going to b-block her. S-she's probably the o-one h-helping h-him. S-she s-sent That m-message, knowing it w-would only hurt m-me." My anger is back, ripping through my chest and leaving a burn behind. Ryker strokes my back again, trying to soothe me.
"I don't think she was trying to be hurtful..." he whispers. I shake my head.
"Wait..." he says, noticing something. I glance up at him, and mirror his frown.
"W-what?" He taps on her profile picture, enlarging it. He stares at it for a moment before glancing back at me.
"She looks familiar...." he whispers, backing out of her profile picture. He scrolls down and clicks on her photos. He flicks through a couple before selecting an album titled "Our Wedding". He freezes after scrolling to the third picture.
"W-What?" He flicks his eyes to mine.
"I think I know how Seth knew about mates...." I feel my jaw fall open and he pushes us to stand, keeping his arm wrapped tightly around my waist. We rush up the stairs, and once we hit the main floor he starts yelling for his father.
"Dad!" He screams again louder after pulling away from me. I scurrie after him as he jogs up the next set of stairs, heading towards the bedrooms.
"R-Ry!" I hiss. He glances back at me before continuing up the stairs.
"It's the middle of the n-night!" I whisper yell at his back. He pauses to look over his shoulder at me. He reaches out his hand and when I place mine in his, he tugs me up to the same stair as him. He gives me a small smile.
"It's ok." He squeezes my hand before turning back to take the last three stairs."Dad!" He screams again.
I hear muffled cursing coming from the rooms down the hall but ignore them as Ryker tugs me past the landing and to the next floor where his parentsroom is. I rush to keep up with him, almost slipping.
"Dad!" He yells again.
"Dude shut up!" Rowan screams. Ryker growls but otherwise ignores his friend. "It's the middle of the night!" Rowan shoots back in response.
"Dad!" He calls again, and this time there is the definite sound of a door opening somewhere in front of us. Ryker pulls me up the last step and I huff at the speed he is still keeping. He smiles at me in apology and leads me down the hallway where I can see his parents open bedroom door.
"What is wrong with you?" Alpha Cardinal grumbles. His voice is thick with sleep, and when I stretch to poke my head around Ryker's massive bicep, I notice the sleepy haze clouding his eyes.
"I know how Seth knows about Mates." Rykers voice is rough.
Immediately, Alpha Cardinal loses all sense of sleepiness; he stands straighter and his eyes shine brighter. He nods to his son before turning back to his room, letting the door shift behind him. He is back within seconds, a thick blue robe wrapped around him. He softly closes the door behind him and gestures towards the stairs.
15 minutes later, we are sitting in the kitchen with large mugs of coffee in front of each of us. Rowan has joined us, apparently intrigued enough by Ryker's statement to ditch sleep. When we came down the stairs he was leaning against Arrow's bedroom door, frowning with dark circles under his eyes. Ryker tugged him into the hallway as we passed.
I twirl my spoon in my half full cup, lost in thought. I can feel Ryker's eyes burning into me but refuse to look up to meet his gaze. If I did, I know we'd get lost and not explain why he'd woken half the house up.
"Why are we up at 3:57 in the morning?" Someone grumbles from the kitchen doorway. I lift my head to meet Beta Deacon's sleepy gaze and wave my hand at the last stool at the counter. He hesitates but comes the rest of the way into the kitchen, throwing himself into the seat.
"Ryker knows how Seth knew about mates, apparently." Rowan bitches into his coffee. He is not pleased to be sitting down here, and I have a feeling that his anger is mostly due to the fact that he had abandoned Arrow's bed to come down here. Ryker shoots him a glare before pulling my stool closer to his, not stopping until my left side is flush with his right. His arm wraps around me to hold me in place. I feel my face flush but don't try to pull away; it just feels so safe and warm.
"Andy, can I have your phone?" Ryker mumbles to me. I silently hand it over.
He unlocks it, tapping a few times to get back to Kelly's page. Once satisfied, he twists the phone around to show her profile picture to his dad.
"Does she look familiar to you?" Alpha Cardinal frowns at the screen. "Maybe a little.... Not anything specific though.." he sounds confused. Ryker nods.
"I thought so too, until I swiped to a different album." He pulls the phone back and taps a few more times, no doubt going back to the wedding album that had sparked his interest.
My wolf grumbles inside me at the thought of him knowing this woman. Knowing something about the woman that shared DNA with the mastermind behind my worst nightmares. I don't like the idea of them anywhere near each other, and my wolf strongly agrees with me. If I didn't know any better, I might even say we feel.... jealous. I shake my head and focus back on Ryker.
"Andy got a message from Kelly, Seth's sister." He flicks his eyes to me as I growl before focusing back on the screen in front of him. "That's who the woman is. She looked really familiar, so I started looking through a couple of her photos, trying to place her. And I came across these ones." He squeezes me tighter to him again.
"Look at these photos, dad." He hands my phone away again and watches as his dad frowns down at the phone.
"I don't understand why I'm- Oh my god." His voice breaks in the middle, and I know he has swiped to the photo that made Ryker freeze a little while before.
I don't understand what the big deal is. The photo is simple - Kelly and what I assume is her husband, and the rest of their bridal party. They are all sitting in a semicircle, the bride and groom at the centre. There are three smiling men to the right of the groom, and three gorgeous women to the left of Kelly. The girls are dressed in pretty green dresses that all match and the men are wearing all black suits with matching green ties. The men are handsome- all tall and broad and well muscled. The women are beautiful too. Each one looks like a goddess, with long legs and perfect flawless skin and matching complexions.
It seems like a normal wedding photo.
"Have you called them?" Alpha Cardinal questions his son. Ryker is already shaking his head before his dad has finished.
"I thought I should let you know first. I don't want to step over any agreements, and you guys are friends..." I frown.
"Good. I don't know exactly what the connection is.... but I think you're right son." Beta Deacon groans and tries to stretch his neck to be able to see the screen still buried in Alpha Cardinal's grip.
"What is it?" He questions. Alpha Cardinal and Ryker shift to look at him and both of their jaws lock.
"It seems," Alpha Cardinal rumbles, "that Seth's sister is connected to the Midnight Rising pack." Beta Deacon's face pales and his jaw falls open.
Alpha Cardinal sighs and places my phone onto the table, so we can all see the screen. He gestures towards the man that is on the far edge of the screen. Beta Deacon growls. I frown. "I d-don't get it." Alpha Cardinal smiles at me.
"That's Alpha Ajax Kingsley." He points to the next man in line. "Beta Thomas Freeman." Next Man. "Gamma Derek Thompson." He points to the groom next. "Delta Clarke Freemans."
"The two women on the far edge are Ajax and Thomas' mates. I don't recognize the last one but the rest of them I do." He points at the woman sitting right beside Kelly, smiling prettily.
He turns to lock eyes with me.
"If Seth's sister and the Delta of the Midnight Rising pack got married, it makes sense that they might be mates. And if they're mates, she would know everything about werewolves. It's possible that she might have told Seth about us. Alternatively..." he trails off, and I gulp. "If she is mated to a werewolf, they might have werewolves in their history." He finishes. I clench my jaw.
If she knows about the world I'd just become a part of, could she have welcomed Seth into it? I think about her message to me.
There are things I want to tell you, but can't. There are things in this world that are outside the normal, and things that I can't tell you without hurting you.
She must have been talking about werewolves.
I turn my eyes to Ryker, and he is already staring down at me.
"D-did she mean w-werewolves?" I voice. He bites his lip and then leans down to press his lips to my forehead.
"We need to talk to them first." He whispers. I nod. I glance at the clock on the microwave and sigh. It is just after 4 in the morning. There is no way any of the wolves in the Midnight Rising pack would be awake, or taking calls.
I stand and pull myself out of Ryker's arms, walking towards the coffee maker. I yank out the old grinds and start making a fresh pot, sure that more is going to be needed if I am going to sit here and wait.
"W-why dont you all go b-back to bed." I throw over my shoulder. "W-we can call this other p-pack in the m-morning..." I trail off. I don't want to talk to Kelly, but it seems like I don't really have a choice. I feel Ryker move behind me, tugging me into his chest. He wraps his arms around my waist and leans down to rest his chin on the top of my head.
"We're going to figure this out." He pushes into my mind. I nod and focus back on the pot in front of me. I press a few buttons before turning in Ryker's arms and wrapping my own securely around his waist.
I hear three pairs of feet slowly retreat from the kitchen, and drift towards the stairs. Moments later two doors close softly, a third more faint one following a breath later.
Ryker sighs into my hair, and I sink further into his chest.
"Don't worry Love. We will figure this out." He breathes. I nod again, focusing on his steady breathing.
The night couldn't pass fast enough, but this quiet moment with Ryker wrapped around me makes that fact seem a little less grey.