I give a weak smile to the Alpha, Beta and Gamma that are standing by the table, watching us. They smile back, sadness firmly behind the grins, and start talking amongst themselves.
"Andy!" Arrow calls. She drops her hand from Rowan's and skips over to me. "Are you alright?"
Ryker squeezes my hand and then lets go. Panic claws at my chest the second the contact is gone, but I shove it aside. When I turn to question him he gestures to my chest, and then over his shoulder to the stairs. I nod, understanding he is going to get me a fresh shirt. I turn back to Arrow.
"I'm ok...." I mumble. She smiles at me and brushes her hair back.
"That was pretty scary.... it was like you totally forgot where you were or something." I shiver and drop my eyes to my feet. I can't talk about what happened right now, or I will fall back into the black pit of my mind.
"C-can we talk about s-something else."
"Of course," Alpha Cardinal interrupts, "Andy, I don't know if Ryker told you or not, but Alpha Ajax and his team heard the beginning part of that incident, and they're asking questions about who you were and what was happening. I haven't told them anything yet, but we're going to have to tell them something. I had Bruce answer their call and say that we were dealing with a pack issue, but that that was all he was at liberty to say right now. But..what do you want to do?"
"Dad, We don't have to tell them anything about her, right? We could say that there was a wolf that started changing for the first time and we weren't prepared." Ryker strolls back into the room, and I instantly feel relieved. He slips a large plaid button down top into my hands with a reassuring smile. I frown down at the fabric before glancing back up at him. It is going to be waaaaaay too big. He rolls his eyes before taking the shirt back and tugging it over my head. Without thinking I push my arms through the sleeves and scowl up at him as he fixes the collar.
The shirt ends an inch above my knees and is extremely loose. One sleeve slips off my shoulder, leaving it bare. Ryker smiles down at me and presses a kiss to my forehead. Heat rushes to my face.
"You look good in my clothes." He pushes into my mind. Instantly, my face flames hotter but a smile blooms across my face.
"We can tell them whatever she wants, son." Alpha Cardinal startles me into remembering we aren't alone. I turn away from Ryker and focus on his father.
I bite my lip and run my fingers through my hair. They catch on the vivid red ends, and I briefly wish that the colour is gone. I shake my head of the distraction and focus back on my Alpha
"Y-you trust them?" My voice is weak, sad. Alpha Cardinal nods.
"They've been our allies for decades, and have never given us a reason not to trust them as of yet. And from what I've seen, they regret their actions regarding Seth immensely. I think there's still things we need to know about that situation, but I don't believe that they're trying to hurt you. Or that they would be helping him hurt you." I nod and turn to look up at Ryker.
"Whatever you want, Andy. We're behind you 100%." I sigh and close my eyes to think.
On the one hand, if they are helping Seth they could give us wrong information and someone could get hurt. On the other hand, if they aren't helping him they might have some insight on what he's going to do next. And while they might not be able to help, is there really all that much damage they could do if they are helping Seth? He is clearly already watching me. He knows what locker is mine, where I live, he'd seen my private dance I'd done for myself, and my wolf. He probably already knows everything about my life, and as furious and terrified as that makes me, I also know that it's the truth.
"L-let's call them." I breathe. Ryker squeezes my hand and leads me to the table. Rowan switches seats with me, sliding in beside Arrow where I'd had my panic attack. I sink into his previous seat and clutch Ryker's hand as everyone gets settled around me.
Once everyone is seated, Alpha Cardinal shoots me an encouraging smile and opens the laptop again. He pulls up Skype and rings Alpha Ajax's number. The ringtone doesn't even make it a full cycle before he answers.
"Everything ok over there, Ben?" Alpha Ajax is younger than I'd pictured. He has long brown dreadlocks that are tied in a bun behind his neck, and shining copper eyes with thick black eyelashes. His shoulders are broad, but not quite as wide as Ryker's, and his skin is a deep, warm brown. I find myself wondering why I hadn't trusted him earlier. He has a tattoo creeping up his neck, thick lines of black that I can't quite figure out. He is frowning, but concern flashes behind his eyes.
"Yes, Ajax. We're good now. Sorry about the abrupt drop, we just had a bit of a situation over here...." I feel his eyes on me but refuse to take my eyes off of the screen. Alpha Ajax shifts and turns his head to call for his people to come and join him.
"But you're all good now?"
"Well, as good as can be expected. Where were we before we dropped the call?"
Alpha Ajax grimaces and leans back in his chair. He is joined on screen a second later by a beautiful woman, with long black hair and pillowy lips. Her sapphire coloured almond shaped eyes are filled with unshed tears, but she smiles brightly at the screen.
"Ok..." Ajax drawls. It is obvious he wants to ask questions, but something is telling him not to. I am grateful for that. "We were talking about Seth," The woman lilts and I immediately recognize her as Kelly. I feel my jaw drop as I realize that this woman is Seth's sister.
They look nothing alike. While he has hard lines, sharp bones and jerky movements, she is fluid and soft. Her face is rounded, her mouth curves upwards just slightly. Her nose is wide and has the gentlest curve at the end. She has soft curves and the way she moves is more like a cat twisting through obstacles than I'd imagine a wolf being capable of. He is destruction, and she is music.
"Right. So you were saying you caught Seth with a bunch of stuff." Ryker squeezes my hand and I match my breathing to his again, shoving away the blackness of my thoughts.
"Well after we found all of the stuff, and realized what he was doing, we sat him down and questioned him on what the hell he was thinking. He was insistent that one of the unmated women was his mate, and would make him into the wolf he was meant to be. We explained again that that isn't how the mating process works, and that he wouldn't ever be able to shift. He got really mad, and did a few things and said some stuff that doesn't really matter now. Ultimately," Ajax pauses to exchange a grimace with Kelly, "I threw him out of the pack. I ordered that he never return, or tell anyone of the existence of werewolves through an Alpha order, and on threat of death. I figured that that was going to be the end of it- he'd eventually forget about mates and werewolves and everything that comes with them...." he trails off.
"But he didn't." Ryker growls. I squeeze his hand and he takes a deep breath, shooting me an appreciative glance.
"No, he didn't." Kelly speaks up. A single tear falls down her cheek. "The police contacted me two years after Alpha Ajax threw him out of the pack. They said he'd been arrested and that I was the only family he'd listed when they asked him if he wanted to call anyone." She shudders and an arm wraps around her from out of shot- her mate, no doubt.
"I refused to see him. They told me on the phone that he'd been charged with first degree murder and was suspected of abducting another person- a young woman. I told them that I wasn't his sister anymore, that he'd betrayed my trust a long time ago and that I wasn't surprised that he'd gotten himself into further trouble but I wasn't going to be there for someone that could do all the things that he'd done." She wipes at another tear as it falls.
"A couple of months later the Crown Attorney's Office contacted me to ask if I would be willing to be a witness in the case of R v Meyers, but I told them no. I asked some questions about the case though, and found out that he'd been charged with first degree murder, two counts of false imprisonment, assault, assault with a deadly weapon, attempted murder, and several other things. I read the transcripts after the case was decided and was just horrified over the things that he did to those poor people." I feel tears splash against my own face, and reach up to wipe them away. Ryker squeezes my hand tighter again.
"God it was horrible. And from what he said on the stand, it seemed like every delusion he had came from us. He talked about feeling true love for her, and feeling so jealous of the man he killed because she loved him too. He talked about knowing she was the one the second he laid eyes on her, and the feeling of electricity whenever they touched. And he talked about her being able to unlock his true potential..... he thought she was going to be able to turn him into a wolf because he thought she was his soul mate." She shakes her head, disgusted. "He never listened. He always had issues with jealousy and anger, but I never thought he would go so far as hurting someone to get what he wanted. He is a very sick man, capable of unimaginable horrors."
"Agreed." Alpha Cardinal nods. "Is there anything else you can tell us about him?"
She frowns and furrows her eyebrows. "I don't think so? That's all I know about Seth now. We haven't spoken in almost four years at this point."
"So you don't know anything about him harassing one of my pack members?"
Her jaw falls open.
"What? How? He's still in prison, isn't he?" She squeaks.
"We're not sure how, but it's definitely him and it's escalating."
"He's stalking her, and leaving her gifts and notes threatening her."
"Who?" She breathes. I grit my teeth and shift further into Ryker's side.
Alpha Cardinal swivels the screen so only Ryker and I are in frame. I brush my hair back from my face and lift my chin.
"Oh my god" Kelly gasps, tears gushing down her face as she registers who I am. Alpha Ajax frowns.
"Who are you?"
I grit my teeth. "M-my name is Andromeda R-Romans. I was the w-woman he abducted the first t-time." Recognition lights his eyes, sorrow a second later. "And my b-best friend is-was the man he m-murdered." Ryker squeezes my hand again. I brush my thumb along the back of his hand to feel something other than the agony and self hatred leaking back into my chest.
Alpha Ajax gulps and then glances to the side.
"Clarke, comfort Kelly." He orders. Immediately two arms wind around Kelly's waist and tug her out of frame. Alpha Ajax readjusts the screen and folds his hands in front of him.
"You're sure it's him?"
"P-positive. He's fallen into o-old p-patterns." I spit. Alpha Ajax nods.
"What has he been doing?"
"Watching her," Ryker begins, squeezing my hand once again. I am grateful he is speaking for me, leaving me to focus on the crushing weight on my chest. "Someone's been following her to report back to him. He's also sent two packages for her. One to her locker at school, and the other to her front door."
"There's notes as well." Alpha Cardinal adds from the other side of Ryker. Alpha Ajax nods looking lost in thought.
"What can we do to help?"
"Nothing, as of yet." Alpha Cardinal swivels the screen back to face him.
"As of Right now, we're upping security both here and at the school. Andy is never to be alone, and her safety has become the highest priority for all of us. We've also increased patrols. As of right now, there's nothing we can do until we know what Seth has planned. Before you kicked him out, were there any other weird signs or incidents we should be aware of?" Alpha Ajax's frown deepens.
"Nothing that we didn't already tell you. He was stalking the girls, taking photos and stealing their clothes and other small trinkets. The best place to look though is his patterns with Andy, as she's obviously the strongest link between last time and this time."
"We've already considered that, and we have contingency plans in place for if he follows the rest of his patterns. But things are different now...."
"Well for one, Andy shifted." Surprise shoots across Alpha Ajax's face. "She's a wolf?"
"Full blooded." Alpha Cardinal nods, "She was late to change because she suppressed a lot of her emotions, and for... other reasons..." I furrow my brows. Ryker leans down and presses his lips to my ear. "Our mating." He breathes, just loud enough for me to hear. I nod, and glance up at him with questions in my eyes. He smiles and mouths "Later" to me. I focus back on the Alpha's conversation.
"Well That does complicate things... Seth will no doubt come after her harder after he learns she's actually a wolf..." Alpha Ajax rolls the idea around in his head, gritting his teeth.
"But she will also have increased skills against him..." he murmurs. I frown, remembering the terror gripping me not long before. I doubt I'd be able to control myself enough around him if it came down to that.....
"Did he know she was a wolf before he picked her?" Alpha Cardinal frowns. "I'm not sure how he would have.... she was surrounded by humans, not wolves. And before she shifted she didn't have any wolf traits that humans could detect...."
"But how would he have known to pick her?" Ryker questions. I frown. It hadn't occurred to me that Seth might have known I was a wolf before I had, and hunted me for that reason.
"Perhaps he got lucky?" Alpha Cardinal guesses.
Alpha Ajax frowns. "I don't know. But he knew that the reason Kelly had changed was her mate was a wolf. In order for him to change, you would think that he would specifically go after a wolf." Ryker frowns down at me.
"But he is completely human, and wolves aren't exactly obvious to humans. Maybe he did just choose a random woman that ended up being a wolf by chance."
"Maybe..." Alpha Cardinal sighs.
Everyone is quiet for a minute, lost in thought. I trace my thumb back and forth across the back of Ryker's hand.
"What else?" Alpha Ajax redraws my attention.
"Seth is also still in prison, so he obviously has someone helping him... and whoever this person is, they're slippery." Ryker frowns, obviously remembering the box dropping onto the front porch without anyone around.
"They get in and out without notice, or leaving a scent. It's almost like no one is actually there." Alpha Cardinal explains. Alpha Ajax frowns again.
"Hmm...... we will have to think about that one. Perhaps there's something we're missing... Is there anything else?"
"We're still searching. But," Alpha Cardinal sighs, "until we know more there isn't much we can do." Alpha Ajax nods and leans back in his chair.
"Well keep us in the loop. If there's anything we can do, anything at all just let me know."
"Thank you, Ajax. We appreciate that."
He gives a weak smile. "Honestly, I think we owe you more than that. After everything we saw Seth do, I let him go into the world and people got hurt because of that. I've been living with that knowledge since Kelly told us he'd been arrested." Pain and sadness shine through his eyes. "I am truly sorry for everything that happened to you, Ms Romans." I swallow past the lump in my throat and lean my head against Ryker's massive bicep, drained. He humms against me.
"Thank you, Ajax. We will keep you informed of any new developments." Alpha Cardinal sighs and leans forwards to the computer, intent on ending the call.
"Wait!" Kelly screams from off screen. Alpha Cardinal frowns and leans back in his seat.
Kelly glides into frame, eyes red and face puffy.
"Andromeda?" She calls. Ryker reaches to twist the screen so she can see me.
"I just want to say that I'm sorry-"
"D-don't." I cut her off, breathless. Her bottom lip quivers, so I straighten to look at her head on.
"It w-wasn't you. H-he isn't you, you aren't r-responsible for him." I remember the distrust and anger I had felt when I'd read her message, and feel sadness sink into me. It wasn't her fault, and it had been wrong for me to assume she was helping just because they share DNA. Seeing how upset she had gotten at the sight of me, witnessing the breakdown caused just by the presence of my suffering convinced me she is innocent in this.
"Andy..." Ryker breathes, bringing me back to the present. I shake my head and focus back on the screen. Kelly is wiping tears from her eyes, trying to stop their flow. I give her my best watery smile, trying to show I'm not mad, that I don't need her apologies.
"H-he is the one to blame for his a-actions. Not you, not his parents, a-and not me." My wolf whimpers in my mind, agreeing with my words. It wasn't my fault he had chosen me- I hadn't deserved his treatment, and Steven hadn't deserved to die.
Kelly nods and returns my smile the best she can.
"I'm still sorry, though." She breathes. I suck in a shaky breath.
"M-me too." I let a tear fall for my fallen friend, but don't let myself sink into the self pity and self hatred I can feel twisting at the corners of my mind.
"We should go...." Ryker whispers to me. I nod and give Kelly another watery smile.
"D-don't blame yourself, Kelly. He's the one to blame. N-nothing you did could have changed his p-path, I promise you that." She nods again. "Thank you." She whispers. I shrug and then glance to my right. Ryker is smiling down at me sadly, and I know he wants to hang up so he can wrap me in his arms and comfort me.
"Goodbye, K-Kelly. I hope you have a g-good life."
"I hope the same for you." Kelly smiles at me and waves. Alpha Ajax comes back into frame, gives a brief wave and reaches forwards and disconnects the call.