He'd obviously been talking about my connection with Ryker. The thought that he knows about us, that he might know what we are to each other makes me see red.
He won't take another one from us. My wolf growls in my mind. I agree with her, knowing I will do whatever it takes to protect all of the people I have come to love.
"Andy." Alpha Cardinal calls as he stalks into my backyard. He is buttoning a pair of jeans as he walks. I nod in acknowledgment and he stalks over to my position. I hear the rest of the men following behind him, the sound of rustling clothing telling me that they had all run here in wolf form.
"Alpha." I call his attention to the note in front of me. "Another n-note got delivered." I growl. He snarls and closes the last bit of distance between us, making me nervous. I drop my gaze to show my submission.
"What is it?" Rowan calls. I move back so the others can see. Moments later they are all growling.
"Was this here when you walked up?" Alpha Cardinal growls. I shake my head.
"It d-dropped from the s-sky after I called for you." He growls again and then leans his head back and sniffs the air.
"There's only one scent." Ryker bites out. I nod and point my nose at the door. The men growl and Alpha Cardinal reaches for the handle. He growls again and tugs it open.
"It's unlocked." He spits.
I follow the men into the house, still in my wolf form. It seems that they hadn't thought to bring anything for me to wear, so I would have to stick to my fur.
The scent of the blood is overwhelming the deeper into the building we get. My stomach revolts at the coppery taste in the air, reminding me of the last time I'd been near so much blood. I steel myself, focusing on the things I can physically see and the sounds around me.
"Do you know who it is?" One of the men I don't know calls. He is the closest person to me, the furthest back from the body. The Alpha has stalked further into the kitchen, and is now turning his way into the living room.
"Evan Peters." He whispers. "He was one of ours...." he trails off, sorrow fighting its way past the anger in his voice. I bite back the whimper at his words.
He'd known this man. Most likely had him as part of the pack.
"He was one of our warriors." Ryker rumbles, obviously for my benefit. I nod in his direction. "Assigned to protect the school." His eyes drift to me, and I keep my head down. I can practically hear what he is thinking: Evan had been assigned to protect me.
"He hasn't been dead long." Alpha Cardinal is in the living room now. I push my way past the rest of the men until I am standing next to the Alpha, overlooking the dead wolf. "He checked in with me at noon regarding his assignment."
The urge to cry is closing my throat, but I push past it to look at the second man whose life had been taken because of me.
"It's not your fault, Andy." Alpha Cardinal whispers to me. I glance up at him, surprised he knows what I am thinking. He is staring down at the body of the wolf, not at me.
"I know you're thinking it is, but it isn't." He continues.
"He d-died because he was p-protecting me." I whisper into his mind. His eyes flick down to meet mine.
"He died protecting his pack. He knew the risks and he fought valiantly." I try to frown, but I am unsure how the emotion looks on my muzzle.
"How do you kn-know?" I push towards him. He gives me a sad smile and walks around the body. He pauses at his muzzle.
"Blood," he points, "and although it's on him it doesn't have a smell." He presses his fingers to the blood and brings it to his face.
"Whoever did this either doesn't have a smell..." he frowns, "or they're very good at hiding it." I nod and step back away from the dead man.
"Sleep well, warrior. You've earned your peace." He whispers, gently sliding his hand over the wolf's open eyes to have them close.
He turns and looks at his son and the other men.
"Spread out. Look for any clues as to who could have done this. We need to figure out who's helping Seth so we have a chance at stopping him before anyone else gets hurt." He glances at me.
"You can go back to the pack house soon, Andy. More wolves will be coming shortly to help us bring Evan back. When they get here someone can escort you." I nod and turn away.
I pace through the house, lost in thought. Whoever is helping Seth is evidently just as big of a monster as he is. He has no regard for the lives he is hurting, no feelings that this is wrong.
Who could move about without being seen? Without leaving a scent or making any sound? What kind of person could drop packages and notes, could bypass werewolves with super hearing, super smell and were on red alert waiting for things like this?
It's like they are a ghost- moving around without leaving any traces because they aren't actually there.
Frustrated, I decide to head upstairs to my room. I want to be human again, to have the use of my hands rather than paws.
I walk silently, listening to the men downstairs talking about the amount of blood that is in the room, and how some of it has to have been from Evan's attacker. I frown as I enter my room. Even their blood doesn't have a scent? That makes absolutely no sense to me. Everything has a scent. How could this person just.... not?
I freeze the second I enter my room. There is something different about my things. I try to shake it off, reminding myself that someone had been through my stuff to get clothes and my workbooks and other necessities, but I have this dark feeling that it is something more sinister than that....
I step further into the room, searching for the cause of my anxiety. There is no one in the room, and yet.... It feels like I am being watched. I furrow my brows and glance around the room once again for anything out of place.
My bookshelf is a mess. Instead of the neat rows of books that normally lay there, several have been torn from the shelves. My knick knacks are also moved around, not sitting neatly in their proper places. I turn my attention to my dresser. The drawers are closed tightly, nothing sticking out like it normally does. My bed is made neatly, the pillows sitting together at the top of the bed and the blanket pulled tight without wrinkles.
I turn and look at my nightstand. There is nothing on the top, but the drawer is slightly open. I hadn't left it like that, and for some reason that really bothers me. Slowly, I stalk towards it. Using my teeth, I tugg the drawer the rest of the way open and then just pull it straight out so it hits the floor.
A growl slips from my lips. Normally this drawer holds a notebook and several pens, a couple things of chapstick and the box my phone came in. Today, there are stacks of photos and papers.. I shift without thinking and bury my fingers into the drawer.
The top photo is of me and Ryker, in the cafeteria. We are sitting at opposite sides of the table and staring intently at each other. My cheeks are a pale pink and I am wearing a blue t-shirt, one I haven't had with me at the pack house.
The next photo is of me and Arrow, standing at my locker. I am wearing the same blue shirt, and my hair is the same as the last photo. It is most likely from the same day.
There are several photos like that, of me and someone at the school. There are even a couple of me in the backyard of this house, and two of me in the basement as I ran. Those ones are particularly disturbing, because there aren't any windows in that room.
I switch my attention to the papers next, and see red immediately. I recognize the handwriting as the same as the cards. But this one is addressed to Ryker.
There are no words to describe my feelings for her, and by extension you. I see the two together and all I want to do is wrap my hands around your necks. The world is very dangerous, especially for those that touch what isn't theirs. I fantasize at night of ripping her away from you, of taking her from your world because she deserves to be only in mine.
I long for the feeling of your heart in my hands, and your blood soaking through my fingers. Keep your hands to yourself, or I will cut them off. She is mine, and I will do anything to keep her.
It isn't signed, but it doesn't have to be. I know this is from Seth, just like the other notes. I bite back my anger and flip to the next page.
There is a doodle of me, a crude stick figure I only recognize because of the chains. I am suspended in the same position I'd been found in, and I am drawn as I would have been seen as Seth left.
I push past the urge to vomit and turn to the next page.
It's another drawing, and this one makes me run to the toilet to empty my guts.
It's the scene from my nightmares, the new ones I'd been having since connecting with the Cardinal's. There are piles of broken bodies, and at the centre is me. Two words are scrawled at the bottom of the picture in the same scentless blood from downstairs.
It says, "Die Bitch."
I push myself up from the toilet and wipe my mouth with the back of my hand. I stumble out of my bathroom and back to my dresser to pull out the first pieces of clothing I can find. I dress quickly and grab all of the contents of the drawer. I lay them on the bed and wrap my arms around my chest to try to hold myself together.
I hear someone clambering up the stairs, but I can't bring myself to turn and acknowledge them. I know who it is, just from the way my skin sings when he enters. Ryker.
"Are you ok?" He rumbles. I reach up and wipe at my face.
"I'm fine." I whisper. He steps further into the room and I point at the things on my bed. "These were in my n-nightstand drawer."
He closes the distance between us and I know the second he catches sight of the collection on my bed. He carefully tugs the first picture from the bed so he can look at it closer.
He flips through them carefully, anger growing with each shot. He shakes with rage when he has gotten through the stack, and I find myself reaching out for him, even though I know I shouldn't. I stroke his arm trying to get him to calm down.
He nods his thanks and turns his attention to the letter. With each word that he reads, his anger grows hotter.
"Ryker...." I whisper once he is finished. His body is shaking and his eyes are glowing gold. He turns to look at me at the sound of my voice.
"You don't belong to him." He roughs out. I nod and he growls. "I won't let him touch you again. He can try to take my hands all he wants, he won't touch you again." His voice is so rough, I am having trouble understanding him. The anger is radiating so powerfully off of him, I am surprised he hasn't shifted.
"I won't let him hurt you." I breathe. His eyes snap back to mine from where they'd drifted to look at the note again.
"What do you mean?" He roars. I frown but steele my spine. He doesn't scare me, and I know no matter what he would never hurt me, even in anger. So I take a step closer, so we are barely separated. Our breaths mingle and the static electricity that always thrums between us ratchets up a notch.
"I won't let him hurt you. Or Arrow or Rowan or your dads or Blake or any more members of our pack. He needs to be stopped." I press it into his mind, preferring that to words right now. It is hard to express that I care, when the last person I had cared about this deeply ended up paying the ultimate price.
"He will be stopped." He pushes back. Our connection grows, and it becomes harder to breathe as the bond between us tries to force us together.
"We're going to stop him, Andy." I nod and give into the urge to collapse into his arms. He folds them tightly around me, and bends his head so he can bury his nose in my hair.
"I won't let him hurt you again." He whispers into my mind again. His anger seems to have settled a little, no longer the white hot rage he had been barely containing.
That's where Blake and his dad find us ten minutes later. Wrapped in each other's arms, lost in thought.
"We need to go now, guys." Alpha Cardinal calls our attention. Ryker reluctantly lets me slip from his arms and turns back to the bed and the papers that lay there. He gathers them carefully and brings them over to his dad without a word.
The Alpha looks through the documents, his anger jumping another level as he does. Blake looks over his shoulder for a second, reading the letter meant for Ryker, before stepping back outside the room. For a brief second when I catch his face, he looks broken. My heart aches again.
"Where were these?"
"My nightstand drawer." I whisper. He nods and turns on his heel.
"We really need to go now." He calls over his shoulder. I follow silently behind him, Ryker following me out of my room. He tugs the door shut behind him. Blake leads the way down the stairs.
We leave through the back door, the same way we'd entered. Everyone else has already left, and the warrior's body has been collected.
Alpha Cardinal leads us around the side of the house to the driveway where two massive SUVs are waiting. I am surprised- I hadn't heard any vehicles arriving. Blake walks straight to the driver's door of the furthest SUV, face grim. He must have driven that one to get us.
Alpha Cardinal offers me a sad smile as he turns to gesture me towards the other SUV.
"I'm sure you'll find this car more comfortable than that one." I furrow my brows and he just shakes his head. Suddenly I realize why he'd gotten Blake and someone else to drive these cars over. One to bring me home, no doubt expecting me to be exhausted after running so long, and the other for the body. So they could get it back home without anyone seeing.
Ryker tugs the rear passenger door open and motions me in. I thank him as I climb in, immediately clicking my seatbelt into place. He moves around the car and swings the opposite door open, climbing in beside me without a word.
Beta Deacon joins us in the front passenger seat a moment later, and Alpha Cardinal takes the driver's seat after giving out a few more instructions to the remaining wolves.
Then, without any words to us, he pulls out of the driveway behind Blake and heads back to the pack house.
Two hours later, I am finally settled into my bed. When we'd got back to the house we had had to explain to everyone else what we'd found, and showed them the things from my nightstand. We'd then had a pretty intense meeting about what the next steps were. I think back to it, a frown on my face.
Alpha Cardinal, the Beta, Gamma and Delta, Ryker, Rowan and Arrow are all discussing what the next moves are in the living room. I sit there and say nothing, knowing what I wanted to say wouldn't be taken well. Instead, I let them all argue and bitch and moan until they come to a decision.
"We need to check who Seth has had contact with. If we go to the prison, they will have a log." Beta Deacon is arguing. Ryker is nodding in agreement
"If we're going to the prison we might as well snap his neck while we're there." He chimes in.
Alpha Cardinal growls at his son. "We can't walk into a human prison, snap a prisoners neck and walk out. You have to be smart about this."
"So we do nothing?" He snarls back.
"No! We figure out who his accomplice is and we snap THEIR neck!" Rowan cuts in. Arrow glances at me, biting her lip.
"What do you think, Andy?" All eyes shoot to me at her question. I sigh and lean back in my chair.
"I think.... I think you're all in d-danger. Because of me." I whisper. Immediately, they all start shouting that I'm not to blame. I hold up my hands, and they fall silent.
"Is S-Seth still in prison?" I question. Alpha Cardinal is the first to collect himself.
"Yes. I checked in with the warden two days ago. He's in maximum security." I nod and bite my lip.
"Then the m-most pressing matter is finding out w-who is helping him." I glance down at the table, the questions I have mounting to an uncomfortable weight on my chest.
"Any ideas on h-how to do that?" I finish. The question starts another round of arguing, and I sigh, letting myself get lost in thought once again.
I have more questions for them, but figure that they can wait until after the threat to our lives has been properly dispatched.
Now, I am laying in bed and trying to slow my racing mind enough to sleep. I think about the things I'd discovered this evening and relax into my bed.
Sadness and fear bite at my mind, but I remember the words of the woman in my dream from Weeks before and feel comforted enough to sleep.