"Andy!" He calls again. My muffled scream cuts off and I finally focus on him. His eyes are a deep black, showing me how on edge he and his wolf are. I force air into my lungs, breathing deeply through my nose.
After successfully slowing my breathing, I pull away from Rowan's bruising grip.
He drops his hands slowly, unsure if I am going to scream again or not.
I gulp. "He was.. he was....in my r-room." I breathe.
Rowan's eyes narrow.
"I know." He tries to suppress the growl in his voice but it rattles into my bones. I turn back to my bed and feel my jaw lock.
"What... what are we going to do?" Rowan growls and stands up.
"I don't know." He responds . I wipe the tears from my face and yank myself out of my bed. Rowan glances my way before turning back towards my bedroom door.
"I'm going to check on the patrols. Stay here, Andy." He turns back towards me as I begin to protest. "I mean it, Andy. You're the one he's after. Stay. Inside." I set my jaw and fold my arms across my chest.
"Excuse me, Rowan. Who died and put you in charge?" He whirls around and growls at me.
"If something happens to you, Ryker will have MY ass. Do me a goddamn favour and keep your trouble making ass inside this room."
"Trouble making?!" I screech. "Do you think I fucking asked for this?" My voice rips through three octaves. "I don't fucking deserve your anger, Rowan."
"Did I say that you asked for this?" He bellows back. "No! I said to stay inside where you're fucking safe from these fucking psychos-"
"Oh you mean to stay inside the room they just infiltrated?!" That seems to freeze him. He growls after a minute and spins towards the door again.
"Come on then." He throws over his shoulder. I grow at him but follow quickly behind nonetheless.
Downstairs, people are already gathered. Rowan growls and heads for the group.
"What did you find?" He presses past Mr Cardinal and speaks to the Gamma.
"One dead. And another that's being brought here, severely injured." Rowan gulps and I feel my breath catch in my throat.
"Who?" I whisper . All eyes turn to me.
"Who?" I question again, stronger this time.
Gamma Copeland sighs.
"Tyson Janey died. Ashley Leopold is in critical condition."
"They were patrolling?"
"Yes," he sighs again. "Together?" He narrows his lips. "No. They were in the same area but they were alone."
"What area?" I already know the answer, but I still need to hear it confirmed.
"The area around the house." I nod and sink to my knees.
"That's four then." I press my hands against my face to stop the tears from falling. Beyond them, I can feel everyone staring.
"Four people who had lives, and futures, and loved ones. Four people that have died for me. Four people that I've gotten killed."
"Andy..." Arrow whimpers. I shake my head and push to my feet.
"Ryker promised no one would get hurt for me. You guys swore that things would be different this time, and I guess you're right. This time, there's more bloodshed that I'm to blame for." I turn and start climbing the stairs.
"If anyone else comes for me, let them in. I'm quite at my limit." I trudge upstairs, and though I can hear the group I left behind murmuring and quietly sobbing, blessedly no one follows.
When I am safe in my room, I collapse to my knees.
My heart aches with so much pain, and I cannot hold the tears back any longer. I cry for all the lives that have been lost to protect me.
I keep crying until I fall asleep.
I wake up some time later, angry and sad. I can hear people muttering quietly somewhere down below, but I don't care enough to listen intently. I roll onto my stomach and push to my feet.
"Andy." Arrow's soft whisper drifts to me through the door. I shuffle over and tug it open without a word.
Tears are streaming down her face, and she looks absolutely exhausted.
"Andy... I have to tell you something." She whispers. I frown but nod. She lifts her fingers to her lips and then closes her eyes. I stare at her blankly for a second before realizing she's asking me to let my walls down- whatever she has to tell me she can't say out loud.
I lower my guards, and immediately her voice whispers into my mind.
"The others told me not to tell you, but I think you need to know... Andy, your brother is missing. We can't find him anywhere and no one has seen him since he took off this afternoon.... And we found some of his blood in the forest." My heart squeezes in pain and her arms fold around me as I fall to the floor, unable to hold myself up anymore.
"He took him?" I press into her mind. Tears fall more quickly down her face and my own start to match.
"We don't know for sure but..."
"But it looks that way." I finish. She nods and squeezes me tighter. I let her for a second and then tug myself away.
"Why didn't they want to tell me?" Anger is rearing its head now, pushing away my despair. Arrow bites her lip.
"They thought you couldn't handle it...."
I snarl and push past her to storm downstairs, where I can hear the Gamma and Delta's quiet voices.
As I approach, they stop talking. I slam the door to the kitchen open and snarl at them.
"You don't get to decide what I deserve to know. You don't get to decide how much of this shitty situation I can be involved in. And you sure as hell don't get to decide not to tell me that my brother has been kidnapped." Gamma Copeland sighs and glances over my shoulder, where I know Arrow is standing.
"Don't look at her. Look at me. I'm talking to you." I feel my skin crawling, the need to shift pressing at my bones. I shove it back to keep my human form.
"You don't get to make all of these decisions and cut me out. He's my brother. I deserve to know."
"You're Right," Rowan speaks up, sneaking up behind me. I whirl on him and he lowers his head to the ground, a sign of submission, I've learned. "We were trying to protect you, but you deserve to know." He gestures to the kitchen table and the rest of the group starts settling into chairs.
I cross my arms and continue to stand.
"We're looking for your brother." Gamma Copeland starts, "It's like he just vanished. There's blood in the clearing and his scent is all around it, but that's as far as we've gotten. It's like he was plucked and drawn into thin air."
"What clearing?" I bite out. Rowan clears his throat.
"The one near the school. We think he was trying to work out some steam from being left behind when he was..."
"Taken." I spit out. They all nod. I spin on my heels and head for the door.
"Where are you going?" Rowan shouts after me, clamouring out of his chair. I don't stop. "To look for my brother."
"Andy wait! You can't leave the house, clearly they're waiting for you, trying to lure you out!" He grabs my arm, trying to pull me back. I growl at him. "What am I supposed to do? Sit here and wait for this psycho to return the people I love to me?"
"You need to stay here, where we can protect you better. It's bad enough that they can already get into the house, we need to do everything we can to protect you."
"And what about Blake?!"
"We're searching for him, I promise! But sending you running through the forest isn't going to do anything except get you taken too."
"I can't lose him too." I whimper. "I can't lose him too."
"We're doing our best to find him. But you need to stay here." Rowan tugs me into his chest and I can't stop the sobs anymore. After a moment I feel another set of arms wrap around me, and after a second I realize it's Arrow.
They lead me into the living room, and we sit together until once again I run out of tears.
I sit on the stairs, watching as my furious mate paces back and forth across the foyer. My pop is leaning against me, sadness and despair weighing heavily on his shoulders.
Without much thought I reach up and brush my fingers through his hair like he used to do when I was younger. He leans further into my embrace, and after a moment I feel his shoulders shaking with sobs.
"Shh... it's ok pop. It's going to be ok."
Rowan turns again and this time we catch each other's eyes. The anger in his eyes is almost being overshadowed by the sadness, and I know that mine are likely looking the same.
Three pack members had perished at the hands of the men stalking Andy. Three lives snuffed out without a second thought. And with Blake still missing.... it was likely that that number had grown.
"What do we do?" Pop cries. I squeeze him tighter to me, hoping to shift some of his pain to myself so he might be able to stand.
He felt the loss of our pack members more than most. With each death another blow was struck to his chest, and the news of Blake's disappearance had him cracking beneath the pressure. And with my father, his mate, so far away..... he was unable to withstand the full force of the pack's despair.
"I don't know..." I whisper. He sobs again and buries his head in the side of my neck. Rowan picks up his pacing again.
"I can't get a hold of Ryker or the Alpha. They aren't answering the phones and mindlink..." his eyes dart to my father before colliding back with mine. "They must have realized by now that something is wrong." I nod and squeeze pop tighter.
"Ben will be going crazy if he can't reach us. Surely he's been trying." Pop whimpers.
"I'm sure he has. They likely have a bad signal, that's all. I'm sure he'll call soon." I whisper back at him.
The second I'm done speaking, the phone in Rowan's hand explodes in sound. We all hold our breath as he turns the screen towards himself.
"It's Nick." He mutters while hitting the accept button. Pop deflates beside me, and I try to hold it together.
"What?" Rowan growls into the phone. Beta Nick clears his throat.
"Just wanted to check in. See if the alpha has issued any more orders."
"We haven't been in contact with the Alpha."
"I see... Does Luna Cardinal have any instructions?" Rowan's eyes dart to mine and I shrug.
"No one is to go anywhere alone until the Alpha returns. Patrols are upped to three wolves per run. No one is left behind."
"Yes, Rowan. Tell the Alpha couple we are all behind them. Stay safe, young one."
"You as well, Nick. I'll let you know if we hear anything else." He hangs the phone up with a sigh and turns back to me. I give him the best smile I can, but even I can tell it's wooden. He sinks to the floor across from me and rests his chin in his hands.
"What now?" He whispers. I shrug unsure of what to say. Pop pulls back from my neck and hauls in a deep breath.
"We have to prepare for the worst. It's possible that Blake was Seth's latest victim and-"
The phone ringing cuts him off. We all hold our breath again as Rowan flips it over.
"Alpha." He breathes into the phone.
"Rowan where is my mate?!" My father's voice explodes over the line, and Rowan flinches from the sound. He lowers his head in submission and Pop relaxes slightly beside me.
"He's right here Alpha. Would you like to speak with him?" "Why can't I reach him? What's going on?"
Rowan gulps and I feel his nervousness as if it were my own.
"Sir... There has been so much-"
"Spit it out, Rowan. I am not in the mood."
"Seth had another gift delivered."
"Where?" He growls. A shiver darts down my spine and Rowan bows his head further.
"IN THE HOUSE?"
"How?" "His helper was in her room, sir."
"Did the pack not catch him?"
"He...he..."Rowan pauses to wipe away the lone tear that has escaped.
"What did he do?" My dads voice is harder than I've ever heard, pure murder. "He's killed more Alpha. All patrol members on the route around the house."
"Two. And a third is missing."
"Who?" "Blake." Dad growls, and in the background I hear an echoed growl I instantly recognize as my twin's.
"How's Andy?" Pop perks up beside me, sensing something in his mates voice that I have missed.
"She's... coping. She's asleep right now."
"Good..." he breathes. "Good. Try to keep it that way as long as possible."
Rowan's eyes dart back to mine.
"Of course sir, but why?" Dad sighs again and once again I can hear Ryker's rumbling growl in the background.
"We're on our way home. We will be there in about forty minutes."
"Sir?" Rowan questions, fear clear in his voice. A glance at the clock explains his worry- their appointment with the warden isn't for another hour.
For them to be almost back already....
"We received a call from the warden a few hours ago. When the guards did their midnight check in, one of them didn't show up. They eventually found him... with his throat slit in Seth's bed."
"And Seth?" Rowan whispers, not really needing to ask the question but needing to hear the words we all know are coming.
"He was gone. They've searched the entire grounds. He's nowhere to be found. The guard had been dead for hours by the time they found him.... Seth's in the wind. He could be anywhere by now."
Pop crumbles beside me again and I turn away from listening to the rest of the conversation to help him up the stairs. I take him to his room- practically carrying him the entire way.
Once he's in his bed I lose my strength, and I let the sobs I've been holding in rip out of me.
Rowan finds me there, crumpled in front of the stairs minutes later. He helps me to my feet and wraps me in his arms. Relief wraps around me as his arms do, but it isn't enough- knowing Seth is out there, knowing that his assistant is still hunting... it's all too much.
Rowan carries me to my room, and we fall into each other, just trying to hold on to the one thing in this life that we can.