“I can’t do that,” says Maria. “I won’t give up on my baby!”
She’s shrieking, not even the Alpha can calm her this time and if I wasn’t the Beta I’d be yelling right alongside her.
“Maria,” Julian tries to soothe his mate, but she is beyond panic and well into despair. She won’t come back from this one anytime soon.
I reign in my rage, focusing on not braking the necks of the trackers who have done this to her.
“I’m so sorry, but we’ve searched everywhere ten times over. It’s past time to discuss the possibility that she is gone,” says Robert, the scent of genuine grief the only reason I’ve let him keep his head.
I turn and nod to my Alpha as he turns away, leading his mate out of the room to try and calm her.
“Look, I’m sorry Clayton but she’s nowhere to be found,” Robert says, nervousness creeping into his voice. “We’ve been hopeful for twenty years, it’s time to end this.”
“You lied to your alpha,” I growl, my anger a lot less in control than I thought. “You have not searched the Moon Called.”
I hear a gasp from one of the other hunters but keep my gaze on Robert.
“Th-the Moon Called? You can’t be serious! Those savages had no need for a pure wolf then and, even if they did take her, she would not still be alive now!”
A heart shattering howl of grief tears through the night and I know that Maria’s wolf has come forth again. She only ever changes now when her grief becomes so overwhelming that her human mind can no longer contain it, and the logic and wildness of the wolf’s mind is needed to take away some of her pain.
This is what happens to a childless mother wolf, she loses herself when she loses her child. Her life taken over by her pain to such an extent that she loses the ability to change unless it is the most extreme of circumstances.
Julian walks back in, the energy surrounding him equivalent to the most violent of storms.
“Explain,” he says.
Just one word and the hunters have knelt in unison and bowed their heads before their alpha.
“We were just discussing the fact that they have not searched the Moon Called,” I say, throwing these cowards under the bus.
Julian’s eyes begin to glow with the presence of his wolf.
“You will go and there will be no stone left unturned,” he growls, his words slightly distorted as he speaks around the very large canines signalling the beginning of his change.
“I will go,” I say, distracting Julian enough to reign in his wolf.
“You are needed here,” he replies.
“No Julian, I’m not,” I stare into his eyes, as only I seem to be capable of doing, and continue. “This will need to be subtle. If she is there and we storm the Moon Called they will simply kill her to spite us. The hunters will remain here to assist you, and I will infiltrate the pack and search for her.”
Julian looks like he’s going to blow a gasket at my defiance, but he reads between the lines and reluctantly nods.
Not only have I lost all faith and trust in these hunters, but it is time that my Alpha stepped back into his role completely. He has been lethal enough to hold his position and keep control of the pack, but the moment I came of age he began to lean more heavily on me, becoming a more distant alpha with each year that passed without Willow being found.
“You will leave immediately.”
Always the alpha, he has to have the last word.
The Moon Called live in a small rural town occupied solely by pack members, and it feels god awful here. The place is deceptively homey. The homes are well kept, the gardens blooming, but the presence of so much pain blackens the soul.
A few minutes here and I already know something is off. The pack is restless, wolves bursting from their human counterparts at the drop of a hat. That can only be caused by the same restlessness being present in the Alpha. The commotion at the main house confirms my suspicions. There are at least fifteen males moving around the house, a situation that would usually result in fights breaking out every few minutes as they worked out everyone’s dominance. The absence of that violence means that they’re here following the orders of their alpha.
I move silently to crouch beneath a window, listening.
“It won’t break, no matter what we’ve done to it!”
“It is a she, and the fact that she hasn’t broken yet is her greatest asset. If she broke immediately then she would’ve been weak and so would any pup we got from her. We want her strength,” came a voice practically dripping arrogance.
“I guess,” the first voice. “It would be nice if it didn’t need to be chained. I reckon it’d be fun to have her willing.”
A sick feeling settles into the pit of my stomach as I realise why they’re here. There is a woman chained somewhere in this house being used by these men. The sick feeling intensifies as my wolf comes to the surface, my instincts telling me that I’ve found who I’m searching for.
I step away from the house and move back into the edge of the woods to wait.
As much as charging in there and killing everything in sight appeals to me, I can’t risk her life.
It’s so easy to sneak into this house. These idiots are so arrogant that they didn’t even bother locking the door on the way out. My senses pick up two heartbeats in the house. The first is on the second floor but it’s not the one I follow. I follow the weak heartbeat below me. One that is stuttering and uneven. A heart struggling to beat at all. I make my way to the only locked door in the dark basement and, with a sharp twist, courtesy of my wolf’s strength, break the lock and go in.
The smell hits me first. Rotting blood splashed across the wall and floors. The smell of men and sex. Fear, terror and finally, the scent of the nearly dead.
She lay naked, spread and chained so tightly to the bed that, even though she no longer struggled, blood still oozed out from the beneath the restraints.
Her scent identifies her without a shadow of doubt.
I’ve found her.