She’s fading fast now. She doesn’t trust the food and water I offer, which tells me that those fuckers were drugging her. She won’t even accept clothing. Her heart beat is slowing, her breathing becoming shallow. She’s unconscious so often that I’ve spent half my time listening solely to her body, making sure my acute senses never miss a breath or beat of her heart.
It would be more than cruel to have my friend back only for her to die before I get her home.
I doubt she remembers me, and even if she did she wouldn’t recognise me now.
I was four when she was born and she instantly became my best friend. One of my best memories is the day she started walking and toddled along behind me, chasing me around the alphas home.
And then came the day that she went missing.
No more fiery, red-headed toddler to chase around and have fun with. The whole pack drowning in their misery. The Alpha shutting down and doing barely more than what was necessary and his mate, Maria, losing herself to the near madness of the grieving mothers of my kind.
To my immense relief I come to the turn off that means I’m only a few hours from home.
“Only a few more hours Wills. I promise we’ll be home soon.”
Chaos breaks out amongst the pack members I drive past as I come into our community and speed straight to medical. We have our own hospital in the community and a few of our pack are fully trained doctors and surgeons.
They’re going to be working overtime.
Thankfully, Julian and Maria are nowhere in sight.
I wrap the blanket around Willow, covering as much of her as I can, and rush up the steps calling for Angela.
“Where’s the fire, Clayton?” She jokes as she comes out of her office.
“A private room Angela. Now.”
The beauty of being Beta is that my orders are obeyed without question. Angela runs ahead of me and throws open one of the ‘Deluxe Suites’ stocked with all the bells and whistles, including its own portable x-ray machine.
“What happened?” she demands, falling into her no-nonsense doctor persona that not even Julian argues with.
“Restrained, tortured, drugged, starved and raped for god knows how long,” I reply, pushing aside my rage and anguish in order to help Angela.
“Jesus Christ,” she says, and then inhales and catches her scent. “Oh my god! Clayton! This is-“
“Not now, Angela,” I growl at her. “This is not how they need to see her again. No one is going to know she’s here until we get her stabilised and cleaned up as much as possible.”
She doesn’t argue as she calls in her head nurse and repeats my orders. We work as methodically as possible, ignoring our own heartache, as we do what we can to put our girl back together.
I stand outside the door for an hour or so while Angela goes through certain exams that I have no business witnessing, and go back inside to help with sutures and bandaging.
Luckily her x-rays show that her broken bones won’t require surgery to fix, though the sound of us re-breaking and resetting some of her bones will haunt me for the rest of my life. The extend of her cuts and bruises is brutal. Add to that a collection of burn marks and incisions, made by a serrated knife according to Angela, and the fact that she is still alive is baffling.
We get her into a robe and under a blanket, careful of the abundance of IV’s and cords that she’s hooked up to, and we’re finally finished. For now, at least.
“You have to go get them now, Clayton,” whispers Angela, tears running down her cheeks as she holds onto Willows hand. “It’s going to be touch and go, her body is so weak, and she’s going to have so many scars.”
I leave Angela to watch over Willow as I walk across the town to Julian and Maria’s home.
I should be delivering good news. This should be a happy time. But I’m just going to wound them further.
I don’t even have a chance to walk up the steps before Maria is running down the veranda toward me, Julian close behind her.
I point at the chairs on their veranda, motioning for them to sit down. I think they’ll definitely need to.
“Just tell me Clayton,” Julian commands, a little weakly.
“They had her,” I say, and Maria immediately breaks down. I do my best to talk to her, to make her understand what I’m saying through her heartache. “I found her there, but she is very injured. She is with Angela now. I waited until we could get her stable and cleaned up a bit before I came to get you.”
Maria starts running before I can finish my sentence.
“Shit,” I say and take off after her.
Julian is faster and manages to get a hold of his mates’ hands.
“No!” She screams. “I have to see! I have to see!”
Julian tenderly takes his mates face between his hands and places his forehead against hers. I feel like I’m intruding on an incredibly private and loving moment, even more so when Julian begins to cry too, but I have to keep speaking.
I lower my voice and use the most calming tones I can manage when I address Maria again.
“She’s very fragile. Her body is very weak and Angela has put her into an induced coma. She won’t wake her until she is confident her body is strong enough to be woken.”
Maria nods frantically, gripping her mates’ hands and staring at him with such desperation in her eyes that even I can feel it. I start walking back towards the hospital, ignoring the excitement and curiosity of the pack members who came out of their homes when they heard Maria in the street.
Angela was waiting for us when we got back, immediately pulling Maria into a calming embrace as she talked softly to her and Julian about their baby. I forgot that it was Angela who delivered Willow.
We get moving and, to my surprise, I can watch as every ounce of strength once again flows into Maria the moment she sees Willow. She’s come straight out of her near madness and become a fierce and protective Mamma Wolf again within seconds of seeing her daughter. There were no tears or breakdowns about her injuries, she simply kissed her daughter on the forehead, pulled a chair up to the bed and sat down. It was Julian who broke first. He looked at Willows chart. The blood drained from his face, tears streamed down his cheeks and his wolf tore through his human body all within the span of about 10 seconds. The fastest change I had ever seen. His howl shook the walls and echoed throughout the town, nearly calling forth my own wolf. His whole body shook and he was whimpering as he climbed onto the end of Willows bed and curled up by her feet, resting his head against Maria’s arm where it lay, clutching Willows hand.