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Kate (Safe Haven Wolves Book 3) by Sherry Foster (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

Kate

 

Kate

 

"Kate, psst, Kate, wake up."

 

I had no problem hearing my roommate's whisper from across the room. The thing was though; I did not want to wake up. I wanted to sleep and keep sleeping. Sometimes I feel as though I have given up, but the longer it has been since my birthday, the less I want to keep going. I have never seen any indication that the others even know that I turned twenty-one already, they are waiting for the subtle change in my smell. Stupid fools have no idea what I am.

 

I sometimes lose track of time; it means nothing when you are a prisoner. Fortunately, I have my parents to keep me updated. I wish they were here, no, I wish I was there, with them, where ever there happens to be today. But being able to speak with them mentally is one of the only things that keeps me going. Wouldn't that unique ability shock my captors. A pack can talk, mates can as well, but mum and dad tell me, what we can do, what I can do, is not a shifter ability.

 

I don't know if I can face another day of captivity. It is like this every morning, this up and down, I can not give up, I will not give up, but I can not keep myself from getting down in the dumps and wanting to give up. Mum says it is because I am her daughter and mornings should be illegal. After lunch, I will feel more like facing the day; if I can get Dawn to shut up and let me sleep.

 

"Five more minutes Dawn, or a couple more hours, too early," I mumble. I hope she takes the hint I do not want to get up. That should have been clear enough.

 

I know I have to find a way out of this prison but not this early in the morning. Maybe later, after I wake up.

 

I am running out of time to run though. I have been trying to figure out a way out of this prison for over a year. So far I have found no way out. How do you escape when your captors are wolf shifters who can track you so quickly. Dawn has not been here as long as I have. She did not go through what I went through to get here either. At first, she believed our captors were our saviors, she has seen too much and heard too much since then to keep thinking it. If she had tried to keep lying to herself, I would personally have beaten her to within an inch of her life.

 

They don't know I saw them kill my guardians. They don't know, and I will never tell them those people they killed were not my parents. They don't know what we are, or who we are, or even what we can do. That is going to be their downfall. If my parents can find a way to find me before time runs out. Even mom cannot break a mate bond, willingly given or not. The magic of the bond trumps her magic. My parents have been trying since the night it happened to find me. So far though, they are failing, I can't give them clues, I have none to offer, and they can not find me without clues.

 

The planet is a big place, and we can talk to each other no matter the distance, unusual that, and very unhelpful in a massive way. All I can tell them is approximately when it gets daylight, not that I am ever awake to see sunrise, and roughly when it gets dark, and the desert I can see at the edge of our prison. We are all indoors well before dark, and not allowed out early in the mornings so sunrise and sunset are mere guesses. Guesses that at least have my parents looking in the United States for me.

 

If my parents had the resources to search, or the backing of the clan. But my parents went against my mom's family to mate. And they dare not go crawling to them for help. I would be considered an abomination, a mutant, and even the clan would call for my extermination.

 

The shifter world has gone crazy in the last couple of hundred years. Dad doesn't know who to trust there anymore. He is afraid if they knew who we were, they would be even more determined to get their hands on me. To our knowledge, I am the only shifter-witch hybrid alive. The shifter world does not remember much of the clans. Subtle magic against the shifters caused fragments of memories about our people. I say our people, but really, they are not mine. Not mums either, not after what they tried to do to mum and dad.

 

Dad and mum have discussed going to the shifter council, but mom had a vision that someone on the council is behind the kidnapping of shifter females. If even their highest cannot be trusted, who does that leave? Dad had to give up all ties with the shifter community when he and mum got together. And even that was not enough for the clan. They want the shifters to forget witches exist. They want them to forget they used to be allies. All because of what happened to Meredith's daughter.

 

No, mum and dad can not go to the clan. The clan would tell them they got what they deserved for cross mating. Then the clan would double down trying to find me first and kill me. They can not afford to have any cross-mating, not ever again.

 

"Kate, you have to get up, hurry." This time Dawn sounded a bit frantic. Bugger that. I am not ready to get up. Whatever it is, it can wait. "Kate, please, I heard a scream, faint, but I think it was Julie."

 

This time I bolted straight up in bed. Oh hell no, I promised myself I would watch out for her. Her birthday is not for another year, but Julie is damaged. We all try to watch out for Julie. We have to, poor dear, doesn't understand what is going on anymore. We have our suspicions that the males would try to use her, take her since she would never make a good breeder. Stupid fools, none of the females they have kidnapped will ever produce a female for them. The curse will not let that happen. They just refuse to see the truth. Or maybe they haven't figured out the truth yet. If I was not a shifter, and dad was not a shifter, I would question the intellect of shifters.

 

Speculation later, for now, I have to find out what is going on with Julie. I never dressed so quickly in my life as I did that morning. I hate mornings, and someone is going to pay if they have hurt Julie. Grabbing Dawn by the arm, we rush out of the door and down the hall toward Julie's room.

 

As we get closer we can hear what sounds like muffled screams and when we burst into the room I could not control my fury. We were in time, but barely. I grabbed the closest thing I could get my hands on as Dawn jumped on the male's back. As I screamed at her to move, I swung the lamp at the male's head. The shatter of glass as the lamp impacted his head did not slow us down as Dawn and I both reached for Julie. I kept an eye on the male laying lifeless on the floor as we helped Julie to dress.

 

A hushed whisper reached my ears, "Did you kill him?"

 

Jerking my eyes toward the door I see Allison standing there, staring in disgust at the male on the floor, Jonus. I remember he was the male chosen to be Allison's mate. I worry for a moment how she is going to react to the situation. But she surprised me. She had noticed what we were doing and she had jumped to the correct conclusion. I turned back to Julie but movement caught my eye again and I whirled around toward the male on the floor, but it was not him, it was Allison. She was checking on him. I shrugged and turned back to Julie. Dawn had managed to get her calmed down some, but the sobs coming from her were heartbreaking.

Fury dripped from Allison's voice as she told us something we already knew, "This is who they chose for me? A rapist, and they think I would ever feel safe with him? Did you," looking back up at us she faltered a moment, "did you get here in time?"

 

I nodded my head and turning to Dawn told her to take Julie back to our room. I did not intend to allow a rapist to live among us. I had a feeling the males had known just what Jonus was going to do today. We knew the schedule of the males fairly well at this point. They did perimeter checks in the morning then they had breakfast with us and we, the females, spent hours going through our schooling before having the rest of the day free. The males courted us and treated us like honored guests but when you know you aren't, well, the time they spent with some of us was wasted. But we let them play their games while we tried to gather all the information we could to make an escape. But a male, alone, in our wing was unacceptable. They had security watching the doors to our section and no one made it through without setting off an alarm. Since the security room was always manned, according to what we had been told, that meant the males knew Jonus was here. No one was courting Julie, poor lucky dear, but I had seen some of the looks some of the males had given her. If they could not use her as a mate, I guessed they had found another use for her.

 

Mouth agape I watched in disbelief, but no small measure of satisfaction at what I saw next. Allison, apparently not satisfied with whatever she had found upon checking the male, was currently kicking him in the head. I had no problem with her actions, none. I did turn Julie away and whispered to Dawn, again, to take her back to our room. From now on Julie would be bedding down with us. I was determined to protect her. And even more determined now to get her out of here--to get us all out of here.

 

As Dawn led Julie to the door, whispering assurances to her, she took a moment to kick the male in the balls. If the male were to have recovered from our attack, he would never have children after that kick. Dawn was wearing something she called her shit-kicker boots. They just looked like what the Yanks call cowboy boots to me. I had no intention of allowing the male to survive, and from the looks of it, neither did Allison.

 

Once Julie and Dawn had left the room Allison asked me what I intended to do next. I did not answer her at first, I was too busy trying to figure out how to kill a man. He had been turning toward the door when I grabbed the lamp from the table near the door, Dawn on his back. Dawn had jumped backwards toward the bed when I slammed the lamp into the side of his head. When he had fallen, he had landed on his back with his head near the edge of the bed and blood was pouring from the wound. Allison had some blood splatters on herself from kicking him, but I doubt she had noticed yet. The blood was pooling around his head and part of the cover hanging from the edge of the bed was beginning to get soaked with blood. I carefully eased a glass shard closer to me, but thinking, I then motioned for Allison to hand the pillow to me that was by her feet. The bedding was scattered about the room, making me believe Julie had put up a struggle before he finally overpowered her.

 

I was terrified as I put the pillow over his face. If he recovered he would hurt me. I had no idea how long it took to smother a man. I did not have to find out though because Allison motioned toward the glass shard at my feet. "Just reach under the pillow and slice his throat. Or give it to me, I will slice it for you. We don't have time to smother him, what if he wakes up?"

 

I looked up at her from my position and she gasped and jerked back. "Holy hell girl, what the hell is wrong with your eyes?"

 

Gritting my teeth I ignored her while I picked up the piece of glass with a corner of the bedding and jammed it into his throat. I kept the pillow between us so the blood that I hoped would spurt from his neck if I had hit the artery, like I tried to do, would not hit me. The the amount of blood soaking the pillow and spilling onto the floor reassured me that maybe I had done enough.

 

Allison was looking at me with a bit of fear on her face and I was afraid she might run out of the room. I saw her take a deep breath, watched her eyes widen as she swallowed hard before speaking.

 

"You know you are giving off faint whiffs of maturity and uh, your eyes, they sort of have flames in them. I don't know about the shifters down in Australia where you are from, but we don't have flames for eyes here in the States. What are you? You are not one of us. I mean, you smell like us, but I swear girl, we don't have those flashy flames for eyes. That is ten kinds of scary, and that is saying something considering we just killed a man. Oh my god, what are we going to do now? We did kill him right? Cause if you didn't I will try next. I am not mating a rapist. Do you remember who they told us his daddy was, other than important? What are we going to do with the body?"

 

I looked around the room, then at the blood soaking into my shoes. I noticed the blood on my hands, but it was almost like the hands belonged to someone else. Feeling kind of floaty, like I was not in full control of my body, I dashed over to the bathroom. While washing the blood off my hands I took a moment to look in the mirror. Oh, oh my, the reflection staring back at me was not one I could allow others to see. I would terrify Julie; and the males, I had no idea how they would react. My eyes had what could only be described as dancing flames inside of them. My normal green eyes looked just like dancing flames, not something I was used to seeing stare back at me. When I came of of the bathroom I saw I had tracked blood across the room.

 

Allison was peering out of the mostly closed door, like someone holding watch. I don't know what she thought the point of that would be, surely they would know we killed the male as soon as they found him. No one would believe Julie had killed him. And the first thing our captors would do would be to come to us and find out what had happened. I think we are worth more to them than the male was. I worried about what the repercussions would be when they found him dead in Julie's room. We had to find a way out of this prison, now, today.

 

I was surprised that no one had come to check the noise yet. We were, none of us, quiet about the situation as it was happening. Julie's screams, when the male fell from the the lamp being shattered against his skull, his hand falling limply from her mouth, should have brought any number of our captors running. Fury began to rise in me again as I realized, my feeling was most certainly correct, the only reason they would have had for not checking on Julie, was if they knew, if they were expecting the male to attack her and had condoned his actions.

 

Allison, snarling looked over at me then back at the male on the floor, "That was the one they had chosen for me to mate, a worthless, would--be rapist. They must have planned this, allowed this to happen, why else would no one have come to check on the noise?" So I was not the only one reaching the conclusion that the attack had been condoned.

 

I reached out to my parents though our bond and briefly filled them in on what had just happened. My parents complained that I was not making sense, but it was my mum who figured out shock was probably setting in and affecting me. Knees shaky I grabbed Allison and together, we almost fell. She seemed no more steady on her feet than I was, and at that moment she pointed out something I had not realized. I was also losing a little blood, some of the glass shards must have gotten me when I slammed the lamp onto Jonus' head. My blood loss was from minor cuts though, we did not see anything major. Arm in arm we staggered back toward my room, tiny drops of blood dotting the hallways along with our bloody footprints, we never noticed. Taking the life of someone was harder than I had thought. Well, taking his life had been easy, but now we had to deal with what we had done and we were not prepared in any way to deal with killing someone. I had a sick panicky feeling in the pit of my stomach about what we had just done. I could not remember who the parents were of the man we had just killed, but none of the males at the prison were anything but important men, or sons of important men.

 

I was having problems masking the mature smell with my magic and Allison was still darting wary looks at my eyes. I could not do anything about the eyes, when a witch get upset the flames rise. And I was one half witch and beyond upset. I would have to keep my eyes trained at the floor until I could calm down if I did not want to out myself to anyone else. As it was I was going to have to figure out what to tell Allison, and soon.

 

When we entered the room we found Dawn and Julie huddled on Dawn's bed eying the door. The shattered look in Julie's eyes was almost too much to bear. The fury and fear on Dawn's face was sobering.

 

Allison was still waiting for an explanation, unfortunately, I would not get the chance to tell her anything because almost as soon as we reached my room the most incredible wave of pain reached me. I screamed and continued screaming. I heard Dawn scream as I looked her way. I felt like I was being ripped apart. As the pain became greater than I could bear my wolf rose.

 

Feel Mate, Mate hurt, help Mate.

 

Turning fear filled eyes toward Dawn, a whisper all I could manage, "My mate, we have to help him." Trembling hands reached for me as I felt myself begin to fall. My screams of agony echoing in the room. My hope of escape will vanish if I fall. Something--call it instinct--call it self-preservation, maybe even words of my mother, wisdom learned over the years, pull at me.

 

The pain was so great, I barely heard her reply, "Now? He's here?"

 

I knew I had to hold on for a little longer. I knew I could not go down, not until I knew Dawn understood. "Now, oh god please."

 

Allison had traded places with Dawn, who now struggled to hold me upright, clutching her hand tightly, the scent of terror in the air, I remember the late night conversations we have had. The dreams the rogues have never killed rise up. "The mating bond, say it, whisper it, call it, please." My voice implores her, my hands grip hers like a vice, a weak vice, all I can manage, but I can not let go, I must not fall.

 

I could feel darkness closing in as I struggled against the pain. The shock of killing Jonus forgotten with the new onslaught of pain assaulting my body. My parents were screaming in my mind but I could not concentrate enough to understand what they were saying, much less answer them. I could feel my self falling as Dawn implemented a plan we had both dreamed about for so many nights. A dream we both knew would never come true, except it seemed, at least for me, the dream was coming true in nightmare form. Wincing she begins the words that call the wolves forth. We have had many discussions about the mating ceremony. We have dreamed of having a mate show at the last moment and directing our wolf to our mate in the middle of a ceremony to a rogue. I have no idea if what I am asking can be done. Males may have their theories, but with a witch for a mother, and a more complete history of the curse done to the shifter community, I came to the prison more informed than even the males holding us as prisoners.

 

My mate is close, I can feel him, but is he close enough to bond with, sight unseen? And can my wolf help save him if the bond takes. Will whatever is happening to him cost me my life? I need him to live. I feel him being savaged, I can feel him fighting for his very life, and if he makes it, bond or no bond, his wolf will never give up on finding me. But first we have to both survive.

 

Whispers reach my ears, Allison, demanding to know what is going on, but Dawn and I have discussed this too many times for her to be distracted, even by a friend. I feel my wolf rise, my hope rises with her. Her whimpers pain me as she claws at me. She feels her mate, our mate, and he needs us. To my knowledge what Dawn is attempting has never been done. But if my mate is close enough to feel, he must be close enough to bond. Determination fills me, this has to work. As the darkness claims me I feel that one moment of completion. The pain, greater than any I have ever known, tears at me. But I am mated, bonded to one who could be my salvation, or my death.

 

 

#

CHAPTER TWO

Craig

 

Craig

 

"Look, Marcus, I understand where you are coming from man, I really do, but you are asking more than I can give right now. You don't understand."

 

I tuned him out as he continued to nag at me. I would never have taken Marcus for a nagger, but that is what he has been doing every day since I left. I just needed a break. It isn't every day your best friend--the man closer to you than a brother--tries to kill you. Not only had Jaden tried to kill me, he tried to kill me over a complete stranger. I understood the girl was his true-mate, well, as much as someone could, who did not have one. Oh who am I kidding, I did not understand at all. Probably never would and that is one of the things that made forgiving Jaden so hard. He apologized, but an apology is just words when you get down to the nitty gritty of the whole thing. He could have killed Marcus's mate that day, might would have if I had not gotten in the way. But she covered for him, I covered for him too, I guess. That doesn't mean I can forgive him that easily.

 

Marcus, surprisingly, isn't helping change my mind. Jamie though, has almost gotten me back to the pack a couple of times. He claims I will be surprised when I see the little mate who captured Jaden's heart. He also claims she isn't making many friends in the community. That comment has not helped me decide to head back, if anything it has been a deciding factor in keeping me away. If the girl is so unlikable, why bother going back. She would just make forgiving Jaden even harder than it already is, I believe.

 

Jerking my attention back to the phone I pull it away from my ear and stare at it before putting it back. "She what? Did you just say she pulled a gun on Jamie? A gun? Where the hell did she get a gun and why didn't Jamie just take it away from her?"

 

Pulling the phone back away from my ear again I stare at it in disbelief, I don't need to have it to my ear to hear what Marcus is saying anyway. I am just having a hard time believing what he is saying. Breathing deeply, I want to verify what Marcus is saying is the same thing I am hearing, voice hoarse I asked, "You are telling me that the little female is more powerful than Jamie? Which would make her more powerful than me since Jamie and I are about equal with power." The last part, muttered, still reached Marcus' ears, of course.

 

"Look, Marcus, I know you need the bird back, but you do have a second bird. I just need more time. And, surprisingly, you are not helping me want to come back any time soon. It does not matter to me that Jaden and the little witch will be back tomorrow from their honeymoon. I will not be there to greet him or meet her. My Beta and best friend since we were just tiny pups, betrayed me, he betrayed the pack, for a female no one even likes and you want me to come back and what, kiss her ass and make nice? Not happening Marcus, not today, not tomorrow and probably not for a few more days, at least. Tell you what, if the little female can win over all the Seekers, and I do mean all of them, then I will come back. And before you say anything, I happen to know that at least two of our Seekers hate the ground she walks on. So until she can win them over, or I and my wolf can forgive the betrayal, I will just stay on vacation. If you need the helicopter that badly you know where it is."

 

I listened to the silence on the other end of the phone for a minute. Finally, sighing deeply, Marcus gave in and just ordered me to call again tomorrow around noon. He always insist on a time so as to know when to worry. After assuring him I would, I hung up the phone. As one of the pilots for the pack, and one who routinely flew the Seekers on missions to find and destroy rogues, I was well known in the shifter world, and hated by many. The ones who hated me were the ones we sought to destroy though, so that hatred did not bother me. But that hatred also made me a target with a price on my head. Kill off the pilots of the pack and you damage the ability of the pack to hunt rogues. But the pilots were Seekers before they became pilots, and Seekers weren't that easy to kill. Still, Marcus was justified in his demand I check in every day.

 

Marcus had the power and the right to order me back to the pack. He had the right to order his bird flown back to the pack. But Marcus was a better Alpha than that, he knew what his brother had done was almost unforgivable, and he knew I needed time to deal with the betrayal. I could tell, from what little he did say of his brother's mate, he himself was having a hard time liking her. I am surprised Jamie did not mention having a gun pulled on him when I spoke with him anytime these last few weeks. Seems that would have made a big enough impression to rate a mention at least.

 

Knowing the little female had pulled a gun on Jamie made some of his comments about her more understandable, and less understandable, at the same time. I could understand why some of the pack hated her if she had pulled a gun on Jamie. Jamie is a favorite in the pack. But what I was having problems understanding is how Jamie could like and defend her if she had pulled a gun on him. I got the feeling Jamie respected the little female for some unknown reason. He had hinted a few times that he believed I would understand when I met her, but as of yet I have no desire to meet her.

 

Looking around the meadow one last time I decided to let my wolf out and head for the desert at the furtherest edge of our property today. I felt a driving need to let my wolf out to run, had been feeling the need for days, but I had mostly kept to the valley. Using my time to fish, and do a bit of boating around the lake, had kept me pretty content the last few weeks. But tonight I planned on letting my wolf wander around and be free for awhile. I had told Jamie I would probably let my wolf amble down to the edge of the desert and circle back around to the cabin. It had been years since any of us had gone that far south and it would take hours to get there running full out. But I was on vacation and had no need to run full out. I had kind of mapped out where I wanted to go and how long it would take me to get back. I had mentioned to Jamie yesterday that I was feeling a desire to head south for a bit for some reason.

 

The pack owned thousands of acres around the valley. A few decades ago, when land was easy to get, and cheap, the pack had purchased the valley and the surrounding mountains and hills. Over the decades the valley had been built up and improved so we would have a place to escape to when the deaths torment our souls too deeply. It had taken years to build the perfect vacation spot in an isolated area. After the cabins were finished, the lake and piers complete, the boats brought in, and the place modernized Marcus had managed to get the area shut off from the rest of the world, in a manner of speaking. He had blown the roads miles out, created rock slides and isolated the area as much as he could, all in an effort to give us privacy to grieve for the lost, and forget for awhile what we did to keep the others safe.

 

The only way into the cabin now was by helicopter or miles of hiking via the desert to the south. All the other passes into the valley were so dangerous only rock climbers would even attempt the trip. The cabin did not feel as isolated and stress free since Marcus had a cell tower put in as it had before. But since Marcus could not mentally reach his pack members when we were at the cabin he felt better going all out for communication. We had been happy using satellite phones for years, but after rogues put so many hits out on any Seeker packs we understood Marcus' stance concerning cell phones. The cabins and the surrounding meadow are the only place for miles around that gets any kind of cell signal, and only because Marcus had the cell tower erected here himself. This area is our little slice of escape from the daily grind of life. But coming here, alone, is unusual. Normally a group of us will get away to the cabin a few times a year. Being a dealer in death to your own kind is not easy, has never been easy, and I hope it never becomes easy.

 

Rogues do not always choose the life of a rogue, their wolves just go a bit insane with no mate. Killing someone because his wolf went insane, thus causing his insanity, has to be one of the shittiest jobs on the planet. But some chose to go rogue, those kills are easier to live with in a way. A rogue whose wolf went insane, well that is almost like putting him out of his misery, yet at the same time, so damn unfair to have to kill him for something that is not his fault. One who choses to live rogue, chooses to go without pack and to go after females, well, that is just criminally wrong, and even though we are well justified to destroy them, it still is hard to live with day after day. Fortunately, not many rogues go down the dark route, but even one is one too many though.

 

The get-a-way I have chosen for the day is miles away. I don't plan on letting my wolf out and running to the edge of the property in one go though. My wolf loves to roam at night, and since it is going on toward evening now I figure a leisurely romp through the night will see us to the edge of the property shortly after sunrise. Sleep a bit under the stars, do a little hunting, and if all goes well I will circle back around and reach the cabin again around mid-day tomorrow, just in time to call Marcus. I was not going so far as to worry about not being able to make it back by noon. I planned on doing some fishing at the lake by the cabins tomorrow evening.

 

I wasn't wearing much in the way of clothing, just my briefs, so I had nothing to strip off to change, but I did have to return the phone to the cabin. I had no intention of wearing it around my neck in a pouch. Once I got away from the cabin and the small tower my phone would have no signal anyway, so why bother taking it.

 

Soon enough, with a shiver of power, my wolf was standing in the meadow. Solid dark brown with only a splash of white on one paw, the fur the same shade as my hair. Marcus had told me that Jaden's mate was solid black while her sister's wolf was the same dark brown as my wolf. They were identical twins so seeing their wolves looked nothing alike had been a surprise to all three packs. Normally the color of the fur matched or came close to the shade of the hair of the person. The black wolf had taken everyone by surprise considering both females had the same dark brown hair. Marcus told me that not only was Trina's wolf black, but she was solid black. Almost unheard of in the shifter world, most black wolves were only partially black, or mostly black with some shading of brown or sable.

 

Gammon had apparently weighed in on the subject, since both females were his nieces by mating. He had been curious enough to call Jules and ask Jules what his son Nate had looked like as a wolf. And of course he had asked his mate what her twin had looked like only to find they had been identical as wolves as they had been in human form. Since Gammon's mate was a twin, and twins ran in their family, though few people had known that, Gammon had access to more information on twins than most. According to his mate, identical twins always produced identical wolves. Marcus had told me that Gammon's mate would not believe anyone that Trina was different, until she saw pictures.

 

I wondered about Jaden's mate as I loped through the meadow heading for the trail. What was so special about her that Jamie would defend her? And what was so terrible about her that Roberts and Daniel hated the very ground she walked on? I had told Marcus the truth, if the female could win over Roberts and Daniel, I would bring the bird back to the pack. If they really wanted it though, Jamie could fly down with Roberts and get the bird.

 

We had two helicopters and four pilots so even if one of us was out of action, we still could move both birds. Often Jamie and I flew one bird while Roberts and Daniel flew the other. Although, Daniel was still training to be a registered pilot, he was capable enough. But Jamie and I were very particular about the helicopter we flew, just as particular about it as Roberts was about the one he flew. We did not like to share, we did not like to fly the other's bird and we tried to never get in a situation where we had to use a different helicopter than our preferred one. But Jamie and I had discussed it before I left out to come to the cabin. He could feel my anger, pain, and feelings of betrayal through the pack bond. Feeling that, and knowing my history with Jaden, Jamie willingly let me take the bird and fly to our refuge to get away for awhile.

Off an on through that evening and into the night we ambled around the area, slowly moving south. We chased deer, slept, and explored through the night and when morning time rolled around we were in the scrub brush bordering the desert. It was only then that I realized my wolf had been acting strangely. I had withdrawn from him and into myself hours ago to think and try to understand what no one without a true-mate could ever hope to understand.

 

What made a stranger so special that a man would kill the ones he loved to get to her and save her? What made the bond so important a man would go insane to protect someone he had never met? These questions had no answers, not for one with no true-mate.

 

Not paying much attention to where I was, the sudden shudder going through my wolf caught me by surprise. My wolf had never reacted the way he was before and this caused me to center myself with my wolf, so I could find out what was causing him to react so strangely. Our wolves are part of us, but at the same time they are separate. I could see through his eyes when I was in wolf form, and he through mine, but we could let our consciousness sleep, or drift, and in that way, we were not totally one.

 

Mate here. Mate here.

 

As I centered myself back with my wolf, bringing my consciousness back to the forefront I realize just what has my wolf prancing around now. Our mate is close, we just have to find her, and it should not take long now that we have felt her. I would soon be wishing I had taken over and scouted the area instead of allowing the instinct of the wolf to stay in control. But from what Jaden had gone through, and what we had learned, I trusted my wolf to find her. I did not want to be in a situation like Jaden, trying to track a she-wolf who just would not stay still long enough to be found. I was beginning to understand why Jaden had been so determined, and desperate to find his mate. I felt a driving desire for find her and protect her unlike anything I had ever experienced. As crazy as it would seem to me if I let myself think on the subject, my mind, my very essence insisted the most precious and valuable treasure was close and I had to not only find this treasure, I had to protect it with every fiber of my being. I tried not to dwell on how incredible it was to feel the need to protect someone I had never even met. That true-mate magic is more powerful than one could understand, until faced with the same situation.

 

The wolf in me had found our mate, and I could think of nothing beyond getting to her. The prison at the edge of the desert, deserted for years, was obviously now occupied. As the only structure around I had to conclude my mate was inside, and in my haste to meet the one I could feel was the other half of my soul I disregarded every bit of training I had ever gone through in my seven decades on this Earth.

 

I rushed toward the fence in my excitement to meet my true-mate, realizing only then why Jaden had been unable to think of anything but Trina. When the magic begins to pull you toward your other half, even if you have never met her, deep inside you know she will be the most precious and treasured one you have ever met. The magic that leads you to your true-mate, weaves your souls together, has never been wrong, and the pull is stronger than Jaden had been able to convey to us.

 

I could not wait to meet her. Would she be easy to get along with or would she test me to my limits? Would she be a practical joker, like me, or would her sense of humor be totally different from mine? If I walked past her and licked her face, would she laugh at me for giving her wolf pup kisses or wipe it away and tell me not to lick her face?

 

I thought back to the time my sister had been sitting on the couch and I was walking past. I leaned down and swiped my tongue across her face and waited in gleeful anticipation for her response. Her response was everything I could have wished for as she scrubbed frantically at her face to get my slobber off, screaming at me for licking her cheek.

 

The memory pulls at me.

No sis, I did not lick your face, that would be disgusting.

Trust me it was.

I did not lick you, I gave you a wolf-pup kiss.

You licked me.

No, I did not. That is disgusting. I would never lick you. I merely gave you a wolf-pup kiss.

Eww, no, you licked me.

Tell me, favorite sister of mine, how do our wolf-pups kiss?

They, you know what, that is beside the point, you are not a wolf-pup, you were not even in wolf form, and you licked me. And another thing, I am your only sister, so of course I am your favorite.

Technicalities, mere technicalities. Are you telling me when you have a pup of your own you will be wiping his kisses away and calling them disgusting? You know you will crush his little wolf feelings if you treat him that way.

I remember watching her mouth drop open and her eyes widen before she screeched at me.

That is not at all the same. You licked me. You did. You know you did. And it was disgusting.

I will be certain to teach my nephew to give you lots of wolf-pup kisses when you mate and have your own little one.

 

Would my mate laugh about things like that, or would she side with my sister. In that moment I knew, it did not matter. The magic was never wrong, whatever she was like would complement and complete me. So caught up in dreams of magic and a future, I never saw the attack coming, never knew how many were in the attack, and never had a chance.

 

Our arrival did not take the ones guarding the distant prison-like building by surprise. I heard the snarl moments before a body landed on my back. As I slung the other wolf from my back, the pain of his teeth sharp, he tore into my flesh. Whirling and dashing, teeth snapping I fought back. The one attacker was soon joined by others and I knew I had little chance. Blood loss soon began to weaken me as I tried to latch onto the throat of one, ripping and tearing flesh. While I was trying to take out one, the others were busy tearing into me. My mental screams could not reach my Alpha, and I knew I didn't have much longer unless something happened.

 

I tried to lunge at the closest wolf, but when I fell short, I did not have the strength to rise again. I could feel my wolf give way to my human form as I lay face down on the sandy ground. Barely conscious I felt the foot kick out and roll me to my back. The laughter of the attackers rang in my ears. As the darkness tugged at me I heard single voice ring out, "Hope you are still hanging on when the buzzards come to pick your eyes from your face Seeker. This time you found what you had no business seeking."

The last sight my fading vision caught was a golden wolf sitting on my chest, a feeling of peace and completion despite the unbearable pain settled in my soul. I thought on the mate I would never get to meet, the forgiveness I would never get to give, and wondered why no one had ever mentioned a golden wolf leading them to the next life.

 

 

 

#

CHAPTER THREE

Marcus

 

Marcus

 

Whirling around, Marcus took off running, calling through the pack bond as he all but flew toward the one helicopter sitting on the pad. At his mental scream echoed through the bond, a team of Seekers, Enforcers and Pilots dropped whatever they were doing and rushed to the helicopter. Marcus could not talk to his pack if they were too far, but he could feel them dying. And through the bond Marcus had felt the life leaving Craig. Even though Marcus knew, with what he had just felt, Craig would be long dead before they could get to him, he had to try. For the moment the connection told him Craig still breathed, but he knew, as weak as the connection was, that link would not last long. Doc was one of the last to arrive, medical bag in hand. Less than twenty minutes after his shout roused the men to their duty, the bird was in the air and flying toward the cabins.

 

Both helicopters were supplied with a wealth of medical supplies, the job the Seekers did was a dangerous one and more than once the team had come back short. Marcus was determined never to lose a team member for lack of medical supplies. But all the supplies in the world would not help if a pack member was too badly injured. Doc had scrambled into the helicopter moments before Roberts took to the air. The bird, fully fueled, would make it to the cabin, but it would be a couple of hours.

 

As the helicopter headed south the men began to ply Marcus with questions. At first Marcus did not answer, focused inward, on the pack bond he shared with Craig, desperate to know more, feel more. Shoulders slumping he finally turned toward the men, the roaring of the motor impossible to hear above, even with the enhanced hearing of the wolf. But for them, the sounds around them did not matter, they were all pack, all bonded, all able to speak to each other through the bond they shared. At the moment the roaring of sound in Marcus' head from all the pack, both in the helicopter and still on the ground, almost drowned out the sound of the helicopter. A quick command silenced the pack, allowing him to give what little information he had to share.

 

Looking around the helicopter, at the men he had called, he saw the same resigned look, the same hopelessness on each face that he could feel on his own. This was not the first time he had called a team to retrieve a body. The men knew, from what he had said, and what he had not, that even if Craig was still alive, by the time they found him, if they found him, he would be gone. Craig was hours away, and fading fast, no one had illusions they would make it in time. Never, since Marcus had taken over as the Alpha of the pack, had any link gotten so weak and the pack member still live.

 

More than a few eyes were wet on that long trip south. Feeling a vibration in his pocket, Marcus lifted his phone, wincing he tried to figure out how to break the news to Jaden that his best friend was dying. As he studied his phone he saw other pack members taking phones out of pockets, looking at the message, and turning toward him. Each time a phone was lifted from a pocket, the look on the pack members face turned even more grim. He knew who was texting them, his brother, his beta, and Craig's best friend had finally landed back in the States from his honeymoon, and he could feel something wrong in the pack.

 

As his phone vibrated again, and he read the message, he realized every man in helicopter had lifted their phones, Jaden had resorted to group text. With hands not quite steady, and eyes not quite dry, Marcus began to type. As he hit send his eyes closed, losing a pack member was hard, and Jaden and Craig had been close, closer than most. As Marcus reached deep within himself for the link that was Craig he sighed, still there, weaker than before, almost too weak to feel. If they were not so close to the cabin Marcus wondered if he would have felt the link at all. He knew he would have, a link is a link until it is not, but as weak as it was, the idle thought crossed his mind.

 

A flurry of text messages came through his phone moments later. An offer from Casey to fly everyone to the cabin. A statement from Gammon that they were on their way. A plea from Jaden to hurry.

 

Gammon had some things he wanted to discuss with his twin nieces and Mia had wanted to spend more time with Trina now that she was mated, so they had flown down to Trey's pack the day before and gone with Casey to pick Jaden and Trina up at the airport when they flew into the country. The airport they had elected to fly into was closer to the cabin than to pack territory so if they were going to meet at the cabin, they should reach it not far behind Marcus.

 

As he finished reading the text from Gammon he breathed a sigh of relief followed by a pang of anguish. Casey had agreed to fly them all down to the cabin after refueling, having been assured a sort of runway existed in the meadow where she could land the plane. Gammon had Sentinels with him, plus Trey and Gabby and now Jaden and Trina. The bitter words Craig had thrown at Jaden would eat at Jaden for the rest of his life. If Jaden could make it down before Craig passed away he could at least get the chance to say goodbye to his best friend. But first, they would have to find Craig.

 

Jamie had volunteered the information Craig had told him a day or so before about feeling a desire to visit the southern part of the property. Although no one had been that way in years, Marcus did not remember anything down that way but an old decommissioned prison from years ago. The area did not make a good hunting ground for humans, too hard to get into the area after they blew the passes years ago. The only way into the cabin was by air now.

 

Craig could have tangled with a mountain lion, or fallen from a cliff, been involved in a landslide, any number of things could have happened. All of those scenarios would have been almost inconceivable, but not as inconceivable as a rogue finding him at the cabin. Over the years the cabin had been deliberately cut off from the rest of the world. It was possible to get to the cabin by foot, but only coming from the desert or by repelling down the side of one of the cliffs.

 

Of course, if the rogue faction was led by someone in a position of power, someone with access to satellite images, or someone with the power to turn a satellite to look at the cabin, then someone could have watched to cabin to see the helicopter there, and found only one man in residence. Craig had been at the cabin for weeks now, someone watching the cabin, even casually, on satellite, would have had time to put a plan together to take out the pilot.

 

Marcus wished, again, for the foresight to have hidden the cabin through shell companies. If he had made the cabin harder to trace back to his pack, maybe the cabin would be a safer place to vacation. But years ago no one could have guessed any of the packs would need to hide anything so deeply. He did not even know if the problem was due to a rogue, yet all his lost pack members for the last three decades could be traced to rogues. He was trying to believe the problem could be anything else, but history had shown him differently. The chance it was just a random accident existed, but Marcus would not believe it until he saw the body.

 

Marcus briefly wondered if the helicopter was still there, but the realization the tracking device would have activated if the bird had been started up alleviated that worry. Gammon estimated they would reach the cabin only minutes behind the helicopter, if that. The airport Jaden had flown into had been south of the community, to the north-west of the cabin. So Jaden was closer to the cabin upon landing than the retrieval party had been, but they had been in the air for a while before Jaden landed, and Jaden and Trina had to retrieve their bags, and go through customs, while Casey refueled.

 

One by one the men took turns looking at Marcus, they knew when Craig was totally lost Marcus would break down. So far they had seen no sign on Marcus' face that Craig's bond with the pack was gone. Sometimes the rest of the pack could feel a loss, and sometimes they could not. Even when they could feel a loss, the Alpha was the only one who could pinpoint exactly who was lost to the pack.

 

The men in the helicopter were silent, both verbally and mentally. All trying to hold on to the hope they could find Craig in time, yet knowing they would not. The men could not feel Craig like Marcus could, but they would feel if Craig was lost. They would feel the loss from Marcus through the bond. So every so often one of the men would turn his head and look at Marcus and the closer the men got to the cabin the harder it was to fight the hope rising in each of them. They could not help but hope, but hope dashed can make the loss even worse in the end. Time had taught the men in the helicopter much, and they knew they could not save Craig, but they could not kill the hope. They had never been able to kill the hope when these things happened. None of the men ever wanted to be able to kill the hope, that hope might one day get them to their pack mate on time. That desperation might one day work in their favor.

 

 

#

CHAPTER FOUR

Dawn

 

Dawn

 

As the golden shadow wolf rose from the body of their friend, the three females gaped in awe, the golden wolf, merged with a shadow wolf as black as night, before the merged wolf became two again. Watching the split, Kate's now unconscious body was momentarily forgotten on the cold tiles. Although their captors had forced them, or allowed them the privilege, depending on your view of the situation, to watch a mating ceremony, and all three females had seen the wolves rise as shadows to form a bond, loose though it was when not a true-mate, none of the females had ever seen a golden shadow wolf. The very concept should have been impossible, a shadow form is by the very nature, black, without any color at all. But what rose from Kate at the end of the mating ceremony Dawn had just performed, was anything but ordinary.

 

Even Julie's hiccuping sobs had stopped, she sat frozen on the bed where Dawn had moments before sat comforting her. As the merged wolf, a sure sign of a true-mating from what the girls had been told by Kate, separated both seemed to hover above Kate, yet both seemed to leave. When Allison approached Kate, the golden wolf turned toward her, eyes of fire. The shadow wolf solidly mated to the golden wolf turned eyes toward the girls at the same moment. The pair still seemed to be one, but Kate had told them during late night talks that once mated the shadows merged back into the person. These two wolves were not merging back. They eyes of the black shadow wolf also seemed filled with a flame, and the sight was nothing the girls had seen before, nor anything Kate had shared with them.

 

Before Allison or Dawn could say anything, both shadows, one black and one golden, if a golden wolf could be called a shadow, seemed to sink into Kate. This almost matched what the girls had been told would happen, with the exception of them separating back to the individual, which they certainly had not done. Slowly and silently vanishing as though they had never been. Allison took a deep breath and turned startled eyes toward Dawn.

 

"We can't hide her scent, if anyone comes around they will know she is a mature female now. What are we going to do? What happened to her? Why did she scream? What is going on?" The last a wail as the events of the morning began to have effect on her.

 

Dawn, teeth gritted, knowing nothing more than Allison, or little more, forced her feet forward till she reached Kate. Kate had kept her sane in this place as reality had crept in a little at a time. Most of that reality was a result of Kate and her irrefutable logic and undeniable claims. But now Kate, who told them they must flee soon, lay on the floor, unconscious, and Dawn noticed the blood seeping from her mouth and nose, along with tiny spots of blood here and there on her body. Turning and racing toward the bathroom she wet a washcloth before returning to the room.

 

Julie was still silent on the bed but Allison had been busy while she was gone. Though still laying on the floor Kate now had a pillow under her head while Allison was checking for injuries. When Dawn began wiping the blood away from Kate's mouth and nose, Allison's hushed voice asked the questions in both their minds.

 

"Why is she bleeding from her mouth and nose, and look here, she looks as though someone beat her. She has bruises everywhere. She did not hit the floor hard enough to get that badly injured so what happened? I watched her, she swayed on her feet as she screamed, she doubled over, she slowly sank to her knees, then she just seemed to collapse the rest of the way to the floor in slow motion as you mumbled the mating chant. Just as the wolf rose into the air, and the other wolf showed up, and they combined into one, she stopped screaming and just sighed one deep sigh and then nothing. What is happening?"

 

Dawn didn't have any better answers than Allison, in fact, she had no answers at all. She did have one guess based on a late night conversation she had with Kate months ago. As that conversation fluttered though her mind she tried to remember everything Kate had told her. Shoulders slumping she gave her best guess.

 

"Kate told me once that when two wolves are true-mated they can feel each other. What hurts one hurts both and what kills one kills both. She said her parents told her rarely does a true-mate survive the death of the mate. Sometimes, if a child is involved, one may live long enough to raise the child, sometimes finding the will to live longer, and sometimes the need to avenge a death may be what keeps one holding on when the other is taken. Plus, she also said, a true-mated pair can draw energy from each other, what might kill can be survived if the other is strong enough to share their strength. You heard her plea there at the last moment My mate, we have to help him. But until I did the mating ceremony she could not help him. She could only feel him die. I don't know what is wrong with her mate, but it has to be bad. I don't know much more than you, will she survive whatever is going on? I don't know that either because I don't know what is going on anymore than you do."

 

"But Dawn, the mating bond, how did you do that, it has to be an Alpha, you know that. Are you an Alpha? Can you use that power to get us out?"

 

Allison looked around the room, trying to figure out what do to next while she waited for Dawn to answer her. Somehow they would have to get Kate out, and how they would accomplish that when she was not even awake just added to the problem. And Julie was not really there, mentally, most of the time, escaping with her, and Kate, wasn't even feasible. When Dawn still had not answered her after a couple of minutes she jerked her attention away from looking for things to convert to weapons and back to Dawn, who was staring at Kate.

 

"I don't think she is going to live. Her mate, where ever he might be, must be in bad shape. He has to be close though." Dawn brushed the hair from Kate's face and wiped the blood away again. "He was close enough to feel. But we don't know how close a mate has to be to perform the mating bond. Kate learned a lot about our kind from her parents. She seemed to know more about what is going on with the shifter world than anyone I have ever met. We used to talk late into the night, when everyone was asleep. She has people looking for her, maybe they were getting close, I don't know. Maybe this mate of hers was one of the people looking for her. If the mating is a true one, she said the wolves want to bond, have to bond, and it doesn't matter who calls them forth. She said it doesn't matter how little power the person has, or even if they have any power at all."

 

Allison, a look of concentration on her face, shook her head. "That doesn't make sense. We have been to three matings since I have been here, and each time a powerful shifter had to call the female wolf out before the bonding ceremony could happen. Is it because she is so different from us? What is she anyway? She is not like us, and yet she is at the same time. "

 

For a minute Allison thought Dawn was not going to answer her. Dawn started to say something, but hesitated. Almost like she was picking and choosing her words carefully. After a couple of minutes of the stop and go conversation Allison finally gestured to Kate laying on the floor.

 

"We can't help her if we don't know what is going on. She isn't one of us, no matter how much she might smell like us, sometimes she slips up. And I have never known a shifter with flames in their eyes like she had. Now what is she? If you know start talking. We can't make plans if we don't have all the information."

 

"That is just it Allison, I don't know. She has never said what she is, but I will tell you this, whoever it is she has looking for her, they can talk to her like pack. They were in Australia when Kate was taken. Have you ever known anyone who could talk mentally more than a few miles apart? Shifters can't do that, not that far. That is around the world from us. That is where Kate was taken from, Australia, and even after she got here she talked to them. Daily, anytime she thinks she might have overheard anything that will help them find us. She tells them when it gets daylight, well, she guesses, and when it gets night as close as we can figure out. That is why she built that sundial out in the park. Whoever is looking for her told her to build one, and told her how to build it."

 

"The sundial? That monument she had all of us help her build? That is why she built it? Wait, what was the purpose of it? She told everyone it was because she was missing home and having one of those would be like, wait a minute, she never said it was a sundial, she said it was a monument to the sun-god and, oh my god, how utterly sneaky and devious of her. So all those times she was 'praying' to the sun-god she was really telling someone what time it was so they could locate her? Does that mean she knows where we are in the United States? Because I was not 'hidden' away long enough to get out of the US, but I was taken from Colorado and we could be anywhere within a day's travel of there." Allison looked back at Kate laying on the floor, admiration on her face along with a touch of wariness. "A sundial, and those things are so out of date we never even recognized it. How ingenious of her, and whoever she has looking for her. So, how is that going to help us? Do you think whoever was looking for her found her?" Looking back at Dawn she muttered, "Well if they did they are paying for it now. But it couldn't have been her mate, mates can track each other, and you did the mating ceremony, so that isn't it."

 

"I don't know how it is going to help us. But I can tell you the best guess of where we are, according to everything Kate was told by these mysterious people looking for her, which I am pretty sure is her parents myself. We are somewhere around New Mexico, maybe Arizona, northern part of one of those states. Whoever is looking for her is at a huge disadvantage, they are not from this country, and according to Kate, they cursed out whoever came up with daylight savings time." Dawn wiped the blood away again, tears trickled down her cheeks.

 

"Daylight savings time? What does that have to do with where we are?"

 

Dawn shrugged, "No idea, something about the states not having the same time and her searchers having to set up sundials to figure out which state is which? Truly, no idea, apparently the time in the state doesn't match the sundial if it is daylight savings time, or maybe it is the other way around. I know Arizona never changes time and New Mexico does but all I know about sundials is what Kate told me. And that isn't very much, but it is more than she told the others, they all still think it is a monument to her sun-god. Which, by the way, she does not worship a sun-god, in case you wondered. I know, I am rambling now, but I do that when I am scared, drives Kate nuts. Come one Kate, please wake up." The last, a plea that went unheard by Kate, but not by the wolves who struggled deep within her to keep her and her mate alive, sharing her strength with her fallen mate.

 

#

CHAPTER FIVE

The Prison

 

The Prison

 

"No, boss, we took care of him. He was almost dead when we left. Another few minutes to make sure wouldn't have made any difference at all." The gravely voice paused for a moment to listen to the voice on the other end of the phone. The excitement of the last hour had faded as the group slowly made their way back into the prison compound. By the time they had finished a perimeter check and headed back inside most of the injuries they had gotten would be healed.

 

"No problem boss, we will go out in pairs and keep the area patrolled for the next few days, the cameras give all the coverage we need though. I don't see why we need to patrol. Yeah, I understand that, but if anyone else shows up we will take care of them just like we took care of the last one. If, for some reason we come under attack, which is highly unlikely, the helicopter is always ready to fly us and our females out." After listening another minute to the boss, Ben closed out the phone call and slid the phone back in the holder. Shrugging his shoulders he motioned the others back to the prison.

 

The men had spent a while checking the surrounding area to ensure the wolf they had attacked was not followed. When they found no sign of anyone around they had called in to their boss. He was not their Alpha, the men at the prison had no Alpha in the real sense of the word. When they had spotted a strange wolf approaching the prison on the security cameras the group had headed down to cut the wolf off, and eliminate him.

 

Now Ben understood why the boss had been so insistent the security feeds always be monitored. The men guarding the prison had scoffed at the duty multiple times. Watching the cameras had become a joke, almost a punishment duty. No one could approach from any direction without being seen for miles, with the exception of one direction. Behind the prison the desert turned to scrub and gradually greenery took over until, if one wandered far enough north trees and eventually mountains. One lonely cabin rested somewhere in a valley far to the north, too far to worry about a casual visitor, they had thought. But when the security cameras had picked up one lone wolf, and the men had gathered around to watch, they soon realized the wolf was not a normal wolf at all. The tell-tell signs of a shifter wolf had been obvious to the men once the cameras zoomed in closer. The eyes that were not normal wolf eyes one minute, yet fully wolf the next was the biggest give-away. The men, being shifters themselves could not have explained to a non-shifter just what they saw, or didn't see to that allowed them to determine the wolf was a shifter, other than the eyes.

 

The men knew the wolf-shifter was not one of theirs, and knowing that, they knew they could not afford to let him live. If he was rogue without a leader he would not be sane enough to reason with, if he was not rogue, he would do what he had to do in order to destroy the rogues. If he was rogue, but not yet insane, he would plot and plan until he had a female from the prison. And the men had plans for the females they had, and plans to get more females.

 

The men at the prison, playing guard for the time, were not regular, off the street wolf-shifters, not regular rogues as the shifter world saw them. No, the men guarding the females were there for a reason. Each of the men were sons of prominently placed men in the government. Sons who deserved to have mates. Being sons of important men had taught them the value of patience, their fathers and mothers knew politics, knew the value of waiting out your opponent and using time to their advantage.

 

And the men who now waited on the females in their care to reach the age of maturity knew the danger of taking one too young. A fully human child would be the result, if the female gave birth at all, and years and multiple attempts would not change the outcome. Much had been learned over the years, and the ones in position of power had finally understood the value of waiting for the maturity of the female. Older than a human female, in the long lives of the shifter world, twenty-one was not a long wait at all. In some few cases the captured females did indeed give birth a female. But those were rare cases, and the reason it happened would have surprised those in charge, if they had only had all the information they needed to figure it out.

 

The prison currently housed ten females, eleven if one counted the mental one. But after today she would be nothing but a toy for the others to use. She was worthless to the men anyway. Frank, the doctor had even given up on her. The men intended to follow their parents into the political world, and they needed females to be proud of, not one that the media could get a hold of and make a laughing stock of the male. The men had discussed it, and even discussed it with the boss, it had been decided they could use her to alleviate their boredom at the prison, the only one against it was the doctor, Frank.

 

That very morning the men had drawn straws to decide who would get the chance to break the female in and Jonus had won. While the others were ridding the area of the lone wolf he had been having his go at the female. By the time the men got back inside he should be finished and have the female cleaned up. The wolves couldn't stand the smell of others on a female, but that was what high pressure showers were good for, removing the scent.

 

Jonus was suppose to have the female moved to the guard side of the compound by the time the others got back so it was with surprise that they could not find the female or Jonus when they returned. He wasn't in his room, she wasn't in the room they had arranged for her, the ropes still empty, the shower still dry, and no smell of sex lingered in the room, nor in any of the rooms.

 

As the ten men headed toward the security room they discussed what could have happened. If anything serious had happened, Frank would have called them. By the time the men had reached the room they had decided Jonus, who had little patience no matter what his father had tried to teach him, must have taken the female in her room. The other females would be upset if they found out, and maybe, just maybe his father would remove him from the prison guard. They only had ten females at the moment, not counting the mental one, and with the Doctor they had twelve males in the prison.

 

The boss was pretty sure they could still get their hands on a set of twins. Each man in the prison was hoping the retrieval team could pull the kidnapping off. None of the men had ever heard of twin shifters before, and it mattered not one bit to any of the men that the females had mated to other males. Kill the mate and the female is free to mate again. It would be inconceivable to the men that the female would likely die if her mate died. That was something that may or may not have happened in the past but the men knew things like that no longer happened. The doctor even reassured them such things were impossible.

 

Of the twelve men at the prison, none of them had ever seen a true-mating, nor did they understand how one worked. The did not understand magic more than science was involved. Their parents had married for the good of their future, with no regard for magic. Some females were just as ambitious as males, and some believed not one whit the old tale of true-mates.

 

After talking with Frank, three of the males decided to go check Julie's room. The rest of the males headed for the showers to get cleaned up, leaving Frank to monitor the cameras and the lone wolf they had just eliminated. The camera placement wasn't ideal for keeping an eye on the wolf, only one foot showed in the frame. But that did not matter to the males, no one, with that much damage, would live long. Maybe later they would pull the body into camera view and watch the carrion birds eat the evidence they left behind.

 

 

 

 

#

CHAPTER SIX

Lies

 

Lies

 

Jerking her head toward the door, face pale, Dawn whispered, "I hear them coming, what are we going to do now? They will find the guy in just a minute." Breathing deeply, a trickle of tears in her eyes she looked up at Allison, "We can't hide her scent. Help me get her on the bed. Julie, baby girl, come here, we are going to put Kate to bed now, can you help us put Kate to bed huh? Be a sweetheart and help us."

 

The girls had just gotten Kate on the bed, and had Julie lay down between the wall and Kate, when they heard the swearing coming closer. The men holding them were always polite to them. They were never treated as prisoners, but rather as honored guests. Since Allison had been there not one single male had ever entered her room. They would knock, and when she answered the door they would stay on the outside and relay whatever information they needed to at that time. The males swore they were protecting them from others who would harm them. Oh, over the years the lies the males told were good ones. And until Kate came along most of the females in the prison had believed the lies.

 

Because some of the females believed the lies, they were proud to mate with important men who could keep them safe. Some of them even eventually gave birth to females themselves. Every female birth just solidified in the minds of the males that what they were doing was right, it was saving the shifter race. And as a result the drive to capture more females and save them became stronger every time a successful birth occurred.

 

The lies sounded so plausible. The females, most in hiding with families, were always 'saved' shortly after their families were killed. The males, sons and such of high ranking officials in the government, swore the positions of their families would keep the females safe. They had elite forces who were keeping an eye on the females and their families. They failed in their duty sometimes and would always rescue the females as soon as they got word. Some of the females were told the males bringing them in had been guards assigned by the High Council to keep them safe from a distance. But when that safety failed they would send in a crew to rescue the female. The lies did not always work with all the females though.

 

In Dawn's case the ones sent to rescue her had killed at least two of their own to save her. Most of the girls in the prison had some kind of similar story, which is what made the story so believable. But then Kate came along. Kate, whose parents had not been killed, who knew their lies for what they were, refused to allow the others to continue to believe the lies in spite of the evidence. Kate, who insisted the ones killed were the worst of the worst and the 'saviors' were undoubtedly culling the rotten ones themselves. What better way to win the trust of a young female, suddenly alone in the world, than to kill the ones who just killed her family.

 

In each case the ones who attacked were not the ones who later saved the girls. The ones who attacked were vicious killers while the saviors were usually an elite squad of men, specially trained. Rogues were easy to come by and easy to dispose of once they had served their purpose. Sometimes though, the female's families were too smart to be taken unaware by the rogues, and for those special ones, the ones in charge had to make different plans.

 

The prison was not bad, if the lies had been true, if the males sent to rescue them had really been rescuing them. But a prison is a prison even when it is called something else. The girls had games to play, a beautiful garden they could relax in, books to read, movies to watch and any number of amusements they could enjoy. They had an indoor swimming pool, bowling alley, and a game room. But the one thing the girls did not have was access to the outside world. No computers or telephones were available to the girls or the workers, at least, no computers with Internet. The massive library had computers to help with the schooling for the girls. The girls went through extensive schooling, and training, on how to act in a social situation. They were trained in business and finance, how to interact with media and politicians, and how to host elaborate parties.

 

The guards, future mates for the females, were not the only ones in the prison, they were just the only shifter males in the prison. The prison had many human workers. Most of them had been there for years. The pay was good and the amenities were suppose to be outstanding on the worker side of the prison. And as for the lie told to the humans to keep them quiet; the girls were political refugees and the set-up was to save their lives. Considering the deference paid to the females by the guards in the prison, the humans had no problems believing they were saving innocent lives and they kept their mouths shut.

 

Every now and then one of the workers would not show up for their rotation and, Kate had guessed, human nature being what it is, that they must have talked. The captors, being who they were, could make someone disappear with no problem. Sometimes a worker would tell the girls that a missing worker had tragically killed themselves. The workers worked in rotations, six months at the prison and one month off. Kate had befriended a few over the months and found out the pay was unbelievable, enough to make someone give up the Internet and phone calls for six months at a time. All of them believed they were government employees with the highest security clearance available.

 

The females were courted, in a way, by the males. All of them knew before the mating ceremony who would be their mate. In a different world, under different circumstances, some of the females might would have chosen to mate the male voluntarily. But any illusions the females had were destroyed when Kate arrived. Little by little she uncovered the lies and explained to the rest of the girls what was really going on; except for a few of the girls, girls who had it bad on the outside world before being rescued, and some had it really bad. Kate had culled those girls from any serious talk, they were too happy to be rescued and too excited to be mated to important males to have believed Kate. Allison thought some of the girls would not have even cared if they had known the truth.

 

But even with everything Kate had told them over the past year, even with all the secrets and lies she had exposed, the one thing she had never shared was what she was, or how she was different. Some things she had kept to herself, and some things it appeared she had only shared with her roommate. Now it was up to Allison and Dawn to try to figure some way out of what was going on, and neither girl had a clue what they should do next. When the door slammed open the girls knew time had just run out.

 

Allison turned tear filled eyes toward the door when it slammed against the wall, Julie on the bed, arms around Kate, had started crying again. Dawn, washcloth covered in blood, turned anguished eyes toward the male standing in the doorway. But it was Allison's quick thinking that gave them a reprieve.

 

"Please, get the doctor, I think she's dying. She is bleeding and bruised and maybe some of her bones got broken. Please, please help us."

 

The one standing in the doorway was shoved aside by another who took a deep breath, with narrowed eyes he called down the hall for someone to get the doctor. Allison heard the male just outside the door tell the other he did not smell the scent of sex anywhere, just fear. The room was full of the scent of fear from all four of the females in the room. Allison took a deep breath and wanted to smile, if the situation had not been so dire she would have. The male was right, the scent of fear overpowered the faint whiffs of mature female that had drifted out from Kate off and on. If their luck held it would continue to overpower the scent. But on the heels of that thought came the realization that the doctor was coming. He would be close enough to Kate to smell her maturity coming through. And Frank knew better than all the other males what Kate should smell like, he had been courting her for almost a year now.

 

Allison knew she had a limited time to come up with something else, something to explain the dead male, because as soon as the males recovered from the sight of Kate, bruised and bleeding on the bed, someone was going to want answers. As she turned toward Dawn she saw her wink. She really hoped that meant Dawn had a plan, because Allison was all planned out now.

 

It was only a moment before the girls heard shouts and running feet. In that time the two males left at the door had looked from the females, back down the hall toward Julie's room, and back to Julie and Kate laying on the bed. It was clear to Allison that the males had known what was going to happen, they had expected to find the scent of sex in the air, and they were not expecting what they found instead. From the look on Dawn's face she had figured out that the men had set Julie up, and she was furious. Allison was hoping Dawn would be able to mellow that look of fury from her face before she turned it toward the males.

 

The doctor raced into the room and shoved Allison out of the way, "What happened to her? Who did this?" As he began checking her Dawn heard him take a deep breath and lean in closer. Fury dripped from his voice as he whirled around toward the men. "I smell Jonus on her, his blood, did Jonus attack my mate? She has the faintest smell of maturity on her also, just coming into her age maybe? Where is Jonus, I will kill him!"

 

Dawn did not get a chance to say anything, huddled against the wall with Allison, the two just watching what was going on, she started to speak, but was interrupted.

 

The men had apparently taken in what they could see with their eyes, and what Frank had just announced, and jumped to conclusions. The conclusions suited Allison and Dawn just fine.

 

"I don't think you have to worry bout killing Jonus, apparently your future mate already took care of that. I could smell all four girl's fear in Julie's room so maybe the girls heard her scream and went to see what was going on. You know how nosy your mate is, probably led them all down there. If she is scenting as a mature female Jonus must have gone crazy, mate-less rogue crazy. He must have attacked her, I guess she fought back, and by the looks of it, she won." Ben, who had taken the time to go in Julie's room and look around, had pieced together what must have happened.

 

He was a little confused about the pillow on top of Jonus' face, but Jonus was not a small guy and if he was attacking the girls, well everyone knew girls did not know how to fight. Maybe they thought they could smother him, who knew how girls really thought. A lamp had been shattered and bloody glass shards lay all over the floor and it looked like his throat had been cut by a shard of glass. Ben did not know if that had been deliberate or just a lucky occurrence. It was possible the pillow had a glass shard in it already and when the girls tried to smother him they shoved the glass into his throat. But Ben was not a crime sight specialist and he could only make educated guesses. Smelling the amount of fear in the air in both rooms and in the hallway between the rooms told a story of terror. Faint traces of blood from one of the females dotted the hallway. Looking at Kate, he imagined the blood that did not belong to Jonus, must belong to her as she seemed to be the only one physically hurt.

 

Before anyone could say anything else a scream rang out down the hall, followed by multiple screams from multiple females. The males, who had been crowding into the room, had left Julie's room unattended and the noises in the wing had attracted the attention of the rest of the females. Females who were now staring at the blood covered body of one of their protectors. The lies about protecting the females suddenly started sounding a little less true to some of them. Especially considering they could smell the fear in the air, they saw the destroyed room, and they did not see Julie.

 

For some of them, the information Kate had explained to them had made sense, until they caught sight of a dead guard in a female room. It was just like before, when someone killed their families to get to them. It was happening all over again. In that moment, some began to doubt Kate's words. For some females, who had never heard Kate's words, their terror was stronger than the rest.

 

The terror of their past came crashing down upon them and it would be a while before anyone in the prison could calm them down. In one respect the terror would work to the captors benefit later, but at the moment it would take some of the best experts they had at the prison using all of their skills to calm the girls down. Death had come into their lives again, and they wanted to flee. It would be hours before the males in the prison would join the females in their desire to abandon the area, but for the males, the reason would be completely different.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#

CHAPTER SEVEN

A New Fear

A New Fear

 

The men, gathered in Kate's room, darted glances around at each other when the other girls started screaming down the hall. Ben, leading the way, raced down the hall to try to do damage control. Several of the men followed him while a couple stayed behind to see how they might help Frank.

 

Once Ben had the females rounded up and had called the therapist they had on staff, he had explained to the females why the humans could not know about the dead male. The girls had calmed down some after he explained that Julie was safe, no females had been hurt, but finally he had to admit to killing Jonus to protect them. Now he just had to get the other four girls to let him take the blame for killing Jonus. He could not let the other females think they were not safe from the males. He had to make them believe he would protect them from the others when they needed to be protected. This situation would help the females understand they would keep them safe, even if it meant killing another shifter. They had proven it in the past when they saved the girls, but it never hurt to have even more proof. It was a shame that the death had to happen in the school where the girls lived. This was suppose to be their safe haven from attackers. After everything that was happening Ben was beginning to believe Frank was right, they had a job to do, keep the females safe, that meant all the females, even Julie. Making the decision to allow everyone to use Julie had brought this entire situation about and Ben was struggling to contain the fall-out. He was training to pursue a life in politics, not murder cover-up. Although, from some of the things he had encountered in his training, murder cover-up was probably just another political game he needed to learn to play.

 

He probably had screwed up by taking the blame in front of the females. Desperate times call for desperate measures, if he had been thinking he would have taken an expendable worker and killed them then concocted some story to help cement the facts in place. Politics was about using the events to your advantage and Ben had not done that, and he cursed himself for not thinking of it at the time.

 

He was going to have to tell the rest of the males, and the boss what he had done. The boss would have no problems with the way he was playing the situation. Jonus' dad might have a problem with the situation, Senators were difficult to get along with at the best of times. They were going to have to come up with a likely story for the media to explain the death of Senator Avery's oldest son.

 

***

 

After speaking with the boss, Ben had gone back to the remaining females and told them that the best thing to do, in order to keep the fear down with the humans, as it would be no good letting them think a murderer was on the loose, was to tell a tale of rejection and suicide. He had gone into detail about how Jonus had fallen for Julie, and Julie had rejected him, unable to live with that, he had taken his life in Julie's room. One of the girls had suggested Julie would not be the best person to use, since everyone knew she was mentally challenged. Although none of the females were willing to offer themselves up as the rejector, they all agreed it could not be Julie. After some discussion Ben decided Kate would be ideal to use, she would not know, and if the therapist asked, well, Kate was in the medical wing. The girls still needed to talk to the therapist, they were terrified. If they got the story confused now, well, the therapist knew they all came from situations of death and terror anyway.

 

When Ben got the girls settled in therapy he headed back to check on the others. The males were dispersed back to various parts of the prison. Some of them dealing with the body, some watching the security feed, some getting the showers the situation had interrupted, while Frank tried to deal with Kate.

 

The three girls huddled around Kate made it difficult for Frank to check her for injuries. He had already shoved Allison out of the way once. He needed to get her to the hospital wing and run some tests. He needed to get some x-rays and try to find where the blood was coming from. Julie refused to let go of Kate's hand and the other two refused to let her out of their sight. Frank finally gave up, and when one of the males made it to the room with a gurney he told the male he would be letting the females help him with Kate.

 

#

CHAPTER EIGHT

Frank and Kate

Frank and Kate

 

"No Ben, I don't know what is wrong with her. I have checked her from head to toe. She has bruises everywhere but no broken bones. I don't see any internal injuries on the scans. But when we move her, she bleeds more from her mouth and nose. Maybe her wolf is, I don't know. I have never seen anything like this before. Each time we handle her she seems to get worse. Maybe if we call her wolf forth, maybe she has some internal battle going on, but how that would work is something I have never encountered. I don't even know what to tell the boss. I can't stop the slow trickle of blood from her nose and mouth because there is no place to stop it from, no injury I can fix. I can't get her awake, her friends can't get her awake. Julie refuses to let go of her hand at all. She starts the most god-awful screaming when we try to get her to let go of Kate. When she starts screaming the other girls start crying. I am telling you this has turned into a real mess. I never agreed with turning that girl into a toy for everyone else and you see what comes of trying to do the wrong thing. We are suppose to be saving these girls, not causing them harm. What Jonus did, what you all did, was wrong, and now we are paying the price. Or more correctly my chosen mate is paying the price. If Jonus was still alive I would probably kill him myself. He obviously went full rogue and attacked Kate when she tried to save her friend. If you want my professional opinion, I think this shows that when a male borders on being rogue they don't need to be around females who are on the brink of changing and maturing. Something in the chemical make-up of the female must trigger the wolf to go crazy. This could be a break-through when it comes to understanding what makes some wolves go insane. But you know what, without sacrificing some of our men I can't test this theory. You are going to have to get me some of the expendables who may be on the brink of going full rogue. If I can get Kate to wake up maybe she can tell me more of what happened."

 

"Well if you think you can get anything out of her, all I can say is good luck. That one hasn't been anything but bad luck for us since we saved her. Nothing we have said or done has gotten her to open up, if anything she seems to be turning the girls against us. I have told you that before, but you refuse to listen. We haven't even gotten her to tell us when her twenty-first birthday was, we had to find out like this. Happy fucking birthday to your mate, now what are we going to do next? You have run test after test, the other girls are freaking out, her roommate and Jonus' mate refuse to get too far from her side, and the nut-case refuses to let go of her at all." Ben was sick of Kate and didn't hesitate to let Frank know what he thought.

 

Ben had grilled the other two females, Allison and Dawn, about what happened. He had tried to separate them to question them, but they refused to be separated. They had gotten it in their heads that if they were being separated it was because the men intended to hurt them. They also kept asking for Jonus to be sent far away, either they were excellent liars, and Ben couldn't smell that they were lying, or they thought Jonus was still alive. Even after being assured he was dead Dawn had refused to believe them. Little idiots refused to listen to reason. Their stories about what happened sounded believable. Dawn had even stopped Allison at one point because they disagreed about what had happened. Well, that was normal, you could take ten people and show them an accident and get ten different stories about what happened. The girls had insisted on one thing, Jonus had attacked Kate. Dawn claimed she had jumped on his back but Allison did not remember that part. Allison said Kate tried to smother him with a pillow but left him laying on the floor because Julie was so upset about the attack, and Kate did not look well at all. They both agreed Kate was fine until they made it back to the room, then she just crumpled to the floor. The girls said she was not bleeding from her nose and mouth till then, or if she was they had not noticed.

 

The girls refused to be around anyone but Ben and Frank, they were scared of their own shadows now. The suicide due to rejection had been rejected by Allison and Dawn, sometimes Ben wanted to become a hermit and go live in the woods somewhere and just let his wolf run free. He was not at all sure females were worth the trouble, which was why he did not have a mate picked out of the females they had in the facility. He hoped the boss did not get any ideas about mating him with Allison now that Jonus was gone. There was something about her Ben just could not like, she was pretty, intelligent, she had the training for the wife of a man in politics, but something about her rubbed Ben the wrong way.

 

In the hours following the incident, as the men were calling the murder of Jonus, the wolf at the edge of the property had been all but forgotten. With the only thing showing on the cameras being a foot, it was easy to forget about him. The smell of the lone wolf's blood had long since been overpowered by Jonus' blood and the sickly scent of fear from the females in their care, so it was a surprise when the alert went out that the cameras had picked up a trespasser.

 

Frank, still desperate to find out what was wrong with Kate, was the only one of the eleven remaining males who did not head for the security room to search the cameras for the trespasser.

 

#

CHAPTER NINE

The Golden One

The Golden One

 

Two hours and fifteen minutes after Marcus made the first urgent call through the pack bond the helicopter touched down in the meadow. Leaving room for Casey's small fourteen seater plane to land, everyone disembarked from the helicopter and the Seekers quickly shed their clothing and called forth their wolves while the rest of the men spread out to check the cabins and other areas of the valley.

 

Since the mission was a search and recover mission, Daniel had stayed back and given his co-pilot seat to Jamie. With Craig gone they would need another pilot to fly the first helicopter back and Daniel had not yet finished training. The helicopter had left the pack community with Roberts and Jamie piloting, Gammon and Doc, five Enforcers and six Seekers. On a normal mission Gammon and Doc would not be with the team, but this was not a normal mission. When the teams went out on missions they knew the possibility existed they might find a female, and possibly her family, it had happened, so usually the four crew seats remained empty on every mission, just in case.

 

Even though Craig had mentioned to Jamie that he might head south, they had to check everywhere. The cabin he had been staying in was the first place checked with the men spreading out from there. The men who had shed clothing and called forth their wolf to enable them to better trace any scent were called Seekers for a reason, and they were about to put their ability to seek out a scent to the ultimate test; find their pack-mate while he still lived, and save his life. The entire area carried Craig's scent, he had been here for weeks and his trail crossed over and over and weaved all around the meadow and the small lake.

 

By the time the men finally hit on what seemed to be the freshest trail heading toward the south Marcus could hear the small plane carrying the others. Most of the men were in wolf form, but not all of them. The men could not keep up with the wolves, but they did not need to, the wolves would follow the scent as it lay on the ground, while the men would follow the direction the wolves headed. In the end it would probably all equal out since no urgency or fear was scented on the trail. Without those types of scents the men knew Craig, where ever he might be now, had just been rambling around when he made the trail they were following.

 

Marcus had been so intent on finding Craig, he did not stop to think of the danger the females could be in by coming with Gammon. Fortunately Gammon had considered the situation, and when they caught up he saw the females were surrounded by Gammon's men and their own mates. Trina, true to form, was covered with weapons. How she managed to get all those on her having just come back from the airport from an overseas flight caused him to do a double take, and ask.

 

"Oh, I rented a locker and stashed everything while we were gone. I am not going into battle without weapons."

 

Marcus glared a Jaden, who shrugged, "Usually ends up in a battle bro, usually just happens that way."

 

Marcus took in more of Jaden's appearance as they jogged south, he had been crying, his face still wet from his tears, some deaths hit harder than others, and Craig's death was going to hit Jaden hardest of all.

 

Jaden kept glancing over at Marcus as they headed south. Finally, face wooden, voice hoarse with emotion he said. "I still feel him. I can't reach him, but I can still feel the bond. Can the others in the pack still feel him? Or has the bond weakened so much they can no longer feel him? Is Craig so far gone only the Alpha and Beta bond still exist?"

 

As the deep sigh left Marcus' mouth he just shook his head. He had deliberately fallen back to speak with Jaded. The Seekers, in wolf form, were well ahead of everyone as they tracked the scent. The Enforcers in human form tried to get a line on the direction the scent was going from the Seekers. Doc was running with the Enforcers, because just this once, he might be in time.

 

Now he let a little more distance open up between his Enforcers and the others. "No, by the time everyone had reached the bird I was the only one who could still feel him. None of the others could feel him anymore, not the least bit. That you can still feel him is surprising, maybe it is because of your history together. This is the weakest I have ever felt a bond get. Concentrate for a while and see if it seems to fluctuate. I can't figure it out. I haven't mentioned it to the others. I don't know what it means, at all. One minute he is almost gone, the next the link seems firmer, then back to almost nothing."

 

"No, I don't, wait," Jaden almost stopped in his struggle to figure out what he was feeling. "I don't know Marcus, it doesn't really feel much different to me, weak, almost gone," as Jaden stumbled in his jog he shot an incredulous look toward Marcus, "mated? No, he would have told someone, he wouldn't have, no, I don't know Marcus, it is like the link is fluctuating. For a minute there it was like a mated link." Jaden shook his head and picked up speed. "We have to find him."

 

The rambling that had taken Craig all night to accomplish, took the Seekers less than three hours. Well back in the trees, before the tree line gave way to scrub brush, the Seekers got their first whiff of the fight that had happened hours earlier. The wind, blowing directly toward them, gave them some clues as to what to expect. What they did not expect was the scents assailing their noses that went beyond the fight. They began to curse, and to plan, and to curse some more.

 

When Marcus finally made it to the tree line, and looked out upon the desert in the distance, and to the prison which was clearly no longer abandoned, he began to curse. Breathing deeply the others joined him. For on the wind, the scent of a battle fought, with much blood shed told a tale, but the battle could not hide the scent of underage females drifting on the wind. Subtle, but unmistakable, the scent of fear, anger, and anguish. And in the distance, rising from the prison yard, a helicopter, barely discernible, lifted up and flew south.

 

Somewhere in front of them lay their pack-mate, fighting for his life, either on this side of the fence or beyond the fence. And in that prison they all could see in the distance, the one abandoned long ago, somewhere inside that fence were females. And each male and female looking out upon the sight would bet those females were not inside that prison fence by choice.

 

Stepping more carefully now that they could smell Craig, uncertain as to what lay ahead, the men began the painstaking search for their pack-mate. It was Gammon, standing back with his Sentinels guarding the four females, who first noticed the cameras in the trees. Stealth was no longer needed, whoever was around were not going to be surprised by their arrival. The men, knowing this, rushed forward to find Craig, barely alive, brutally savaged, almost unrecognizable. The men spread out to guard him. As Doc leaned down to better evaluate him the sudden rise of a golden wolf, eyes full of flames, startled him. As he yelped he fell backwards causing the other men to jerk around in anticipation of an attack.

 

Seeing Doc, flat on his ass, scooting away from Craig, with no threat visible caused Marcus to start swearing. Jaden, who had fallen to his knees beside his best friend on the other side was also scooting away, hands thrown up in front of himself as though for protection.

 

"What the hell? Is he booby-trapped? Did they put a bomb on him, what the hell is that?" Marcus demanded when he too saw the golden shadowy wolf, eyes full of flames resting above Craig.

 

The men heard crashing noises coming from the tree line and startled shouts from Gammon, his Sentinels, and three of the females. The fourth female, had seen the golden wolf rise and was running as fast as she could toward the men surrounding Craig. Disbelief and fear on her face she shouted for the men to back up, back away.

 

As Casey ran she went over everything in her head she could remember about the sight she had just seen. No one had golden wolves, they did not exist anymore. Had not existed for centuries, the curse saw to that. But what she had just witnessed, could not be denied. Somehow, the man laying on the ground dying, was mated to a wolf-witch hybrid. Had to be mated, if any of the packs around her had a hybrid, she would have felt them before now. And if he was mated, and his mate had not met his pack, her wolf would kill them if they got too close. Shit, shit, shit, what was she going to tell them?

 

Sliding to a stop next to Craig, Casey dropped to her knees and slowly offered her hand and began speaking. The men around her, barely keeping watch for danger, darted looks at Craig, Casey and back to Marcus. But Marcus was as much in the dark as the rest of his pack. All the men saw the golden wolf, eyes full of flame, slowly fade back into Craig.

 

Finally Casey turned to look at Doc. "Slowly, come over here, just you, we don't want to overwhelm her. She understands you are going to help her mate, but go slow." She heard mutters coming from the Sentinels and Seekers spread out around them, but Marcus was the one to put into words what everyone was asking.

 

"Back up, what mate, what was that? What are, no, you know what, just start talking. Doc, see what you can do. Casey, come here, now." Marcus was beyond diplomacy, beyond the niceties of social politeness. He had just witnessed something never before seen or spoken of and Casey had come flying down the hill like she knew exactly what was going on, it was time he got some answers.

 

 

#

CHAPTER TEN

Time to Run

Time to Run

 

The men gathered around the security feed, cursing. The intruder from earlier apparently did have friends. They had figured him for a Seeker, but who, and from what pack, had not been known. They had savaged him too badly to identify him after he changed back from wolf.

 

As Ben watched the feed he began to worry. He saw the females, the twins the boss had talked about, surrounded by other males. If they had more time he could have gotten the Elite Squad and had the intruders taken out and saved the females. But Ben did not have time to get the Squad together and to the prison before the shifters outside the walls found the dead one. It would not take long after they found the dead one for them to turn their attention to the prison and the males inside. They would lose the females, they would die, the humans might have a chance but no one really cared about the humans.

 

Even if he could have gotten the Squad he did not want the Squad to know where the prison was, had never told them. The Squad saved the females, occasionally rewarded with a female, ones obviously unsuited to a life in the media limelight, and the boss took care of getting the females to the appropriate location. Ben was suddenly glad the boss had more than one safe haven for the females.

 

The shifters inside were not fighters. They were business men, sons of business men and future politicians. They had no problem ganging up on one lone wolf and taking him out, but to try to fight what had come to their area would get them all killed. He saw Enforcers, Sentinels, and what would undoubtedly prove to be Seekers. The human workers had no weapons, but neither did the shifter males. Weapons were not allowed, just in case. After all, no one had even imagined Seekers finding the prison and linking it to hidden females. The females were kept inside early in the mornings and late in the evenings, when the air hung heavy and the scents lingered. The plan was to keep their scents from lingering in the air.

 

Ben had thought the entire idea was pointless. The prison was far from any kind of civilization, at the edge of the desert, where the foothills began. The possibility of anyone showing up at the prison had been such a remote one Ben had disregarded the idea almost entirely. But, looking at the security feed, Ben found himself calculating how long it would take to leave.

 

Seeing the intruders slowly moving through the woods, coming closer to the scrub brush and the fence surrounding the prison showed Ben they did not have much time. He was calling the boss as he started giving the orders to flee the prison. Though not the Alpha of the men, he was the designated leader, and as long as the instructions made sense, the men would follow him. Fleeing the prison made sense.

 

A couple of the men rushed to alert the humans that terrorists had found the prison and they needed to leave immediately. They were to proceed to a rally point where the boss would determine their fates. Not that they knew that bit of information, no need to create problems. The boss would probably move them all to another location and they would keep doing what they had been doing. The humans were quick to respond and within minutes of the alert they were piling into the vans with small personal items. They had been trained not to leave any identification behind that could help terrorists find them later and the men could only hope they followed the training. They did not have time to check behind the humans.

 

While Ben rushed back to the medical wing to inform Frank and the girls what was happening the other men alerted the other females to the pending attack and rushed them toward the heli-pads. Most of the operation went smoothly, The other girls were still riding the wave of terror from finding a dead man in Julie's room. They were more than happy to leave the prison behind and quickly loaded onto one of the helicopters. A few of the men went with them, but not all the men could fit on the first helicopter, the remaining men would be riding in the second helicopter with Frank and the other four girls.

 

When Ben explained to Frank and the girls what was going on he got his first real shock of the day. Allison and Dawn refused to leave. They not only refused to leave, they demanded Julie and Kate be left behind also. Frank protested leaving Kate behind. One man, Adam, had stayed in the security room to monitor the feed after grabbing his bag with his personal items. He came running into the medical room, carrying his bag. The other men were already waiting at the helicopter.

 

"Oh shit, Ben, we gotta go, we gotta go now, man. That is Gammon out there, did you hear me? 'Kill you first, ask questions later Gammon'. Adam was almost panting in fear.

 

Frank, turning his head, scoffed, "Don't be ridiculous, everyone knows Gammon doesn't bother with questions. Furthermore, he lives in Alaska and he never leaves his compound. The High Council has been watching him for years. He never leaves, I am telling you whoever you saw, it was not Gammon."

 

Adam's eyebrows shot up, "Do you know another shifter, who could double as a mountain, who also takes Sentinels with him? I am telling you, I saw a picture of him once, that is Gammon out there at the edge of the woods." The tangy smell of fear was beginning to waft through the room and this time the smell was not coming from the girls.

 

Ben decided to make a call he might regret later. "Grab the girls, let's go." Turning to Allison and Dawn he demanded they follow Adam out to the helicopter. When they refused he grabbed Allison and told Adam to grab Dawn. As they picked up the girls, kicking and screaming he turned to Frank. "Leave Julie, she is no good to us in this state, if you are going to grab your mate you better do it now. Let's go."

 

Racing from the room, Ben and Adam made it to the helicopter and buckled the girls into seats. He told the guys already seated to watch them as he made one last dash back into the prison to help Frank. With a wary eye toward the back fence, he couldn't see anyone coming yet, he dashed inside. When he reached medical he found Julie screaming, Kate still unconscious, half on and half off the bed, and Frank laying unconscious on the floor bleeding from his nose and mouth.

 

Ben, eyes wide, began slowly backing away, trying to think what infectious disease caused bleeding from the nose and mouth, and what the chances were that he had been infected. He could not remember touching any of the blood surrounding Kate. But Frank had clearly succumbed to whatever had struck Kate. He struggled to remember if he had ever heard of any disease that could do what he was seeing. Giving up he took one last look at Frank and the two girls, and turning he raced from the room and back to the helicopter. He had no idea what he would tell the others but he did know they needed to get in the air immediately if they did not want to be caught by Gammon. Frank was right, Gammon had a reputation of kill first and don't even bother with the questions.

 

The men looked at him as he came flying back to the helicopter alone but he jumped on and screamed for the pilot to "Go, Go now!" as he frantically buckled himself in his seat.

 

Attention off of her for the moment, no one noticed Allison slowly unbuckling her seat belt. She might not know what was going on but she was not going to leave Kate and Julie behind. If Kate had a mate around, and he was hurt, she needed to find him and help him if she could. If her suspicious were correct, that mate had friends and those friends were the ones these males were running from now. Any friend of Kate's mate, would be friends of hers. She was not stupid, as good as Kate was, she would have true-mated with an honorable male. An honorable male meant his friends would be honorable males. She intended to be with males who had honor.

 

When the helicopter began to rise into the air, the males, so caught up with getting information from Ben were not watching her. She glanced at Dawn and found Dawn had been watching her and like her had slowly unfastened her seat belt harness. The helicopter had just cleared the fence and was steadily rising when Allison lunged for and cleared the door. Dawn had tried to follow but Allison heard her scream and Adam curse just as she started falling. As she hit the ground she realized, too late, the helicopter had been much higher than she realized. Both legs snapped and she screamed as pain shot through her. The last sounds she heard before blackness claimed her were Dawn's screams as the helicopter continued south.

 

***

 

When Allison regained consciousness her legs felt as though they had fire sizzling though them. They were broken, the pain unbearable, and standing was not going to be an option. As she looked around she realized she did not know how long she had blacked out, but she was going to have to get inside. Taking stock of where she was she began to pull herself toward the gates of the prison she could see in the distance. Tears streaming down her face she pulled herself forward. Time seemed to stand still as she pulled forward and rested, pull and rest, chanting to herself, Must save Kate, find her mate.

 

It was long moments before she realized she was rhyming and trying to pull herself forward in time with her chant. She wouldn't give up. Her legs might be broken, but she was finally free of the ones who killed her family and kidnapped her. If Kate could bond her life to a dying man to try and save his life, she could survive her broken legs to save Kate. Somewhere in the security section of the prison must be a phone. She did not know who she could call for help, but she was determined to figure it out. The pain was so great she forgot all about the intruders the men abandoned the prison to avoid. If she had remembered, she would have started screaming.

 

#

CHAPTER ELEVEN

The Truth

The Truth

 

Casey was backed into a corner, figuratively speaking. She knew of the curse Miranda had placed upon the shifters. She knew the shifters were ignorant of the curse. She had watched Trey's pack over the years, and learned much about how the shifters handled the consequences of the curse. They had, over the last few decades, figured out the females needed safety and security to produce other females. Well, some of the shifter world had figured it out, some refused to face the truth. The information Casey had would not change the curse, nor would it help the shifter world struggle back from the edge of extinction, they had to do that on their own. But how much to tell them was the dilemma Casey faced.

 

She had seen the golden one, they had all seen the golden one. But apparently the curse Miranda had placed upon the shifters had worked as well as she meant it to work. The shifters around her had no idea what they had seen, they did not remember witches. Now Casey had to decide how much she could tell them. It wasn't like she could continue to hide the information. If Craig lived, he would find his mate, and the truth would be out. If Craig died, it was a high possibility his mate would live for vengeance. If that happened, she would seek out his pack, she would, oh gods there was no end to what a tormented witch could do. One only had to look at the mess the shifter world was in now because of one heart-broken witch to know Craig dying would be the worst thing in the world that could possibly happen.

 

Swallowing hard she looked around at the others. Gammon had brought the other females down the hill with him and everyone, with the exception of Doc and Jaden, were waiting on an explanation for what they had just seen. Taking a deep breath and letting it out she focused on Gammon. He was by far the oldest shifter around, and the most likely to remember witches really did exist, if prompted. Certain things he had said before had led her to believe he could almost recall witches, but the curse kept him from fully believing. Based on conversations she had with others over the years, witches had become nothing but legends and stories, much like tales of fairies and dryads, which did not exist. She was about to shatter their world. Goddess help us, she thought.

 

"What do you know about witches and witch-wolf hybrid matings?" Her attention, though focused on Gammon, was on all the shifters as she asked her question. She registered everyone's confusion, but her attention never wavered from Gammon's face. She watched as his eyebrows slowly rose, a look of concentration on his face as he stared at her. She could almost see his brain making connections, but the curse held firm. She knew it had when Gammon started shaking his head. So close, it had been so close, Casey was disappointed. She would have loved to have had a shifter who understood. She thought, if she mentioned a hybrid, he would remember. Damn Miranda and her vengeance. She had almost destroyed an entire race for vengeance. Vengeance that had not brought her daughter back to life.

 

Looking back at Craig, Casey decided to change tactics. She might as well, if the curse continued to hold, despite all evidence to the contrary, the shifters surrounding her would forget about witches almost as soon as she finished telling them. Casey had no idea how to combat a curse over two centuries old. Her only hope was Craig. He was mated to a hybrid, so in theory, one she just made up but hey, it sounded like it would be a good theory, his pack-mates, at least, should be able to retain the information that he was part of a hybrid mating. She idly wondered where the parents of the hybrid was, probably dead if she was in the prison. She darted her attention back to the prison. The helicopter that flew away a bit ago probably had all the females on it. Shoulders sagging she realized the men in the prison either knew what they had, and for some reason had not mated her, or they had no idea and would kill her when they found out.

 

Shaking her head she told Gammon her fears, "Somehow, somewhere, a female shifter-witch hybrid exists. I know you may have problems believing me, but just assume, for the moment, I know what I am talking about. Someone did a mating bond and bound Craig to this female. We have to find that female. If the men in the prison have her, and find out what she is, they will use her to destroy you and your people. Unless of course they are the ones who did this to Craig and she finds that out, in which case she will destroy the world to take her vengeance. Either way, if we don't find that female, we are fucked ten ways from Sunday, excuse my language."

 

Everyone tried talking at once and Casey could barely hear herself think, much less make out what everyone was asking. Finally a shot rang out and everyone dropped to a defensive position except Gammon, who gave a deep sigh and looked at Trina, who shrugged her shoulders and replaced her pistol in the holder. "What, we couldn't hear ourselves think much less hear Casey. I want to hear more, this is fascinating."

 

Casey almost felt sorry for Gammon when he reached up to rub his forehead. The others had fallen silent when the shot rang out and no one had spoken since.

 

Gammon, looking around, told the others, "I don't know what is going on but we have to take that prison. Now, most probably they fled when they saw us, but we don't know that. We can still smell the rancid smell of fear and terror in the air, but we don't know what is going on inside. All we know is, at least for a moment, several females were in the open long enough to leave that kind of scent. They could be holed up inside waiting on us. But my bet in on them being on that helicopter that flew south. Who might be left in the prison is anyone's guess. I am familiar with holding a compound and keeping it safe and secure. But, Marcus, your pack is better trained for taking a building. Based on what we have seen, and what we have in front of us, what do you suggest we do?"

 

Marcus still wanted to know more about the golden wolf inside his pack member. Casey had not mentioned that at all. But he was willing to concentrate his attention on more important matters, find those females, destroy the rogues holding them, and save Craig's life, oh, and find Craig's apparent mate. This is the absolute last time he let one of his go off alone if this kind of shit was what they had to face.

 

Turning around to look at his Enforcers he demanded, "Who has the satellite phone? Call Roberts and Jamie, tell them to get those birds down here. Drop them in that clearing about ten minutes back up the hill. We will need one now and one later. We need the stretcher so we can load Craig up." Marcus started barking orders and soon had a plan worked out to try to take the prison.

 

As the team rushed to get into position Marcus turned to Trina. "Find the cameras and take them out." He pointed to her pistols, the ones he could see. He knew, even though Jaden would not admit to it, the little she-wolf had more than the two pistols he could see. Right now he did not care how much weaponry she had on her, if she would use it to take out the cameras they might have a better chance of completing the mission with no loss of life.

 

"Doc, how's it coming. Can you save him?" Marcus could still feel Craig, he could see him breathing, but the link was still so weak he did not understand how he was even still alive. When he saw Doc's face his breath stuttered in his throat.

 

Doc was shaking his head, Jaden was openly crying, it was only then that Marcus noticed the line running from Jaden to Craig. Giving a mental shout through the pack link he demanded the men who could give blood to Craig do so as soon as possible. The men knew who was a match with whom, and the three men who could match with Craig came rushing back while the rest continued with the mission. Doc enlisted the females to help him, while Gammon's Sentinels stood watch around them.

 

Soon Doc had the other three males hooked up to bags the females were holding. As soon as Jaden finished he gave one last look at Craig before rising to his feet with a determined look on his face. He had done all he could do by giving his blood to his best friend, now he needed to find his friend's mate. He knew what it was like and he would level the prison brick by brick if that is what it took. As each man finished giving blood they raced back to their positions. Doc continued trying to sew Craig up while keeping the blood flowing from first one bag and then the next. He needed a hospital, or better equipment. Craig was losing blood almost as fast as he could get it in his body. He was healing too slowly.

 

The females were holding pads to various injuries but Craig had more serious injuries than they had hands and Doc knew they were fighting a losing battle. He had no idea how Craig had held on as long as he had but he hoped like hell that mate of his was strong. Because, at this point, he had no illusions the mate was the only reason Craig still lived. He had fixed up Jaden, and, even though he had not told Marcus how badly Jaden was when he got to him, he had marveled then that Jaden had survived that bullet wound. He had wondered then how much truth there was to the old tales of mates drawing strength from each other. When they had finally found Trina, and he had heard how she had suffered along with Jaden he had wondered even more about the old tales. But Jaden and Trina had not gone through the mating ceremony so he had finally pushed his thoughts to the side.

 

Looking at Craig, knowing he had mated, and seeing the wounds he should not be surviving, Doc finally began to believe, again, in the old tales. Doc had no other explanation for Craig's continued survival. If it was true, that a mate could save your life, and it was also true that separation could drive a mate insane, although, that was supposedly only mated couples that had not yet been through the bonding ceremony, Doc thought it imperative someone find that little mate of Craig's, and find her soon. He did not think Craig would make the trip back to the community in the shape he was in and he did not have nearly enough medical supplies in the helicopters for the surgeries Craig needed. Craig had sustained too much damage for the healing abilities to handle.

 

Not bothering to look up at Casey, he asked "Will her being a hybrid help save Craig? Tell me what you can, anything you can, that I can use to save him. He isn't going to make it if we don't do something. I am guessing, an educated guess based on the information you gave us, you have to be a witch. You don't smell exactly like a human, though close enough, I suppose, to fool most of us. And you smell nothing at all like a shifter, so you can't be basing your information on the fact you are a hybrid. What can I do, what can we do, to use that information to save his life?"

 

Casey, drawing in a deep breath, sat back on her heels. "I don't know much more than any of you, not really. I mean, I know more, but what I know isn't useful to this situation. I don't know much about hybrid matings. I do know that is what Craig is part of now. I don't know if finding his mate and getting her to him will help him, but I have to assume it will. After all, your tales speak of the same thing. True-mates saving each other with their shared strength has to be more than just some fairy tale or Craig would not still be alive. I can also tell you this, the only time a wolf and a witch can mate, is if it is a true-mating. They can not mate for connivance, or comfort, or old fashioned love, or any other reason, it has to be, will always be, a magical true-mating. And that golden wolf we all saw, belongs to the child of such a mating. When the magic bonds a witch to a wolf, the magic gives the female her own wolf, a copper colored wolf. When they have a female child, that child will have a golden wolf, with all the powers of both parents."

 

"But a shadow wolf can not hurt anyone, that is a bonding thing. The only time we ever see the shadow wolf is during a bonding ceremony. So how is it we all saw the golden wolf rise up out of Craig. Not to mention, the flames within the eyes. You screamed at us to back up and wait and I need to know why. No, I want to know why. If it can help Craig, if anything can help me save him, I want to know."

 

"Well, mind you, what I am going to tell you is only rumor. Maybe rumor is not the right word. Ok, now I don't know this for a fact, but from what I have researched, the golden wolf rises when the pair mate, and anytime either of the pair is in danger. I don't know what the golden wolf can do, but the old books warn against harming a hybrid pair. The danger was not spelled out, maybe once upon a time it did not have to be spelled out, but the stories I read, of times long past, gave clear warning to back away from a golden wolf with eyes of flame. From what I pieced together, a hybrid mated pair, somehow, can do something to the wolf that resides within you. The books never said what, exactly, the golden wolf can do, but I got the feeling, for some reason, maybe all the warnings written about it, but, for some reason you do not want to ever find out what would happen if you threatened the golden wolf, or maybe if she felt threatened. Like I said, most of what I know is from reading old books, and speculating. The clans do not speak of the golden wolf, ever."

 

"But we don't even know where this golden wolf is so how could she feel threatened by us?" Casey looked up at Gammon when he asked the question. She was a bit surprised he had kept silent so long. She thought for sure he would have interrupted her half a dozen times while she was talking.

 

"They are mated aren't they? That makes them one. I am guessing, because our books have a bit about shifters but we don't know everything, your wolves only reside within you after the bonding. But for a hybrid mated pair, both wolves reside within both the male and the female. If you find the female, the male's black shadow wolf would rise to defend her if they felt threatened. Although," Casey looked back down at Craig, "both wolves should have risen. I am guessing, based on nothing at all, Craig is hurt to badly for his wolf to rise. That would explain why only the golden wolf rose in protection. And before you say anything, it was a guess. I don't know anything else that could help you."

 

Gammon snarled, "You know too much to be anything but a witch. So why so secretive. If this was something that could happen, why hide? What would you do if your mate was in one of our packs? You couldn't hide that forever. You had to know, your, what did you call them, clans, had to know the possibility existed."

 

Bitterness dripped from her voice as she answered, "Oh, the possibility has always existed. To mate with a wolf is forbidden. The penalty is not pretty, nor easy to live with for either party. But to produce a child is a death sentence for the child. If the clans find out she exist, they will not rest until she is dead."

 

"So you would kill her? Your clan would demand her death? Do you think you could take us all out to kill her? She belongs to Craig now, and by extension that makes her belong to Marcus. Jaden is Craig's best friend, and my niece is Jaden's mate. Jaden would be unhappy, which would make Trina unhappy, which would make Mia unhappy, which in turn would make me murderous. Do you want to go that route?"

 

"I am not clan. I will never be clan. So don't even go there Gammon. If I wanted to harm you, any of you, I could, easily. But, Trey's pack is family to me, and in my world that makes your pack and Marcus' pack family also. Call it a left-over from my upbringing. To me, your people are my clan. As close to being part of a clan as I can ever be, so don't even go there." Casey's voice rang out across the clearing, and everyone who heard it could hear the truth in what she said.

 

Gammon looked down to see her glaring up at him. Bold and defiant, he knew she spoke the truth. Whatever secrets she held, she would eventually tell him. He was starting to have bits and pieces, fragments of memories, floating through his mind. He had been startled to hear her claim his pack as part of her family. But if that was true, she should realize he took care of his family. He did not know what had caused the bitterness he could hear in her voice, but he intended to get to the bottom of it one way or another. It did not help that she claimed the clan would kill Craig's mate if they found out about her. He intended to find out more about the clans, and see what could be done to prevent them from coming after Craig's mate.

 

 

 

#

CHAPTER TWELVE

Taking Over

Finding Kate

 

Roberts was flying one of the helicopters south, trying to determine if any threats existed in that direction. He needed to see if anyone was coming, if anyone was waiting, and if anyone was leaving the prison. When he had settled down in the clearing the men had quickly grabbed radios and given him his instructions, fly a grid over the southern side of the prison and stay alert. Radios were not normally used since they could speak to each other for some distance, but they had Trey and Gammon and their people with them, so radio's were a must on this mission. Always be prepared meant trying to plan for any situation. Rarely did the pack team with anyone else to complete a mission, but it had happened in the past, hence the availability of radios.

 

Roberts had been just out of range of being able to hear the mental conversations going when he had been at the cabin waiting. He wished several times he had known the team would be going out of range of his ability to pick up what was being said. As much as he hated using radios he would have suggested someone take one. Jamie, who was a little more powerful than him, had been able to hear fragments of what the team was talking about. Jamie had caught the mental shout when they had found Craig's body, and just enough after that to think that maybe Craig was still alive. But until they had flown the birds within range of the rest of the team, they were mostly in the dark.

 

The team had been trying to fill them both in, but what they were saying made no sense what-so-ever. Roberts would have thought they were pulling a fast one on him if the situation had not been so serious.

 

When he found nothing to alert the team about he gave Marcus the all clear and continued to fly watch. He heard the men when they breached the fence, he listened to them as they slowly advanced upon the first building and he gave a sigh of relief when they made it inside the main building. They usually cleared houses, not entire prison facilities. They were short handed for this mission and Roberts could only hope the prison really had been abandoned. If the rogues had taken Craig's mate, and Craig survived, and the mate survived, they would be able to find them where ever they went. But that was a lot of ifs and Roberts knew, with an operation this big, they were going to have a hard time tracking the rogues even if everything went perfectly. And nothing every went perfectly when rogues were involved in the equation.

 

It seemed like an eternity, when thirty minutes later Roberts got the all clear to land at the heli-pad inside the prison walls. Jamie was in the air moments later to put the second helicopter inside the fence. The men were still clearing the prison, but from what they had found so far, whoever was there had left in a rush. They had found the wing where the girls had been held. The scent of terror and blood and death still lingering in the halls and rooms. The team had gotten more angry and more determined to find the rogues who had hurt the female whose blood they smelled. They thought the scent of death might be from a male, possibly someone Craig injured. If the rogues had gotten attached to the females then maybe one of them had wanted to say goodbye? But that made no sense to the team either, if the male was in good enough shape to make it to the female section, he was in good enough shape to heal. They needed more answers and no one had stayed behind to give them the answers they wanted. They had cleared what appeared to be a worker dorm, the men said it smelled of humans, no scent of wolves at all. They had found the abandoned security feed room. And had gone through the rooms in that wing and found the scent of twelve different shifter males.

 

The men were wanting to make the prison a second get-away when they found all the amenities inside. Marcus had nipped that idea in the bud. When they found the phones working the idea had been suggested they use the phones to call back and get someone on researching the prison. Marcus had shut that idea down quickly also. He did not want to take the risk the phones might be bugged. Everyone was surprised to find cell phones did not work at the prison either.

 

By the time the team had made their way to the last section left to clear, Roberts and Jamie had found the refueling system and taken the opportunity to refuel the birds in case they needed to leave in a hurry.

 

Doc was still trying to stabilize Craig enough to get him off the ground on onto the stretcher they had brought. He still had little hope they could make it back to the community with Craig in the shape he was in at the moment. They needed to get him to a hospital, but they could not take him to a human one. The longer Craig held on the more the hopes rose in the pack. The shout of triumph and joy rang through the pack bond and across the radios a few minutes later. The team had made it into the last section of the prison, and it was a medical ward. They had not cleared it yet but from the initial findings they thought they had what Doc needed.

 

Moments later the joy turned to dismay and worry, the scent of death was strong in the air. The smell of terror and blood lingered in the hallway. The same terror and blood from the female side of the prison. One of the team members thought he heard a noise so the team had backed down and were regrouping. Marcus did not believe the rogues would have retreated to the medical ward to make a stand so the team stepped up the search. Various team members came to the conclusion that Craig would have taken at least one shifter down so the noise they heard could be from an injured male who got left behind. The biggest worry was not that they would find an injured male, that would work out well for the team; it would give them someone to question. The worry was, who died in the female wing? They knew it could not be Craig's mate because the golden wolf was still with Craig, and he was still hanging on to life by a thread, however brittle that thread might be at the moment. If his mate had died, he would not have lived this long.

 

It did not take the team much longer to find the body. The curses began to fly when one of the team recognized the male as Senator Avery's oldest son. The Senator was going to be wanting the body of his son, but he was going to have some serious questions to answer before Marcus would give it up. The rogue rot seemed to go very high indeed if Senator Avery's son was involved. Everyone knew Jonus had been being groomed to follow in his father's footsteps. His father would have to step out of the public eye soon, before the humans started asking questions about his youthful appearance. When he stepped down, it was thought his son would be ready to step up. While the men continued to clear the ward Abbot stayed behind to look over the body, he thought something seemed off about what they could see. The team heard his laughter through the bond moments later. Someone had cut Jonus's throat after knocking him out with some kind of glass object. The position of the large knot on his head, which still had glass shards and had probably bleed profusely, did not line up with the slice in his throat. He had been hit with something on the right side of his head, but the hole in his neck was on the left side. It would have been hard for Jonus to have been hit in the left side of his neck with a flying shard of glass. According to Abbot, the angle was all wrong.

 

Roberts looked over at Jamie, standing next to him beside the helicopters, and muttered, "And that boys and girls, ladies and gentleman, shifters and witches, is why it pays to have a forensic scientist on the team. They did say we have a witch on the team now right? Cause I thought they said a bitch at first and I was sure that meant they were letting Trina join the team. I was about to turn in my resignation when I heard."

 

"Yep, they definitely said witch. Craig mated with a witch. Did you know witches were real? Cause I gotta tell ya bro, that was a surprise to me. If we weren't on a mission, and Craig fighting for his life, I would have to call them on that one. No such thing as witches. Think this means dryads exist too? Maybe I can find me one of those to mate. Quit laughing, think about it. They live in a tree, with a tree, one with a tree, stands to reason I wouldn't have to put up with her but part of the time. When she reaches the end of her rope, she can just go hug a tree."

 

The next words they heard stopped all laughter as they heard the voice come across the radio. Most of the building clearing had happened silently, the men relaying to Marcus what they found so he could relay to the others. But the men had just broken radio silence. At first all the men heard was a female screaming. But finally, whoever had broken radio silence moved away from the screaming female repeating what they had been trying to say.

 

"I am telling you we found her, and another one. Can't get a word out of the other female, but that damned golden wolf is guarding the unconscious one. What do we do? The building is clear, we need Casey, like right now. Dammit, stop your screaming, we are trying to help. Marcus, we got a problem. She is almost falling off the bed, but that wolf is watching us like a hawk. And holy hell the other one will not stop screaming.

 

Casey, sputtering with laughter, was the one to answer the radio call, "That golden wolf will not hurt you. She sees what she sees and she saw you helping Craig out here right? So she knows you are family to him. You can put his mate back on the bed."

 

"No, Casey, she didn't see, that other one saw. This one was inside. I love Craig, he is family, but I am not getting hurt just to push his mate on the bed. The damn thing is watching us."

 

"It is the same wolf, the golden wolf you saw with Craig, is the same wolf. It is her wolf. She doesn't have two golden wolves, just one. Now be a good boy and take care of Craig's mate just like you would your own."

 

Laughter echoed through the pack bond. No one had ever thought to ask Casey how old she was, but she had just called a hundred year old shifter a boy. Finding the female had taken a load off the team. They still did not know if Craig would make it or not, but his chances had just increased dramatically.

 

As soon as the men found the medical ward, Gammon and Trey had worked on cutting the fence nearest Craig. Once Craig was stable enough to move, they were going to head straight for the medical ward. Now they had twice the reason to get him there. If the tales were true, they needed to get him to his mate.

 

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when Doc finally announced that Craig was a stable as he could get him without better equipment. The were loading Craig onto the stretcher and racing for the medical ward moments later.

 

Everyone wanted to see the new female, both new females, even the one who would not stop screaming and crying. When the men finally arrived, and Doc saw the medical ward, he cried. He was good, he had been through medical school and trained as a trauma doctor, but he could not save someone as damaged as Craig without serious medical equipment. The facility was a small hospital.

 

Marcus and Gammon cursed when they finally saw the set-up, Marcus more than Gammon.

 

"This kind of set-up is permanent, not some temporary fly-by-night operation. We have been sending men to the cabin for years while the entire time they were operating a set-up like this right under our noses. I am going to get to the bottom, or in this case, the top of this rogue faction and I will bring them all down. They had eleven females here, with an operation that screams money and time. I will kill them all." Marcus shouted.

 

Gammon, teeth gritted, looked around the prison. "I want to see the one who keeps screaming. Come on, Marcus, we gotta see about getting your new female to her mate anyway. Your guys are still refusing to touch her."

 

"Yeah, well, not too sure about touching her myself. Those eyes are some kind of freaky. You see those flames?"

 

"I saw them. I have seen that look before, I just did not remember. Whatever is going on with that, I intend to get to the bottom."

 

Trey, who was bringing up the rear, spoke up, "I have seen them before, but every time I tried to ask about them, the memory kind of faded. Casey has those flames in her eyes when she gets fired up about something. When I picked up Donny, and she found out I had not bonded him to the pack yet, she had those flames in her eyes when she demanded I take his oath or kill him. Or maybe she offered to kill him if I did not take his oath. Either way, she definitely had those flames in her eyes."

 

With the prison cleared the men had time to look around and really study the layout and search for clues. Marcus called Roberts in to see if he could find some kind of information on the computers that would lead them to the other females, or the leader of the rogues. Roberts was by far the best computer expert they had on the mission today.

Doc was setting Craig up in a trauma unit with all the surgical equipment he could possibly need, Trina, knowing what Craig meant to her mate, had elected to stay with him and help. Though, she did admit she had no training in the medical field. The team was continuing to search for clues throughout the prison, but it was going to take days to go through the entire prison.

 

Gammon, Marcus, Trey, and the other females continued toward the screaming, followed by the Sentinels guarding them. The door was being guarded by one of the Seekers who gave a deep sigh when he saw the twelve people round the corner and head his way. The look of relief on his face was comical when Marcus told him to go help the team. Seconds later he had rounded the corner at a run and was gone. The screaming from inside the room had not stopped.

 

Marcus saw Gammon grimace before he reached out to turn the knob. As Gammon pushed open the door the screams increased in volume only slowly beginning to decrease as the females filed into the room behind Gammon. Mia, who had experience over the last two decades with traumatized females being brought to their compound recognized the shattered look in the young girl's face. Darting forward she approached her, whispering comforting words as she got closer. When she was close enough to touch the young one she found herself with an armful as the young girl lunged into her arms, crying.

 

Looking around the room Mia saw a couch against the far wall and led the girl to it, sitting down with her as she continued to whisper assurances of safety and love.

 

Meanwhile the men, were warily looking at the female with the golden wolf. Marcus was the first to notice the wolf looked bad. A golden wolf is distraction enough without everything else that had occurred that day, but really looking at what was in front of them, the men could see the golden wolf looked haggard. The flames did not seem to dance as high in the eyes, the head was more bowed than before, the body of the golden wolf, what they could see, seemed to sag somewhat.

 

Marcus, squaring his shoulders, approached his newest young pack member. Speaking softly he told the golden one, "We have to get her to her mate, he needs her. I am going to pick her up and take her to Craig. Will you let me help her. Would it help if I told you I am your Alpha now. I will take care of you, and your mate, but we need to get this one to him." Marcus reached for the female, as his arms slid under to pick her up the golden wolf faded back into the female. The relief in the room was palpable.

 

When he turned to go he noticed one of Gammon's Sentinels acting strangely. He had seen that look, those jerky motions once before. He muttered to Gammon as he walked out the door with the female, "Better look to your man, his mate is close, was close, maybe was a prisoner here." Trey, who was walking out with Marcus, turned to looked around the room, his eyes landed on Delany and Gammon heard him mutter, "Yep, he got bit."

 

As Gammon turned startled eyes toward his men he realized Marcus was right. Delany had that jerky motion he had seen countless times in the past. But, studying him, Gammon realized Delany was not looking at the female Mia was holding, and he had not followed Marcus from the room. Gammon stared hard at his Sentinel, hard enough the others noticed and turned to stare also. It was at least a minute, maybe more, before Delany realized he was the focus of everyone still left in the room. His Alpha and fellow Sentinels were watching him, the only one who was not watching him was Mia. He turned to look behind him, to see what the others were staring at, but saw nothing. He slid to the side a couple of feet and everyone's eyes followed him.

 

Delany finally gave up, "What are you staring at? Why are all of you acting so strange?"

 

Gammon gave a snort of laughter, causing the other three Sentinels to laugh. They had heard Marcus when he left the room. In normal times Delany should have heard the comment. That he had not, and did not know why everyone was staring at him, spoke volumes.

 

"What are you so jumpy about Delany? Is your wolf giving you some problems there man? Do you want to, I don't know, maybe listen to him and see what he has to say about us staring at you?" laughter in his voice Gammon continued, "Where is she?"

Gammon had just gotten the best news of the day. If Delany had a mate, somewhere, and it was not Craig's mate, and not the shattered one in Mia's arms, they could use his man to find the other females. He wanted to shake Delany and slap him on the back in congratulations at the same time. If Delany had not been so involved in everything going on, he would probably have recognized the signs he was giving off himself and they could have had the birds in the air searching for the females already. Gammon watched the blood drain from Delany's face as he listened to his wolf. He saw when the realization hit that somewhere, out there, was a female and that female needed him. Gammon caught him before he reached the door.

 

"Whoa, man, slow down. Take it easy. The birds are ready to fly. Jamie is still standing by on hold at the heli-pad. We are not going rushing off into danger though. Center yourself and find which direction your little mate went. I will get some of Marcus' team to go with you. He has too few men for a mission like this. We will find her, I promise you that, but it might take awhile. We don't know how big the operation is yet." Gammon could tell he was not getting through, and boosting his Alpha power to make the man obey him would not work, at least, not for long. The magic was too strong. The call to find and protect the true-mate too much to be ignored.

 

Delany took a deep breath, then another, when he closed his eyes and turned Gammon knew he was finally centering himself with his wolf and working to find the direction of the lost female.

 

"Ok, south, so she was probably on that bird we saw fly out of here. What we are going to do is get you to the heli-pad. Jamie is going to fly you south and see if you can get a more generalized direction from the air. You are not to try to track your mate to the new location. We will get a team together for that. Do you understand? If you try to get Jamie to fly you all the way I will make sure he ignores you. If you do not listen to me, you could lose your mate for good."

 

"I understand Gammon, I do, but you know that is going to be the hardest thing I have ever done, right?"

 

"I know man. Trust me, I fully understand. But if you let the wolf tear at you, we could lose her for good. You just get in the air and find which direction they went after they flew south."

 

Gammon got on the radio and relayed the message to Jamie and Marcus. Jamie, who had the bird idling let them know he was ready to go as soon as Delany reached the bird. Moments later they lifted off with two of Marcus's Seeker team to try and get a location direction on the lost female.

 

 

 

 

 

#

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Allison and Delany

Allison and Delany

 

Allison had no idea how long she had been struggling to reach the gates. She had caught movement a few times, but when she tried to focus everything appeared to have a heat shimmer effect. She did not intend to give up though. She had to make it to the prison and help Kate. As she continued to struggle she heard the clear sound of a helicopter firing up. She realized the slight noise she had heard before was the rotor on idle. If she had been able to stand she would have sank to the ground in despair.

 

It was obvious she had been out longer than she though earlier. The men had returned to the prison and they knew she was out here, somewhere. She lay her face against the sand and began to cry. The men had obviously decided to come looking for her, or her body. Escape had been so close. If they had just stayed away she would have eventually made it back inside and found a phone.

 

She heard the helicopter when it flew over but she kept still. She knew they would find her, they would send their wolves if they could not see her from the air. It might take the wolves longer to find her, since she fell from the air and they had no scent trail to follow, but they would find her. As the helicopter faded into the distance to the south of her she lifted her head. They had to know about where she jumped from the helicopter, they had flown way past her location. Maybe they had just come back for more things and they were not coming back for her after all. Taking a deep breath she began pulling herself toward the prison, again. They may have come back for Julie and Kate, she had to know.

 

She continued to stuggle but soon heard the sound of the helicopter returning. Her head sagged down as she listened to the sound of it circling before flying back over her. After a moment the she heard it fly over and then back over before finally landing, somewhere. For some reason, she felt safe, even though she knew it would not be long before the men found her again. Maybe the pain was affecting her brain, but she suddenly wanted very much to be found by the men.

 

Meanwhile, four very confused men were circling the helicopter. They had headed south, but after a few miles, when Delany centered himself with his wolf again, the direction had changed so Jamie had turned to fly west, but Delany had demanded they fly back north, toward the prison. Jamie flew back toward the prison, then over and past the prison and Delany had demanded they fly south again. Gammon was demanding to know what was going on, Marcus was demanding answers also, and the four in the helicopter had no answers to give.

 

Finally, after flying back and forth for awhile Delany had demanded to be put down in the desert. He said he would just find her on foot. Gammon had refused the request and demanded the men return to the prison. When the helicopter landed they were met by Marcus and the rest of his team. Gammon, Trey and the females, along with their Sentinels had remained inside. The men piled out of the helicopter and turning toward Delany prepared to follow his wolf. They had no idea what they were going to find, an underground bunker maybe, or some camouflaged hideout, but the men did not care. They were trained to seek out rogues, and destroy them.

 

Except, in this case, the one who would be doing the seeking was a wolf from another pack. They would just be his backup. As the men spread out behind Delany, he raced toward where he could feel his mate. When they reached the fence they turned and headed toward the gate. As the team jogged through the gate Delany turned west and ran along the fence, finally angling away from the fence and toward the south.

 

Fifteen minutes later Delany's wolf let out a howl.

 

Allison stared in disbelief at the strange men surrounding her. One of them was looking at her with anguish on his face. She watched as he dropped to the ground beside her and gently touched her face. She closed her eyes, this, this feeling must be what Kate had told them about. She had no idea who this man was, but she felt like she had come home. When the man tried to turn her over she screamed in agony. He immediately released her and demanded someone go get a stretcher. She listened to him threaten death and dismemberment if that someone did not hurry. She heard his demands for a doctor for his mate. Then he did something so surprising Allison had no words, he lay down on the ground beside her and just held her. His face, wet with tears, created the most incredible feeling inside of her.

 

"Shhh sweetheart, I am so sorry. I would not have hurt you for all the gold in the world. What is wrong, what happened?"

 

"I jumped, from the helicopter. They left Kate and Julie behind. I had to try to get back to them. I had to. But, we were high, higher than I realized. My legs, I broke them. Please, my friends, they are still inside, we have to help them."

 

Allison heard someone else speaking, "We found her, she can't help us find the rest though. Tell Doc we got another one for him. She jumped from the helicopter, broke both legs. Get that stretcher ready, we are going to need it." He turned back to see Delany brushing the hair from his future mate's face.

 

"Hush love, it is ok, we have your friends. They are safe. No one is ever going to hurt them again. We won't let them. What is your name and which one is Kate, and which one is Julie?"

 

Allison gasped in pain as she told him her name and then she tried to tell the men to be careful with Julie. But she need not have worried at all. Kate was right, if you are a good person, your mate will be good, the perfect complement to you. And if you are good, the ones you are with would be good.

 

"Look at me. No one in that prison now will every hurt your friends. The screaming one is Julie, which means Kate is the name of Craig's mate. Your friends are safe, that is what we do, we keep females safe." Delany watched Allison give a start of surprise and saw he look of disgust, knowing what the rogues were capable of he hurriedly continued, "No, not like that. We keep them safe so they can choose who they want to mate. As few females as we have, don't you think it would be better for them to find their true-mate, cause that is what we believe. We have a compound in Alaska, nothing like this at all, where we have thousands of acres to roam around. Sometimes, we even get females like your friend Julie, shattered by experiences they have faced, lost in a world of darkness and despair, we take them in too. We have people who help them heal, and if they don't want a mate, we don't force them to find one. We have one now, she has lived with us for six or seven years now, still single, still refusing to have anything to do with any males. She was kept captive in a basement for years while the Alpha of the pack waited for her to mature so he could give her as a gift to his son. That Alpha is no longer alive, his son is Beta to the new Alpha, and that Beta has his true-mate. Believe it or not, his true-mate turned out to be his current Alpha's sister. We were keeping the sister safe in Alaska while she was young. The old Alpha was a real piece of work so her family sent her to us to keep her safe. When she reached twenty-one her father took her home. We keep females safe so they can have the life they want, not the life we want for them. We are nothing like the men who were keeping you and your friends in that prison, nothing!

 

Allison was glad then that the male had laid down beside her, she could easily reach his face. "You know, you never told me your name."

 

She watched him turn red, as the men around him began laughing, he muttered, "Delany, my name is Delany."

 

 

 

#

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Kate

Kate

 

My limbs felt heavy, and I hurt all over. I tried rolling over but someone was laying beside me. I slowly opened my eyes, or tried to, the light blinded me. I lay there, blinking, trying to focus, trying to remember what had happened, where I was, and who was laying beside me. As the memories came rushing back I felt a contentment, and lots and lots of pain. I tried to breath deeply, but even breathing hurt. My breaths shallow, I reached out with my mind. But to my surprise it was not my parents who answered but a complete stranger. A fragile sounding stranger with a pain filled voice.

 

Don't let go. Never let go.

 

Turning my head I see I am in bed next to a strange man, my mate. Guess we survived, so far anyway. From what I can see of him he is one solid bandage. I can't see much so I try to lift my head. I gave that up pretty damn quick. I reach again for the connection to my parents. They have to be close, within a few hours of, well, I don't actually know where we are now. I get nothing but silence.

 

Slowly turning my head the other way I try to figure out where we are, other than a hospital. I don't know if we are still at the prison, whether they rescued me and got me to safety somewhere, I have no idea where we could be and no indication.

 

Centering myself again I reach for the voice. The strange voice that could only have come from the male next to me. My mate, and I don't even know his name. My parents will never believe this when I tell them. I try to think back to what I do remember. A sick feeling pervades my stomach, I remember killing a man. I remember going back to my room, screaming, falling, a mating ceremony, then nothing. I don't smell anyone I know in the room. The room is covered in the scents of others, males and females, but not my females, not my friends.

 

I start to panic before realizing, if I am laying next to my mate, we are safe. I can find the others. I just hope my mate can heal fast enough to find them before it is too late. I know Dawn and Allison will take care of Julie, the other girls will also. I feel myself drifting back into the blackness and I struggle to stay awake. I need answers. I must have made some small sound because suddenly a strange female is peering down at me.

 

"Ah dear, aren't you a lucky one. You managed to avoid the clans, extermination, and still mate to your true-mate. How did you manage to live so long? Who kept you hid so well I wonder? No, don't try to talk. You have been out all day and most of the night now. Gabby has gone to get you something to drink. Marcus is on his way. He wants his oath and he wants it now, or as soon as you can talk. Bold, your parents must have been ten kinds of bold, and twenty kinds of stupid. Do you realize you single handedly broke the curse Miranda put on the shifters. Oh, probably not the full curse, but I can actually talk to them about witches and they still remember the conversation an hour later. Do you know how many times I have had conversations with some of these same men over the years and they never once remember anything I said about witches. Miranda will shit a gold brick when she finds out the curse is broken. Congratulations, if your parents told you about us, about the clans, which I am not part of so do not insult me by asking, if you know anything at all about your history then you know what I am talking about. Just nod your head."

 

I nodded, but I had questions. I tried to ask, but she was right, talking was not an option right now. I hoped this Gabby person hurried with the drink. My tongue, sticking to the roof of my mouth, felt heavy and I felt as though my mouth was full of cotton. I hoped this Marcus guy showed soon. If he was my new Alpha, well, since I never had an old one I guess he would not be new, so to speak, but if I gave my oath, I could talk to him without effort. I tried to remember if that meant I could not talk to my parents anymore. I could not remember my parents mentioning anything to that effect. But I also could not reach my parents. But, she said all day and most of the night, so it must be the middle of the night where ever we are. My parents probably spent all day searching for me, probably half the night. They had been trying for months to locate the fancy prison in the desert.

 

"Ok, I hear Gabby and Marcus coming so listen up. Whatever you do, do not mention the curse to anyone. Do you hear me? We will speak again after they leave. If you value the life of your mate, and the rest of the shifters, they can not know of the curse."

 

I found myself nodding my head while silently screaming at my parents though our bond. I didn't know what I had gotten myself into, but I saw the flames rise in the woman's eyes as she forbid me to mention the curse. She did not seem pissed about the broken curse and she had not killed me outright, but I really needed to talk to my parents. I did not know what to do. The one thing they had kept me from all my life was other witches. They knew my birth was a death sentence, and here I was, in the room with another witch and laying helpless on my back.

 

Just as the door opened and three people walked in I heard the groggy voice of my mother. She was crying, I could tell, frantic with worry she began to demand answers. Answers I did not have. I left the connection open so she could hear what was being said in the room.

 

"Hello little golden wolf, I don't know how much Casey told you but my name is Marcus, that fellow laying beside you so still and quite is Craig. First off, thank you from the bottom of my heart for saving him. Although, once you get to know him, you might decide to kill him yourself, but as his true-mate, I hope you don't. Hey, no, don't look like that, it was a joke, in poor taste but a joke none-the-less. Drink some water while I tell you just what you have gotten yourself into and then Doc will look at you again. First off, I don't know if you know this, because I don't know how isolated you have been, but I am Craig's Alpha, as his mate that makes you mine. I need you to oath bound your life to my pack, specifically, to my leadership. I will ask for your oath of loyalty to me, to the pack, and you will agree to it. Do you understand that?"

 

I waited for him to say more but finally realized he was waiting on me. I had swallowed some water, but my mouth and throat was still so dry and scratchy that I finally just nodded. Both my parents were listening at this point and neither had interrupted what they could hear with comments. But, when they did not hear anything from me after a moment my dad demanded "Tell him yes, give him the oath. You must belong to pack. Pack will keep you safer than we ever could."

 

I know dad, I am nodding to him. My mouth is just so dry and scratchy. I have been out of it since morning. Hush now please, you are making me miss what he is saying.

 

"You agree to this? You realize the oath will bind you as surely as the mate-bond bind you right?" When I nodded he continued speaking, "As long as you understand I will go ahead. But you have to be able to at least say the words I so swear when I am done for the oath to set. Can you manage any words yet? I would not rush you like this, but we have at least eight missing females somewhere out there and you seem to know more than Allison about what is going on. Besides that, Allison gave her bond to Gammon, not me, so I can not speak to her mentally."

 

I jerked my head up when he said eight missing females. I was going to correct him, we had eleven females at the prison. But he said eight, if Allison was here, and I was here, who was the third female?

 

"Who?" my voice broke as I tried to ask him who the third female was. Please please don't let it be Dawn. If Dawn was here, and Allison was here, where ever here might be, then no one was watching Julie. Tears of frustration trickled down my face.

 

"The oath first, then we can talk."

 

When he finished, and I croaked out the words needed, I felt my mind open up with new pathways. I smiled when I heard his voice in my head.

 

"How bout we try it this way Kate, and see what we can figure out, I will speak to you, and you answer mentally."

 

You said eight females, but there were eleven of us here, so who do you have? Who else? You said Allison, but did you rescue another one? Why not all of them, why only rescue three?

 

"Whoa, whoa, not so many questions at a time. We rescued one that screams, a lot, Julie I think they said her name was. Gammon also has her. Not to take her oath, but because his mate is with him and she has dealt with shattered females before. You see, my pack is a Seeker pack, we seek out rogues and rescue females such as the ones held here. When we make a rescue, we have a pack who takes the females to Gammon's territory for safety. They can chose the life they want, the mate they want, or no mate at all. I don't know a lot about Gammon, until recently he did not come into my world, and I did not go into his. But I do send rescued females to him. His pack's job is to protect our females until they are old enough to chose their pack. As far as rescuing you, we didn't, Craig is my pack, so I felt the attack, or rather I felt him dying. I gathered a team, and some others invited themselves along on the search and recover mission. We did not rescue you, they abandoned you. We just thought you and your friends were valuable enough to keep instead."

 

So where are we now? Back in your pack territory? Where is that?

 

No, we are still at the prison.

 

Ask him where that is, where is the prison?

 

Marcus eyes widened and he turned his head, looking around the the room before I saw his eyes narrow as he turned back to me. "Who was that?"

 

Before I had a chance to say anything the strange witch popped up, "Who was what Marcus, we can't hear her, remember? You are the only one in the room that can, other than Craig, and he is out cold."

 

"Someone, besides Kate, just spoke through the pack bond, and it was not anyone in my pack. They want to know where the prison is, and I want to know who they are."

 

My apologies Marcus. I did not realize you would be able to hear me speak to my daughter. We have been searching for her for a year now, and her mother and I would appreciate it more than words can say if you would tell us where our baby girl is right now.

 

I watched Marcus turn his head to look at the strange witch, no one has told me her name yet. "He said he is her dad. I think you have a few more things you need to tell me about this hybrid mating, Casey."

 

Ah, so her name was Casey. I did not recognize her name as any my parents had ever mentioned.

 

You have someone there who can tell you of hybrids? Not a witch is it? Please tell me you have not let a strange witch around my daughter.

 

Casey is a friend, family you might say. Well, I would not say that personally, but she labels us her clan. We are not certain what that means, exactly, but Casey won't hurt your daughter. She helped us to save both your daughter and your daughter's mate. Marcus had no idea why they seemed so worried about Casey being around Kate. This new addition to his pack was getting more and more interesting.

 

Interesting, you will keep her safe, I know this, you are her Alpha and I heard your oath to her and her to you. Do you have room for a couple of more in your pack. Where my daughter goes, we go. And we have been without her for far too long as it is. If you can remember us when we finish talking that is. Hard to be part of a pack when no one remembers you because of a bloody curse.

 

Yeah, about that curse, I am going to be needed more info about that. We, none of us remember witches, but apparently memories are starting to come back since you daughter mated into my pack. And even the ones outside my pack are reporting memories coming back. Look, where are you at now? Do you have a number we can call? I can get one of our pilots to come get you.

 

By the time Marcus had finished making arrangements for someone to go pick up my parents, who I found out were less than a hundred miles away, I was crying, they were crying and that strange voice I now knew belonged to my mate sounded in my head again. I let the connection to my parents close, they were on their way, but right now, my mate needed me.

 

Don't let go. Never let go.

 

Turning my head I looked at him. Trying to reassure him I reached out my hand and stroked his hair. He was missing patches of hair, and the bandages left little skin for my hands to touch.

 

"I am not. I will never let you go. You saved me. I saved you. We saved each other. You concentrate on healing because I can't wait to get to know you. I hope you like to laugh, because I intend on laughing a lot to make up for the last year of horror. I want to see the sun-rise, well no, actually, I never want to be up that early. But I would like to see the sun-set. It has been over a year since any of us got to see the sun rise or set. I am not a morning person, at all, so don't try to treat me to a sun rise, it will not make me happy." I knew he could hear me, maybe not everything I was saying to him, but he could hear. I forgot about everything in the room as I tried to reassure the man laying next to me.

 

But Marcus apparently did not want to be ignored his voice cut through my musings to my mate. I snarled at him before I realized what I was doing.

 

He blinked a couple of times before motioning to my eyes, "That freaky fire thingy has to go or you have to learn to control it or something. You can't go around with flames in your eyes all the time. How in the hell did you get away with that for so long here? Allison said you had been here, at the prison, for almost a year, or slightly over a year, she wasn't sure."

 

I took a deep breath, I had forgotten, for a moment, what I needed to tell Marcus. If Julie was here, and Allison was here, then Dawn was out there, somewhere, and we needed to find her.

 

We have to get Dawn. The men took her with them. You have to rescue her also, and a few others. A few of them are lost causes, they want the life the men offered, but three of them, and Dawn do not want that life. So you have four females to rescue, my friends, family while we were here. Can your people rescue them?

 

"We are working on it. We found the dead male, we know who he is, and we are going to try to negotiate a trade with his father. We are willing to trade him his son's body for information, we just don't know if he will take the trade."

 

"Bugger him and the whole bloody bunch. We don't need information to find Kate. I blooded her, all you need is me. But I can't leave Craig, I will not, I promised him I would hold on to him."

 

"Blooded her?" I saw Marcus turn to look at Casey who just shrugged with a confused look on her face. When Marcus turned back to me I realized he did not know what I was talking about.

 

"Yes, I traded blood with her. I have her blood and she has mine. I can find her, I think. In theory I should be able to track her down. But my parents were uncertain how it worked. Mum told me to mark the ones I cared the most about. But the only one willing to trade blood with me was Dawn. Even Allison had shuddered in disgust at my suggestion we trade blood to become family. I could not tell her why, I could not tell any of them anything. What if they mated and told their mates while I was still a captive. Do you know what could have happened?"

 

Marcus turned back to look at Casey again. This time she had something to say, not very helpful though, but it did make me laugh. "Look here, I told you I don't know a whole lot more than you people, if you keep looking at me I am going to tell Krys you could not keep your eyes off me while we were gone. You will be lucky if she doesn't castrate you. Then Fido can take over the pack cause you know they would never follow a castrated wolf."

 

"If my brother hears you call him Fido he is going to come unglued you know."

 

I laughed again when Casey stuck her tongue out at Marcus, "Trina said I could call him Fido because that was his new name, so there! If you don't like it, take it up with his mate, not me."

 

I think I am going to like my new family. I will like them even better if they can find Dawn and the others.

 

"So can you help me find Dawn? Will your pack do that for me?"

"Kate, this is your pack now also. You don't realize it, but rescuing females is what we do. We will do everything we can to save the other girls. But any help you could give us now would be appreciated. Do you remember ever hearing anyone say anything about another place? Any clues at all, no matter how little sense they may make, could help us."

 

"I don't know anything. The males never said anything about another place. They did not talk much about what they were doing unless it was to tell us how glad they were that they had been able to save us. They asked for our help in saving others. They assured us we were safe, but we weren't, not really. Did Allison tell you about the dead male in Julie's room?"

 

"Yes, she told us what happened. You did the right thing. I know it will be hard to live with, but you know you did the right thing. A man who will take a female against her will doesn't deserve to live. You were protecting your friend and you will not have a single pack member ever hold that against you. We are going to let you rest. You need to recover, the faster you heal, the faster he will heal. Food should be in soon, eat, sleep and rest. We can talk more tomorrow, but not too early, I heard what you told Craig."

 

Laughing Marcus left the room, Gabby and the other guy, no one had ever bothered to tell me his name and I never thought to ask, they had left earlier, while Marcus was talking. The only person left in the room was Casey.

When I looked at her she winked at me, "Don't worry about the flashy eye thing, they don't like it when I do it either."

 

When the door opened again yet another stranger came in, "Hey there Kate, glad to see you are awake, I brought you some food. After you eat I am going to check you over and we are going to check under those bandages covering Craig and see how the two of you are doing. Oh, you can call me Doc by the way, everyone does."

 

The food smelled so delicious, and someone had cut the steak for me into bite sized pieces. Doc and Casey helped me sit up and they moved to the corner to talk while I ate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Craig

Craig

 

I felt like my entire body was wrapped in a huge cotton ball. Everything on my body hurt. I tried to move, my body, weighted down and pain racked, refused my commands. I hurt every where. I felt strange also and it took me a while to recognize the feeling. To be honest I did not recognize the feeling, my wolf did.

 

Mate safe. Saved us.

 

Mate? What mate? We don't have a mate? What kind of afterlife is this? I can't move, I can't see. What happened to the golden wolf sent to lead us to next life? I want a refund. This trip sucks. Who is in charge? Did they put us in a box to ship us? Where do I leave my review. I am only leaving a one star review. That golden wolf was beautiful, but come on now.

 

Mate safe. Mate here.

 

My wolf seemed to be laughing at me. This was not funny. I still hurt, and I couldn't move. I would take the pain if I could move again. I swear when I get out of the shipping box I am going to find that golden wolf and give her a piece of my... my thoughts stuttered to a stop as I realized I felt different. Like a piece of me that had been missing all my life was complete. The memories began to drift through my head. I remembered finding my mate, I remember getting attacked, I do not remember mating anyone though. Pretty sure I would remember a mating ceremony. Yeah, not something I could forget. But as I center myself with my wolf, and look deep within myself, I see him curled up with the golden wolf. Ok, now I am just confused. So the golden wolf came to save my wolf but not me? Did she stick me in a packing box?

 

I hear the faintest whispered laughter then, I realize the soft voice has been speaking for a moment but I was too caught up in giving a bad review to realize it, I listen and, nope still confused.

 

You are not in a packing box silly man. You are in a hospital. All bundled up in pretty white bandages. I have to say though, I do not think white is your color. I can't see much of you, but I would have guessed a hunter green, maybe a sable brown would be more in your color wheel.

 

My color wheel? What the fuck kind of afterlife is this? I definitely want a refund. Just reverse the address and ship me back lady.

 

Well, I kind of can't ship you back. I may have mated with you while you were out of it. For the best of reasons, I can assure you. And besides, I told you, you are not in a box. You are in the hospital and Doc says you are looking really good. However, if you want to keep looking really good you will let me sleep. It is too early in the morning for chit chat. I am not a morning person so go back to sleep Craig.

 

Wait a minute, mated? No, no I would remember that. I am telling you someone got the address all mixed up. I am suppose to be relaxing at the cabin in the woods right now. Why can't I move? What did you do?

 

If you don't go back to sleep I am going to tell Marcus, and I will use my flashy eyes to do it. He hates my flashy eyes. Please, for the love of little green apples and flying monkeys, please go back to sleep.

 

Monkeys don't fly.

 

Really, is that all you took from the whole thing? Monkeys don't fly? My god no wonder Marcus said I may kill you myself when you recover and I get to know you. Can you please just ask your wolf if you are mated, take his word for it, and let me sleep? I will buy you a pretty blue teddy bear if you will just let me sleep.

 

A teddy bear? Why in the hell would you buy me a teddy bear. I don't want a teddy bear. I want out of the box I am in. Why can't I see anything? I can hear breathing but I can't move and I can't see.

 

"Dammit, Casey, can you cut the lights on and help me take the bandages off this man so he will let me sleep. He thinks he is in a box being shipped somewhere, I wonder if Marcus is up yet."

 

I heard someone get up and walk across the room. Suddenly I could make out shadows but I still could not see. I felt hands messing around my face and when light suddenly blinded me I closed my eyes. I could feel my wolf howling so I centered myself with him. He was rolling around, with that damn golden trickster, who apparently did not lead me to the afterlife. Why do I have a golden wolf inside?

 

Open your eyes! The demand in my head came from that not-so-soft voice. She did not sound as sweet as she had just minutes ago. When I eased my eyes open I found she was blocking the light. A beautiful angel was leaning over me, keeping the lights from blinding me. As I began to focus I realized my beautiful angel was a very pissed off unhappy angel and for some reason that made me sad. I tried to reach up to stroke her face but I still could not move. I wanted to stroke away the sadness and anger I saw in her... holy shit, her eyes are on fire. I tried to scoot off the bed, lunge off really. My arms and legs, which moments before were not working, suddenly chose just then to cooperate with me and I fell off the bed.

 

I heard a screech from somewhere behind me as I hit someone on the way day, and they landed under me breaking my fall slightly. I still hit hard, and now I hurt even more, but I ignored the pain in favor of trying to escape the flame filled eyes staring over the edge of the bed at me. Apparently I had been strapped to the bed and now I was free. Whoever was under me was trying to shove me off, but that would put me closer to the scary angel on the bed and I was having none of that.

 

The door burst open and the room flooded with people. The first to reach my side was Jaden. I found all the anger I had for him had vanished, I would completely forgive him if he saved me from the freaky little angel on the bed above me.

 

Seconds later my forgiving mood had vanished. Jaden was trying to help me but he was laughing so hard he went down to the floor with me. Someone pulled the person I had landed on free and I could hear her cursing up a storm while trying to find out what was going on. I was more concerned with how Jaden knew what the freaky angel and I had been talking about in our, wait, how was I hearing her in my head? How did Jaden know she and I had been talking about her putting me in a box?

 

"Craig, my man, as glad as I am to see you made it back to the living, most people are trying to sleep. I can assure you your mate did not stick you in a box and ship you anywhere. I don't know why you will not listen to her but she is pissed. You can not be waking your mate up and Kate, please don't make a habit of waking your Alpha up just to complain about Craig waking you up. I promise you that is not the position of an Alpha. Your parents made it here safely, they checked on you, but you were asleep and after they looked at the time your dad refused to wake you up. Said he could see you were safe, he liked to live, and he did not want to risk waking you up. Craig, I have to say, learn something from your mate's father. If the man looks at the clock and loses his color and backs out the room because it is too early to wake his daughter, the daughter he has not seen in over a year, I can assume he knows something vital about her, like not to wake her up early in the morning. Jaden, quit laughing at Craig and help me get him back on the bed. You look better today than you did yesterday. Course, the only way to look worse than yesterday is to be dead. Now, the team and all our extras have been up for hours, we just got to sleep a little while ago, we have a shit ton of work ahead of us, I suggest you go back to sleep." With that last pronouncement Marcus grabbed me by my feet, Jaden grabbed my upper body and they started lifting me toward the bed. Even as bad as I felt though they were not expecting me to jerk out of their arms. Hitting the floor the second time hurt worse than the first. Apparently I was still dreaming, maybe they did not see the flames. What the holy hell is going on? Did I wander into a horror movie and no one told me I was the star? All I could think of was getting to my feet and getting out of this place. Right up until I felt the brush of power from Marcus.

 

Shuddering I froze in place, half-way to my knees. Jaden reached out to steady me and helped me get to my knees. I was going for getting to my feet but I was not strong enough.

 

"You will get back in that bed, you will apologize to your mate for making her cry and for fuck's sake get some sleep." The power boosted up and I felt myself struggling to get back on the bed.

 

Something was going on here and I felt like I was the only one without a script. I did not know my lines for this movie, or farce, or whatever it was I had gotten myself into this time. I realize I am a practical joker and sometimes, occasionally, ever once in a while, the boys retaliate against me, but I think they went overboard this time.

 

When Doc came running into the room I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. He looked pissed, but not at me, at everyone else. What ever joke the others were playing, Doc was not the one to play along.

 

"What the hell do you call yourselves doing? I told you before I went to bed, he needs quiet, he needs to heal, he has so many pain killers in him he should be dead from those alone, much less all the wounds, get him back on that bed. He is not out of the woods yet. Marcus, what the hell is wrong with you?"

 

When Jaden started sputtering I changed my mind about forgiving him. "But Doc, we didn't do it. We are completely innocent, this time. It was his mate, she put him in a box and shipped him somewhere and he didn't like it. We were just trying to change the address on the box and ship him back."

 

I watched the confusion on Doc's face for a moment before it cleared, "You did hear me say he has enough pain killers in him to kill him? How clear do you think a man can be when he has that many narcotics inside of him? Did anyone take the time to explain to him what happened? I don't expect he will even remember waking up this go round. Maybe not the next time either. He is still about as close to death as I ever want to see a pack member. Now get him on the bed, explain to him what is going on, and let his mate hold him. That is the best medicine I can prescribe at this point." I watched Doc cross his arms and glare at the others.

 

Drugs, that made sense. A drug induced dream. I let Jaden and Marcus put me back on the bed. I can live with that. I was attacked, near death, drugs, yeah, no flashy fire eyes. I look up at the angel laying beside me, normal green eyes. Ok, I got it. I hear Marcus saying something but the drugs pull me under again just as my angel wraps her arms around me. I remember giving a sigh of contentment, mated, drugs, everything is going to be fine.

 

 

#

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Kate

Kate

 

I feel my mate thrashing around, he has hit me a couple of times now in his drug induced sleep. I hope he does not wake up again. The thrashing before was what made us strap him to the bed. Well, not us, more like them, but I thought it was an excellent idea. Still think it is an excellent idea. I snuggle deeper against him, hoping he will just calm down and go back to sleep. I am not a morning person and I don't plan on becoming one for him.

 

I growl as I feel him wake up and reach for me. Moments before, when he was thrashing around, I wanted to choke him, now though, I just want to hold him, and be held by him. His hand, gentle as it strokes my face, is still keeping me from going back to sleep.

 

His sleep filled voice reaches me, "Who are you? Where did you come from? Can I keep you?"

 

"Not if you don't let me sleep you can't. Please Craig, please, we can get to know each other later, we have the rest of our lives to get to know each other, but please let me sleep. Just a little longer." I beg.

 

"But I don't even know your name. Please, open your eyes, talk to me."

 

I waited my entire life for a true-mate, ok, not my entire life, just the last year or so, but still, it can wait. Neither of us is going anywhere anytime soon. At least, I don't think we are. They are waiting until Craig is well enough to make the trip back home. They have crews coming later today, crews? Maybe they said teams? Doesn't matter, they have people coming to tear this prison apart looking for clues, but I just want to sleep.

 

"Please beautiful, look at me."

 

I open my eyes, this waking me up early will have to stop. Before I get the chance to tell him so he yelps and scrambles off the bed. I rub my forehead, it is too early for this shit.

 

I hear Casey laughing. She stayed the night with us on a couch on the other side of the room. She missed out on the mental conversation a couple of hours ago when Craig woke up, but Jaden filled her in. She gave my mate a new nick-name, box-man. I don't know him yet, but I can't see him liking it very much. Has to be better than Fido though. I met him last night. His mate told me it was perfectly acceptable to call Jaden Fido. He had just rolled his eyes at her. I have the feeling they will be calling Craig box-man no matter how he feels about it.

 

Hearing scuffling noises I ask Casey what is going on. I would have to get up and lean over the bed to see Craig whereas she has a perfect line of sight.

 

"Oh, nothing much, he seems to be making his escape. This is why witches shouldn't mate with wolves. He is a prime example. This is the third time he has tried to escape you. Are you starting to feel a little insecure yet?" I can barely understand her through her giggles. Making his escape?

 

I get up and lean over the bed to see, nothing, I follow the sounds to see Craig crawling toward the door. This mating is not going at all like I thought it would. I don't know whether to wake up Marcus or what to do. He strictly forbid me to wake him for anything but an emergency and he did not consider Craig waking me up to be an emergency. Sighing deeply I look at the blood on the floor, I would consider that an emergency. I guess Craig tore something again falling out of bed. Casey is right though, I am starting to feel a bit insecure.

 

I start to call out to Marcus through the bond then remember, my parents are here so I call them instead. They can meet Craig and help me get him back in the bed and maybe someone can go get Doc.

 

Craig had made it to the door and had just worked it open when my mother stepped over him and rushed over the the bed. My dad stopped to talk to his new son-in-law by mating. Dad can feel the hurt radiating from me so things are probably about to get ugly in the room. Maybe I should have called for Marcus. It did not help when I heard Casey exclaim, "Damn, wish I had the popcorn. Wonder who I could get to bring me some. Shoot, I forgot we have no cell phones here."

 

I did not have to call anyone. Turns out Craig called for help. I heard him through the pack bond. I added my voice to his and told Doc Craig was bleeding again. By the time Doc and some of the others reached the room my dad was ripping up one side and down the other. Just chewing him out good. I felt the desire to defend my mate, I really wanted to, but this last time hurt. He did not have to hurt himself trying to get away from me. He called me beautiful, but only until I opened my eyes. If he would have just let me sleep, like I begged him, we would not be in this mess. I would not have gotten upset at being woken up too early again, my eyes would not have been filled with flames, and everything would be just roses. I would be asleep.

 

As the guys tried to help him back to the bed I gave up and just rolled over and faced the other way. This mating was not going well at all. But, just then mum's voice whispered through my head, Have patience luv, he will heal, he will learn, and he will love you greater than you have ever known.

 

By the time they got Craig settled back on the bed I had calmed down. When I turned to face him the flames were gone from my eyes. I watched him eye me warily before carefully reaching out his hand to stroke my hair. His voice was a caress when it whispered through my head.

 

Ah sweetheart, I am so sorry. I am the worst mate ever. I don't remember anything see, and the drugs keep pulling at me. I open my eyes and see monsters and teeth and I hear the flesh tearing from my body. Then I see you, and you are the most beautiful treasure in all the world. I just want to hold you in my arms and protect you from the world. Then you do the whole fire flashing eyes and I don't know where I am all over again. I don't know what is real and what isn't. My soul tears at me to protect my mate, but my mind tries to trick me into believing I don't have a mate. I am just really confused. Please, don't cry. I can't handle that. I swear I never meant to hurt you. Will you tell me your name. I know your dad just told me your name is Kate, but I just want, I don't know what I want. I don't know what is up and what is down. Don't let go. Never let go.

 

Oh Craig, that is so sweet. Do you know when you were unconscious and barely clinging to life those last few words were all you could say. You repeated them time after time. And I held you, I lent you my strength, because I waited too long, and I dreamed too many time of having a true-mate rescue me to ever let you go. I am sorry if my flame filled eyes make you uncomfortable. My mum gave them to me. All witches get them when we get upset. I am only one half wolf-shifter you know, and one half witch. I hoped, I mean, I wanted it to not matter to you. But you get so upset every time. The magic is never wrong you know. We could not true mate if you were not my true-mate. You will grow to love me for me and not the bond. Mum says so and dad agrees, this is the way it happens. But, it is kind of funny to see your face when you try to escape. Dad says it is very human of you.

 

I did not get much else said, the very human comment had stopped him from stroking my hair. He had the most marvelous dumb-struck look on his face.

 

Human, I am far from human baby.

 

I know, but really, we are mated, and it is not bad being mated to a witch. Dad told you so himself.

 

When Doc showed up he proceeded to rip into everyone in the room, even though it was not anyone's fault. Not even Craig's, not really. With what he had been through, and the amount of drugs pumping though his system it was no wonder he could not tell up from down. I scooted out of the bed, moving still hurt but every bit Craig healed, helped me hurt less. I let the others change the bedding, it was covered with a fair bit of blood. Soon Craig, new bandages on the worst of the wounds, bandages removed from the ones newly healed, eased back onto the bed beside me. Everyone had left the room this time, including Casey. Craig was over the worst of it, healing far better than anyone had even hoped for, and for the first time since it happened, he was in far better command of his mental facilities.

 

"Do you think they might bring us some food soon? I am starving Feel like I haven't eaten in days."

 

"Yeah, I think so. I think Casey went to get some real sleep. And Trina said something about finding us food. Marcus said the team was getting up and about. Doc said we can go home to your community today. He thought, with how you were healing, it would be days before you were ready to be moved. But now he thinks today would be ok. Later today. I can't stop flames in my eyes, you realize that right? Do you think you can get use to it?

 

"Oh sweetheart, if I have you in my life I can get use to everything. So tell me, do you have a good sense of humor? Because, maybe they warned you? I have a very twisted sense of humor."

 

I smiled, "Oh no, they told me about your sense of humor. I think we are going to get along just fine."

 

Before we could discuss anything more Trina came into the room, followed by Jaden, both loaded down with plates of food. Salivating I reached for a plate. So intent on my food, and filling my belly, using your strength to keep your mate alive takes a lot of energy, I heard Craig apologizing to Jaden.

 

"Man, I really do owe you an apology. I never understood, none of us could. Until it happened. One minute I am just rambling along in my wolf, the next minute we feel our mate and then nothing. I mean, plenty happened, but my mind was a blank. All I could think about was getting to her. Seventy years of training out the window. I never smelled them, I never saw them, I never heard them. All I could see, or feel was finding Kate and protecting her from the world. I would have watched the world burn to save her. That almost cost me my life. Which brings up another thing, it almost cost me my life, do you see the difference? Your mate is not suppose to almost cost me my life, only mine."

 

"Yeah, I know, I went a little insane that day. Well, you understand now. I am sorry man. I would never have hurt you or Krys for the world. You are family. When I thought we had lost you, I went a little crazy that day. I don't think I am allowed back in that airport anymore. We barely made it out without a major incident. Don't ever do that again. I have almost lost you twice in the last two months. I think that is you limit. You have reached your limit of near-death experiences. No more."

 

"What the hell Jaden, you ass, the first time was your fault. Not mine. I was just minding my own business when you decided to go nuts."

 

"Yeah, I know, I said I am sorry. I did say that right?"

 

I just listened to the two men. Jaden had sat up with us last night for awhile and told me all about almost killing Craig a few weeks ago. I will admit, it was funny to see how fast he moved when my wolf rose. He was back tracking and trying to apologize, I ended up laughing at him after the initial surprise at seeing the golden wolf.

 

Soon enough we were done eating. Jaden and Trina had brought so much food so they could eat with us. I think, I hope, Trina and I were going to get along great. All her arrogance and bluster seemed to me to hide some insecurities. I was a bit miffed that Craig kept sniffing in her direction and giving her strange looks. After they left with the plates I saw the door ease back open.

 

A man I had not yet met stuck his head in the door and looked around. "Are they gone? What did you think? Did you smell her? Tell me I am not going crazy. Oh hi, you must be Kate. Welcome to the pack. Come on Craig, you smelled her. Did you recognize the scent? Tell me you remember that scent." The guy turned toward me again, "Sorry, name's Jamie."

 

"She does smell familiar. Why does she smell so familiar?"

 

"Let me give your memory a boost. Two dead shifters, throwing stars, ring a bell?"

 

"Holy shit! Are you telling me that the two dead shifters were at her hands. No way. Why hasn't anyone said anything? Surely someone should have said something."

 

"Man, I don't think they know. Jaden hasn't said a word. Think about it. We were on the detail that cleaned up that mess. Who handled the bodies? Us. Who was it smelled the throwing stars? Just the two of us. By the time we got all the evidence back, we had handled everything so much no one could get her scent. I am telling you, that little mate of Jaden's is the one who killed them. Everyone thinks she is all bluster and talk when she talks about killing rogues to get them to leave her in peace. Roberts and Daniel hate her. You know how hard killing our own kind is, but there she is, with at least two dead by her hand and she hasn't told a soul. If Jaden knows, he isn't talking. Watch her though, every now and then she gets the same haunted look in her face we see in the mirror. Now, Jaden is, by far, closer to you than anyone else. What do you think we should do? She is going to eventually break from holding that kind of secret, you know she is, and that will destroy Jaden. Put yourself in his shoes. How would you feel if you did not know until too late what had happed with your mate. I mean, the pack knows, and we have her back, but no one knows about Trina. What do we do?"

 

"Wait, the entire pack knows what I did? Why? I mean, that isn't something to brag about. Why would the whole pack know?" the last came out in a wail when I was going for calm and collected.

 

Craig turned to me, "Not everyone knows. Jamie exaggerates sometimes. The ones who have been though the fire, they know, they know what to watch for, and how to help you cope with taking the life of another. No one blames you for what your did, every single one of them would have done the same. Well, not exactly the same, they would have wanted him to suffer more. But the fact is, no one blames you and everyone wants to help you. You are family. It is what we do."

 

When he turned back to Jamie, after kissing the tip of my nose all he had to say was, "Give me time to think about it. Remember you have known for weeks now, and I just found out. Let me spend some time with them. Now, don't you have a mission a head of you. I need some more sleep, go, go. I will see you later."

 

After Jamie left Craig turned to me. "No one blames you sweetheart, but it will eat at your soul. Help me figure out what to do. You heard him. Trina has killed at least two of our kind, that we know of, and apparently she hasn't told a soul. That is going to eat at her. Come, lay back down with me and hold me. I have some thinking to do. Please."

 

My mind drifted as we lay back down. When I felt his arms wrap around me I knew I was home. It did not matter where we went, or who was there, as long as we were together, we could get through anything.

#

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Dawn

Dawn

 

The flight from the prison had happened so fast Dawn did not have time to grab anything. When Allison jumped from the helicopter she tried to follow. Better dead than in the hands of the men who had her. And she had to save Kate and Julie. The monsters, who called themselves their saviors had just left them there. She had kicked and screamed for Allison but the men had held her tight. With Kate and Julie left behind, and Allison gone, Dawn was the only female on the helicopter.

 

Her only hope at this point was Kate. Whether it was true or not, Kate had once asked her to share blood with her. Although Dawn thought it sounded like a disgusting practice, Kate had been almost frantic about the ceremony. Dawn had finally agreed to allow Kate to nick her hand so their blood could mingle. Afterward, when the blood had dried, and the nicks had healed, Kate had said the oddest thing. With a smug smile on her face she had told Dawn, "Now I can find you no matter where we end up. Dawn really hoped that was true.

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