Rionna’s face pales when she turns to face me, a young woman standing at her side attempting to comfort her.
Something is very wrong here, Devina whispers.
“Where is Kota?” I ask, dread settling in the pit of my stomach.
“Where is my baby?”
“I- I ,” Rionna stammers, tears clinging to her eyes as she looks around the play center frantically.
“I was just reading a magazine…” she whimpers.
“And then-” I follow her gaze, not seeing Kota anywhere in the playcenter.
“Where is my baby?” I repeat, handing my things to Celina and storming through the play center.
“Kota? Kota, ¢ donde estas? Dakota!”
Rionna follows close behind me, tears streaming down her face as I search for my pup.My lungs feel as though they are collapsing, every breath I take labored and almost too painful to take.I hold my breath as I search the area, refusing to breathe until I know my baby is safe.
A lump forms in my throat, trapping in the scream I want to release so desperately that it scratches and claws at my soul.
After a thorough search, I turn to Rionna, hoping this is all just a sick joke she’s playing.
“Where is he, Ri?” I ask her calmly, growing irritated when she opens her mouth but says nothing.
Grabbing her by the shoulders, I shake her violently.
“Where is my baby?!”
“I-I’m so sorry!” she cries, collapsing on her knees and begging for forgiveness.
“I was just reading my magazine when this-this man came up to me and-“
“Aman?!” I snap.
“I don’t know.” Rionna shakes her head.
“He was tall…blue eyes,” she says, gesturing to her eyes.
“H-his hair, it was light but not blonde.”
A chill crawls up my spine as she describes the man she had spoke to.
“H-He asked me which kid was mine and then I woke up all alone” Rionna explains.
“I started searching for Kota and ….Oh Goddess! I’m so sorry!”
She sobs, taking my hands in hers and squeezing them for comfort.
“I don’t…I don’t know what happened! I don’t know! I looked away for just a moment, it was just a moment-“
She weeps uncontrollably, Agnes doing her best to soothe her.
Meanwhile, something inside me is breaking, shattering into a million pieces as I try to take a breath and find myself unable to inhale even an ounce of air.My chest tightens and it hurts.It hurts to breathe.
All the sounds of the world, Rionna’s sobs, the laughter of the children playing in the background, the questions Celina asks the other adults in the room…
suddenly go quiet, and all I hear is the sound of my own beating heart.
It means friend and for many weeks after I left Silver Crest, Kota was my only friend.
After he was born, Kota became my only source of happiness and my daily reminder to keep moving forward.I could not just collapse because I had a little someone depending on me to be strong and brave.I had to work, I had to forget, I had to build my walls nice and tall so no one would ever hurt us again.
But now, as the world around me continues moving forward, my world…my small beautiful little world is gone.
All the pent up frustration I’ve held in for so long has finally reached its limit.It starts with the tears rolling down my cheeks and a burning in my throat.
My face flushes with anguish and Celina tries to calm me down.
“Breathe, Talia, breathe!” she says cupping my cheeks.
“I-I can’t!” I gasp, unable to fill my lungs with air.
“I can’t breathe!”
“Shhh, shhh.” she soothes, smoothing back my hair.
I suddenly feel an electric jolt ripple through my body, a calming sensation spreading down my spine.
“Breathe,” Celina murmurs, taking in a deep breath with me and letting it out slowly.
“That’s it,” she whispers as we breathe in and out.
“Atta girl.Breathe in and out.In and out.”
I give her a quizzical look when I finally manage to catch my breath and she smiles sheepishly.
“I’m a healer,” she replies.
“Now, let’s get your baby back.So this man,” she says, turning back to Rionna.
“Did he give a name? Talia, do you recognize the description?”
“It’s Christian,” I reply, wiping away my tears.
“There’s no doubt in my mind it’s him.He’s the only man that would have any interest in Dakota.”
“He said you would know where to find him,” Rionna adds.
“That’s all I remember.”
“Well, do you?” Celina asks me.
I try to quell my racing thoughts and think for a moment but I am interrupted by my phone ringing.
Pulling it out of my bag, I check the caller ID before answering, my blood boiling with anger.
“Did you help him take my baby?!” I snarl.
“Did you help him do this to me because I swear to you with every fiber in my body, if that bastard hurts my baby, if that bastard harms a hair on Kota’s head, I will hunt you down! I will skin you alive and tear you limb from limb.” I pant, Devina growling violently in agreement.
“Now, you are going to tell me exactly what you know about Christian and his plans.I want to know everything!”
“Christian has Dakota?” Jordan replies, the sound of his voice irritating me.
“Don’t play stupid!” I snap, putting the phone on speaker.
“I’m not! I swear!” he argues.
“I swear I didn’t know.Yes, Christian sent me to come find you, but I still don’t know exactly where you are.I just flew into California because I found your plane tickets and a phone number from the area.Christian doesn’t trust me anymore.He had me followed and watched and last night we discovered Christian is working with witches to find you and Kota.That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you! Christian is using magic! He’s coming for you-“
“Who is ‘we’?” I ask, growing angry with myself for not listening to the warning signs sooner.
“Qi Oi, mon cheri, Micah and Nikki,” Micah shouts into the receiver in response.
“And some other random kid who’s been watching Jordan like a blind hawk.”
“Where are you?” I ask.
“We just arrived in some City about 2 hours north of San Francisco,” Jordan replies.
“We were going to- what’s the pack called?- The Blood Moon Pack.”
“They’re going to Patrick’s pack,” Celina mutters.
“Tell them to meet us at River moon.”
“Forget Blood Moon.Go to River Moon,” I instruct them.
“Meet us there in 20 minutes.”
The drive back to River Moon is silent, each of us lost in our own thoughts. I lower down the window, my fears slowly suffocating me as we get closer to the pack house.
Beside me, Rionna avoids my gaze, the guilt overwhelming me as I watch her fidget with her ring.
Without saying a word, I curl up beside her, Rionna looked shocked as I rest my head on her shoulder.
At first, she remains very still but as tears begin to trickle down my cheeks, she wraps me up in her embrace and holds me.
“He must be so scared.” I whimper, the thought of Christian or Jack hurting my baby terrifying me.
Jack and Christian are not patient and I fear they may not have the patience for a frightened four year old who wants hugs and kisses when he’s scared.
We’ll get him back, Devina murmurs confidently.I set the world on fire if! have to.
We arrive at the pack house, a car already parked in the driveaway.
Devina snarls and growls when we see Jordan step out of the car with Nikki and Micah and a kid that looks familiar, but I can’t make out who he is.
The four of them greet Celina after she introduces herself as Princess of the lvory Phoenix Kingdom, her ivory aura masked by her medallion.
Jordan smiles nervously when he sees me but I do not return the smile.
“Nat-“His eyes widen in shock when he takes a good look at me.
Surprise b***h, Devina snickers.
“You have a wolf…” he gasps.
“When did this- when did this happen?” His eyes fall on the mark on my neck.
“You were invited here to discuss Christian, not my personal life!” I snap, unwilling to let him into my life again.
He nods solemnly, defeat washing over him, but he does not argue with me.I turn to Nikki and Micah and they shift uncomfortably on their feet.
Despite them aiding Jordan in finding me, I am not angry with them.It is in their nature to help those in need and they likely took pity on Jordan.
Little do they know, this particular wolf is a snake.
Celina invites us all into the River Moon pack house and we settle in the dining room to discuss the situation.
“ y-you look good Nat,”
Jordan says sheepishly as a glass of water is handed to him by an omega.
“Is Christian going to kill my son?” I ask, getting right to the point.
Jordan looks stunned by the question, but it’s a valid fear of mine.
Why else would Christian want our son if not to kill him? Surely Vanessa has produced an heir or two by now?
“Did Vanessa ask him to do this? Did that b***h feel threatened by my son because I can assure you, we want nothing to do with Silver Crest,” I snap.
“Kota doesn’t know about his sperm donor nor does he need anything from him.He doesn’t belong at Silver Crest.He already has a home.He has a family.He has a father.So for f***s sake, give me back my pup and leave us alone!” I demand, rising to my feet and slamming my fist against the table.
Jordan eyes me carefully, leaning forward and softening his voice.
“Vanessa is infertile.” I stare back at him in shock.
“She and Christian have not been doing too well,” Jordan repeats.
“In an attempt to fix her infertility, Vanessa managed to get herself turned but she fell into a coma.Derek tells me she’s awake but it seems Christian is not interested in her anymore and has already prepared divorce papers.What he wants now is to start over with you again.”
I burst into laughter at the audacity that he has to even think that’s an option.
A tingle of satisfaction tickles my soul to know Christian and Vanessa are still unhappy.
Reality, however, reminds me that my mate is at war with his former pack and my pup is missing, likely terrified to be away from his home and his family.
“Christian has been searching for you for the past four years, growing more desperate with every passing day,” Jordan explains, his face serious.
“Jack is out of control.He’s killed dozens of our members-“
“That is not my problem,”I shrug.
“How can you say that?” Jordan asks in shock.
“They were your pack-“
“They were never my pack,” I growl.
“Areal pack protects its Luna.Areal pack would have never made me feel crazy.A real gamma would have been there for me! You were supposed to be my friend and you failed me! You all failed me and now you expect me to step in and help you?”
I scoff, shaking my head in disbelief.
“I want nothing to do with you or your pack problems.Just help me get my son back and leave me the f**k alone!”
“I’m trying to but you won’t listen to me!”
“And why should I?!” I snap, my body tensing with rage.
“After everything you’ve done to me, why should I listen to you?”
“Because, right now, I’m your only ally in Silver Crest,” he retorts.
“My home and the home of many pack members is being destroyed by a tyrant who can’t get over his former mate.I get it! You have a life and a family now and I am so happy that you have finally found a place where you belong.But you don’t understand how much Christian and Jack have devolved.He’s killing pack members, innocent pack members and Moon Goddess only knows what else he’s capable of doing to get what he wants.We need your help.Your son needs your help.”
Time is ticking…
Every second we spend arguing with this asshole is another second Kota has to spend with that monster of a father he has.
Our baby is scared and right now that is the only thing that matters to me.
The past is irrelevant…
Knowing my wolf is right, I clench my fists at my side and put on a brave face for my son.
“So what do you suggest?” I say through gritted teeth.
“I’m going to challenge Christian for the title,” he replies, the world around me going still as I try to process what he just said.
Alpha challenges are to the death unless there’s a yield, so whoever wins, keeps not only the title, but also gets to walk away with their life.
Christian and Jordan are both skilled fighters but I know neither one will ever yield…which can only mean one thing: one of them is going to die.
Despite my hatred for him, Jordan was once my best friend and I do not wish death on him.
“Why the face?” Jordan says, a hint of a smile on his lips.
“You hate me.It’ll be a win-win for you, whatever the outcome,” he whispers, a tinge of sadness in his voice as he says this.
“You said it yourself, I failed you.This is my way of making it up to you after all these years.It’ll be enough of a distraction for you to go in and get your pup while I deal with Christian and hopefully…make sure he never hurts you or anyone else again.”
“I’ve never wanted your death,” I reply, feeling my anger spill over onto my cheeks in large tears.
“I just wanted you to be the gamma you were supposed to be all those years ago.”
“I can’t turn back the clock to be the friend you needed me to be,” he replies, leaning back in his chair to stare up at the ceiling.
“I can only do my best to be there for you now.”
“And if you lose?”
“Then I lose, but you will still be able to escape with Dakota and find somewhere else to hide,” he shrugs.
He sits up Straight to face all of us.
“So who’s coming with us? We’ll need to plan this delicately if we want you to escape with Dakota safely.”
Celina opens her mouth to volunteer but Rosalie is quick to remind her that her job is to stay here to protect the Kingdom in Aurora’s absence.
“Aurora is counting on you to lead Ivory Phoenix in case the Lune de Minuit Pack is planning to attack while she’s away.We can’t leave.”
Celina looks incredibly frustrated by Rosalie’s reminder but I understand that she is currently responsible for the lives of many and I cannot selfishly ask her to leave Ivory Phoenix without its guardian.
“lll go,” Rionna says, reaching over to squeeze my hand.
“I’m the one who lost him. I should be the one to help find him.”
“Nikki and I are in,” Micah says.
“Kota is family and so are you.”
Agnes taps lightly on my lap, signing something to Rionna who translates for her.
“She wants to help,” Rionn explains.
I shake my head at her, asking Rionna to speak on my behalf.
“I can’t put both you and Rionna in danger and Zane is going to need at least one mom to be here when he returns.Please stay here for him.”
She looks defeated but agrees to stay for both Zane and my own sanity.
As we finalize our plans, Jordan’s phone begins to ring.He pulls it out of his pocket, his face paling when he sees the caller ID.
“It’s Christian,” he says, putting the phone on speaker.
From the phone I hear Jack’s snarled demand, “Bring me my Tiny.”