The adrenaline pumping through my veins numbs the burning of my leg as we rush down the tunnel and I use the cold walls as support to limp onwards.
“You‘re doing great,” Rionna whispers. “We‘re almost out of here.”
I can‘t tell if she‘s trying to soothe me, Kota, or herself, but regardless, I find comfort in her words. We speed walk down the tunnels for what seems like an eternity until finally, we see a bit of light peeking in from a distance.
“Dear Goddess,” Rionna sighs in relief as she throws my arm over her shoulder. “Come on, let‘s get you out of here.”
She lets me lean against her and helps me limp my way through until we reach the end of the tunnel. As Jordan promised, the exit is hidden within an old hollow tree and after climbing out, we find ourselves somewhere in the forest. Though it is late in the evening, the sun is only just setting, the light burning our eyes as we gather our bearings..
“Do you know where we are?” Rionna asks as she shields her eyes from the sun.
I look around with uncertainty and a bit of guilt. Luna Kay had been adamant I memorize the map of the territory but I had never paid much attention to her lessons.
“I don‘t know,” I mumble sheepishly. “This doesn‘t look like the Silver Crest pack territory anymore.”
“That‘s alright,” Rionna says as she watches me struggle to recognize anything. “We‘ll figure something out. Come on,” she says, setting Kota down. “Let‘s see how that leg is doing.”
It‘s only then that I notice the bites and claw marks on her shoulders and chest. “You‘re hurt too!” I gasp, feeling guilty that she helped me while she was hurt too.
She waves me off however, and finds a large stone for me to sit on. With a little effort, she manages to tear open my pant leg to reveal an already healing bite wound on my ankle.
“Uh–oh! That‘s a big ouchie!” Kota cries as he peers over Rionna‘s shoulder. “Does it hurt?” I shake my head, though I still wince when Rionna ties a strip of my jeans around my ankle.
“It looks like your wolf is healing the wound quite nicely,” Rionna says, helping me to my feet. “I take it you are a Silver wolf?”
I stare blankly at her. “A Silver wolf?”
“I guess not,” she laughs awkwardly. “They are wolves with special abilities. Gifts granted by Moon Goddess. I had a Silver wolf once but I lost mine.”
“You lost your wolf?” I ask.
“It‘s complicated,” Rionna replies. “But I am still a wolf, just without a gift. You, however, appear to have a very interesting gift,” she adds curiously. “The shadows. They followed your command didn‘t they?”
We are not a Silver wolf, a voice whispers in my head, startling me. “What‘s wrong?” Rionna asks. “Nothing,” I reply. “I just thought I heard someone.” You did, the voice chuckles. Me.
“There it is again!“ I cry out, grabbing either side of my head.
Rionna studies me carefully before bursting into laughter, Kota laughing with her, though I don‘t think he knows what the joke is.
“You must be hearing your wolf,” She giggles. “Has she never spoken to you before?” She smiles when
I shake my head. “Well, why don‘t you start with an introduction? Maybe she knows what you are.”
Before I have time to think, however, we hear rustling in the trees behind us and I instinctively push Kota behind me, the shadows around us gathering into little tendrils ready to attack.
Aman and young she–wolf step out from the trees and Rionna visibly relaxes, Kota running up to the man for a hug.
“Micah!” he squeals.
“Little dude!” the man named Micah replies as he crouches down on his knees to pick Kota up. “Little dude, you had us worried sick!” he scolds the little boy. “You just disappeared on us!”
“Boo!” Kota shouts, the man laughing with the child.
Micah finally notices us and immediately removes his t–shirt and hands it over to Rionna, turning around to give her privacy as she dresses.
“Vanessa, this is Micah and Nikki. They are Talia‘s friends. Guys, this is Vanessa, Talia‘s older sister,”
Rionna introduces us. She looks around and a worried look washes over her face. “Where‘s Brody?” she asks.
“Knocked out cold,” Micah replies with a smirk. “He was annoying me so I shut him up. He‘s behind that tree over there,” Micha says, pointing to the distance. “So where‘s Talia and Jordan?” he asks, Kota leaning over his arm to pet the she–wolf.
“Jordan didn‘t make it,” I reply quietly as I fight back tears. “And I don‘t know where my sister is or what she‘s up to but I‘m afraid. I–I have to go back and get her.”
“Vanessa, you can‘t!” Rionna snaps, reaching for my arm to hold me back. “You‘re hurt!” “It‘s all my fault,” I whimper, shaking her off. “None of this would have happened had I not gotten in the way. I have to help fix my mess.”
“But you are helping,” Rionna retorts. “You helped protect Kota from those wolves and you got us out of the tunnel with your gift!”
“And now my sister needs my help,” I reply, scanning the horizon. “There should be a town to the west of the territory,” I add, holding up my hand when Rionna begins to protest.
Nearby, we hear howls break the silence of the forest, Kota squeezing Micah’s neck tightly and hiding his little face in fear
“We‘ve taken too long,” I mutter, nudging Rionna towards the sunset. “Jack must have sent a patrol after us,” I hiss, hearing the sound of paws stomping towards us. “You promised Natalia you would keep Kota safe. Go! I‘ll only hold you back! Just go!“I urge limping in the direction of the howls.
From the corner of my eye, I see a patrol wolf hiding in the trees and I shove Rionna out of the way as he leans on his hind legs.
“Run!!“I shout, the wolf pouncing on me and pinning me to the ground.
Nikki tries to help me but a second wolf appears and attacks her.
The shadows quickly gather around me and form tendrils that stab and hurt my attacker‘s shadow, the wolf collapsing on top of me. I struggle as I push the wolf off of me and look up to see that Rionna has shifted, Micah climbing on top of her while holding Kota to his chest. Our eyes meet and I nod silently for her to go on without me. There is a sadness in her eyes but she begins to sprint away to take Kota to safety.
Beside me, Nikki struggles against her assailant, getting pinned to the ground with a loud yelp and I send my shadows over to help. They stab and slice into her opponent‘s shadow, pools of his own blood gathering at his paws. I dust myself off as the wolf collapses dead on the ground and I instruct Nikki to follow and protect Rionna and Kota as they get to safety.
A questioning look flashes in Nikki‘s eyes and I answer as simply as I can.
“Go,” I snap, limping in the direction that the wolves came from. “I have to help my sister.”
Once safe, I step out into the corridor and make my way into the main clinic waiting room when I suddenly double over as a pain spreads across my chest.
Jordan… I whimper, the pain intensifying as I lean against the wall to catch my breath. On goddess, 1 groan, clenching my fists. He‘s…. He‘s….
I breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth, tears springing to my eyes that I forcefully blink away.
What about my baby? I wonder, the dark thought making my heart sink to the pit of my stomach. Is he hurt too? Did they get him?
A wave of anxiety washes over me and my wolf quietly tries to soothe me. Don‘t let your thoughts wander, she scolds. Dakota is a strong pup and he needs you to be just as strong. You‘ve made it this far. Finish the job.
I nod silently to myself, taking deep breaths until the pain and my thoughts fade away. Once calm, walk out into the waiting room where I find Christian waiting for me.
“All done,” I say through a forced smile as I approach him. “I‘m perfectly healthy.”
“Good,” he replies, rising to his feet and pulling me into his arms. “Now, I take you home,” he whispers, k!ssing the tip of my nose.
He leads me outside, shifting into his wolf and allowing me to climb on his back. Jack carries me towards the pack house, stopping by a tree to let me climb off and he finds a pair of shorts to slip on.
Taking my hand, he walks me through the front door of the pack house where we find the Omegas already waiting for us lined up in a single file. Their heads hang in a low bow and their hands are clasped tightly together as they await orders.
“Welcome home, Luna,” they say in unison, not an ounce of enthusiasm or excitement in their voice.
Even as they hide their faces from me, I notice the forced smiles on their faces. Olga, the head Omega of the house brings me a vase with large white lilies.
“I remembered that these were your favorites,” Jack smiles as I take the vase and find a small white box among the flowers.
Pink sword lilies are my favorite, you j***t, Iscoff but smile in appreciation as I open the box.
Inside, there‘s a glittering diamond ring with tiny stones on the band and a large diamond in the center. Despite its beauty, I prefer the little blue bead Zane gave me instead.
Jack gets down on one knee and slides the ring up my finger, k!ssing my hand as he stands back up.
“I knew you would say yes so I had your ring made for you,” Jack murmurs in my ear. “Your dresses are upstairs in your office and the room has been prepared for you to freshen up. We‘ll have a small wedding tonight, just you, me, our son, and the elders and then tomorrow, a full banquet and reception,” he adds, nibbling on my ear lobe. “Goddess, I can‘t wait to make you mine again, Tiny,” he says, inhaling the smell of my hair. “Your scent still drives me crazy.”
He peppers k!sses along my neck and jaw, when suddenly the front door bursts open behind us.
“Where the hell have you been!?” Alpha Christopher roars as he storms in. “I have been calling you all day and came looking for you only for the Omegas to tell me you weren‘t here and they haven‘t seen you since last night. Where the hell have you–”
He stops abruptly when he finally notices me.
“What the hell is she doing here!?” he snarls before his eyes go wide with realization. “She‘s–”
“She‘s a wolf,” Jack finishes for him. “And after all these years, she‘s finally home where she belongs.”
“Is that what you‘ve been doing all day? Getting her?” Christopher snaps. “Yes, I had to fly to California and fly back,” Jack explains. “Our son is being picked up as we speak but he‘ll be here momentarily. Then Natalia and I will be able to get married aga–”
“Marriage?” Christopher bursts into laughter. “Your mother is missing and that‘s what you‘re concerned about? Marriage?” he growls.
A calm smile curls on Jack‘s face, his green eyes studying the elder Alpha closely before answering.
“My mother isn‘t missing,” Jack chuckles, the sound making my skin crawl. He snaps his fingers and an Omega comes running in carrying an envelope which she hands to Jack. He flicks the envelope between his fingers before holding it out to his father. “She left this for you.”
Christopher eyes the envelope and hesitantly takes it. He tears it open quickly, reading the content before crumpling the page with rage.
“You‘re lying!” he growls, lunging at Jack who moves faster and counters his attack by slamming him against the door.
“It‘s a hard pill to swallow when your wife doesn‘t love you anymore,” Jack snickers as he holds his father up against the wall with his elbow across his collarbone. “But Mom has been looking for a way out for years and Derek gave her one,” he sneers. “He found her a spirit witch to break your little bond and they left together.”
I watch in shock as Alpha Christopher thrashes violently against Jack to no avail.
“What? Don‘t believe me?“Jack laughs, pulling out a slip of paper from his back pocket. “Here‘s the f***king address to the witch house Derek took her to. Ask them where your wife is,” he scoffs, shoving the paper in Christopher‘s hand.
Christopher glares at his son. “I want to speak with Christian.”
“No can do, Pops,” Jack chuckles. “Your son is kind of a f**k up so I‘m going to make sure he doesn‘t screw up my marriage a second time.”
Christopher‘s eyes fall on me and I instinctively lower my gaze, remembering how Luna Kay had once advised me to never look an Alpha in the eye when angered. They take it as a challenge.
“Just because she has a wolf,” He snarls. “Doesn‘t make her one of us. She‘ll always be human scum.”
“So what does that make you?” Jack smirks, Christopher swallowing in displeasure. “You and Mom have always had problems, even if you tried to hide them from the pack. Don‘t act so shocked. It‘s not my fault Mommy left you,” he whispers before letting his father go.
She didn‘t leave me,” Christopher snarls as he turns towards the door. “I‘m going to find her and when I do, I‘ll show you what a real Luna looks like,” he says over his shoulder before storming away.
A satisfied smirk hangs on Jack‘s lips as he watches his father leave and it frightens me, but I pretend to take no notice and smile at the lunatic.
“You should get dressed,“ Jack says, leaning down to peck my cheek as I try to process everything that just unraveled before me. He snaps his fingers at Olga and she rushes over to us. “Is everything ready?” he asks.
“Yes, Alpha,” she replies softly with her head bowed.
“Perfect,” he says, turning to me. “Go upstairs to get ready, my love,” he says, taking my hand and k!ssing it. “I‘ll go double check on our son’s status and make sure the elders are ready to make you my wife again.”
“Thank you,” I respond quietly, allowing Olga to pull me away while I panic internally. Kota‘s going to be okay, Devina murmurs. I‘m sure Rionna and Vanessa kept him safe.
I hope so, I mutter to myself, taking long and deep breaths to calm myself. “How does it feel to be back, Luna?” Olga whispers as she leads me to my old bedroom.
Awful, Devina purrs sarcastically.
Given Dr. Lila‘s reaction to my return, I decide to play it safe around Olga and the other omegas.
“I‘m nervous,” I reply timidly. “It‘s been so long since I‘ve had to lead a pack. I just hope I don‘t disappoint anyone.”
“You won‘t,” Olga says bluntly. “Anyone is better than our previous Luna, even you,” she says curtly, opening my bedroom door for me.
Well f**k you too, b***h, Devina mutters.
Several memories come flooding back as I look around my old bedroom and see all our old photos still hanging on the wall. There is one near the bed where we are both smiling as we celebrate our 1st anniversary at a picnic but I vividly remember crying myself to sleep that night when my pregnancy test came back negative for the 8th time. It was the first time Christian didn‘t come home to sleep with me.
Olga gives me a bit of privacy to shower and I change quickly into a robe, slipping the syringe in my pocket and concealing it with a washcloth.
A few Omegas enter the bedroom after I‘m done dressing, bringing with them hair wands, makeup, nail polish, and a black garment bag with my wedding dress.
“The Alpha wants to keep things simple for the wedding ceremony tonight,” Olga instructs the other girls. “Natural makeup, soft curls, and minimal jewelry. Get to work ladies.”
The Omegas do as they‘re told, curling my hair like I used to and they‘re applying minimal make–up with a bit of a winged eyeliner and some soft blush. I pray silently as they work, hoping my baby has made it safely out of pack territory and is resting in Rionna‘s arms while drifting away into beautiful dreams.
When I look at myself in the mirror, I see the old Natalia staring back at me with her shattered soul masked by a perfect smile. It takes everything in me not to burst into tears upon seeing my reflection and I ask the Omegas to leave me while I get dressed.
Jack selected a short form-fitting dress made of ivory satin with thin straps and a square neckline. While elegant, it is nowhere near what I plan to wear at my wedding with Zane.
I want to look like a princess on that day, I smile to myself. His princess.
As I slip on the dress, I begin to panic when I don‘t see any pockets for the syringe. Ultimately, I conceal it within my bra and pray to Moon Goddess it doesn‘t fall it out.
To my annoyance, the zipper of my dress gets stuck halfway up and I call in Olga to help me with it when Jack suddenly storms into the bedroom, his green eyes flickering with rage.
“You‘re pregnant!?” he snarls.