Devina rises to her feet and charges at Jack, sinking her canines into his hind leg and dragging him off of Vanessa. Jack lets go of her and turns his large head towards me to retaliate but Vanessa clamps her jaws on his front paw and tears it open, blood staining her brown fur. Jack lets out a howl of pain and I witness something that leaves me in awe of my sister.
Her shadow begins to crawl along the surface of the driveaway, spreading out like little tendrils of rope as they wrap around Jack‘s shadow and hold him down in place. Jack attempts to move but his own shadow works against him and keeps him hostage to the ground.
Seeing their Alpha under attack by an unknown force, the Omegas jump in to defend their leader, two wolves pouncing on top of me while another three rush at Vanessa. Devina drops down and rolls over, managing to crush one of the wolves and kicking off the second.
Scrambling to her feet, Devina lunges at the second wolf, both of us upright on our hind legs as we claw and bite each other. My wolf‘s strength overpowers my opponent and I am able to push the wolf back onto her front paws and slam her head into the concrete.
Devina takes advantage and pins her down with her belly up and despite the wolf‘s attempt to kick me off, Devina buries her razor-sharp teeth into her throat. Blood pours into my mouth, the metallic taste making my stomach wretch.
As I finish off the second wolf, the first one jumps onto their feet and bites my tail, dragging me backwards. Devina wastes no time reciprocating, turning her head and ripping off the wolf‘s ear. The Omega howls in pain, giving Devina perfect access to her neck. Devina latches onto their flesh and tears their throat open, blood dripping down our snout.
Panting with rage, I look up in time to see Vanessa struggling against her opponents, the three wolves attacking simultaneously to not give her any opportunity to think or attack without consequence.
They have her pinned down, her shadow grip on Jack starting to slip.
As the moon shines down on us, a cold gust of air rushes through the trees surrounding the pack house.
“Blessed be the daughters of the Night,” the wind whispers as it blows through my fur and I feel a jolt of energy and strength ripple through my muscles.
Jack bucks violently against the shadows holding him down until finally, he breaks free and charges at Vanessa, pushing aside the other wolves to get to her.
You will not touch her again! Devina growls, planting her paws on the ground.
Suddenly, a large black mist materializes from the center of my chest, growing larger and darker as it solidifies. To my amazement, the mist takes the shape of long curling tentacles and as I lean forward to touch them, I am shocked to see them mimic the movement of my head.
What is this? I ask as more tentacles gather around me.
Darkness, Devina explains, softening her voice when she senses my fear. Do not be afraid. Darkness itself is not evil. It is simply a lack of light. There is beauty in it for only in the darkness can we see the Moon and stars that shine above us. Do not fear it.
Devina seems to understand the gift well enough to control it and thrusts her head forward, visualizing the tentacles wrapping around Jack‘s paws and dragging him away from Vanessa. Imitating her imagination, some of the tentacles rush forward and grab Jack, pulling him away from my sister. More mist radiates from my body, taking the shape of sharp spears which I aim at the remaining wolves trying to attack Vanessa.
Jack writhes and wriggles in the tentacles but the more he attempts to free himself, the more entangled he becomes. From the corner of my eye, I see Vanessa rise to her feet and shake off her fur before limping to my side.
Jack shifts into his human form in hopes of freeing himself, but the dark mist only follows him, turning into thorny tentacles that wrap around each of his limbs so that he lays flat on his back. The dark tentacles stretch his arms and legs in opposite directions until he resembles a starfish.
“Natalia!” He cries in agony as the thorns tear into his flesh.
From the corner of my eye, I see several pack members hiding in the trees, all of them too afraid to step forward but curious enough to stay and watch.
They are all monsters like him, I mutter to myself as Devina circles Jack like prey. Let me face him, I tell Devina. He hurt me. I need to be the one who ends this.
She gladly lets me take control and I shift back into my human so Jack can face the pathetic human who has him at her mercy.
“Tiny,” he whimpers. “Tiny, I‘m sorry,” he says in a small voice, tears gathering in the corners of his eyes. “Please… Please let me go!
“You were going to kill my baby, weren‘t you Jack? Just like you killed Vanessa‘s?” I reply, placing my hand on my belly.
Vanessa‘s wolf whimpers at the reminder of her lost child, and Jack‘s long silence angers me.
“Answer me!” I snap, another tentacle wrapping around his c*** and twisting it.
“Ahhhh!” he screams, shaking his head in agony.“
“Did Kota scream when you hurt him?” I ask, barely able to keep my voice above a whisper without losing my temper. Jack says nothing, once again calling my name and begging for forgiveness. His blubbering apology infuriates me, and with a twist of my wrist, the dark vines tighten around him. “Did he call for me too, Jack?!“ I shout as tears spill onto my cheek. “Did he call for his mommy?!
“Natalia!! Stop! Please!” Jack sobs when some spider–like tentacles crawl down his chest to his p***s and wrap around it, squeezing it so tightly, it turns violet.
“Did my sister not beg for you to stop as you murdered her mate and killed her unborn child! Did you stop then?” I shout, the tentacles growing thorns that tear his p**s to ribbons. “Where the f**k was your mercy? Huh? Where the f**k was it?!”
“Natalia,” Vanessa whispers, shifting into her human form and wrapping her arms around me. “It‘s okay,” she murmurs, stroking my hair as I lean into her embrace. “It‘s okay.”
I shake my head, blinded by pure rage as I face the monster who took so much from me.
“Look at me, Nat. Look at me,” Vanessa murmurs, cupping my cheeks in her hands. Her eyes fill with tears and she smiles half–heartedly at me. “He can‘t hurt us anymore. It‘s over.”
She holds me in her arms like a child recovering from a nightmare, and I peer over her shoulder at Jack as he writhes against the tentacles of darkness. Vanessa‘s shadow tendrils crawl along the ground, latching onto the silhouette of his body. Small cuts appear on his bare flesh and Jack once again pleads for mercy.
“Come sit with me,” Vanessa murmurs, leading me towards an empty patch of grass in front of Jack.
She helps me sit down and lets me lean my head against her shoulder as we watch the shadows and the darkness slowly chip away at the screaming wolf.
“I want silence,” Vanessa whispers, her shadows tilting Jack‘s chin up and forcing open his mouth. “I want him to know what it‘s like to be completely alone in your pain. To have no one come to save you, because that‘s what it felt when he took everything from me. I want him to scream and shout with every fiber in his body only for his voice to never be heard.”
Her shadow tendrils crawl into the silhouette of his mouth and pull out his tongue, Jack groaning in fear as two delicate tendrils hold his tongue‘s shadow in place.
“Do it,” I whimper, holding out my palm so that the black mist materializes in my hand, solidifying into a dagger of darkness.
“Not yet,” Vanessa murmurs, giving me a tight squeeze and k!ssing my forehead as her shadow takes the dagger from me. “I spent the last week hiding in fear, knowing that Jack would kill my baby if he ever found me. You spent the past four years hiding Kota, always looking over your shoulder in case he ever took the thing most precious to you. He should know what it‘s like to live in fear. To know something is coming for him but never know when it‘s going to happen.”
I nod my head but say nothing and turn to the group of fearful omegas, curling my finger at them to step forward. They timidly approach us, their legs shaking as they bow before us.
“Yes, Luna?” one whispers meekly.
“Don‘t call me that,” I snap, the wolf cowering back in fear. “Get me a phone and some clothes for my sister and I,” I instruct, losing my patience when the wolves only stare at me. “NOW!”
“Yes, ma‘am,” they whimper, scurrying off to fetch the things I requested.
A few moments later, the wolves return with the items and I dial Rionna‘s phone. My heart sinks to the pit of my stomach when after three calls, she doesn‘t pick up.
“Call Micah,” Vanessa suggests. “Rionna and Nikki had to shift when I left them. I don‘t think either of them have their phone anymore but perhaps Micah still does.”
“Okay,” I whisper to myself, taking a deep breath to calm my shaking fingers as they dial Micah‘s number.
“H–Hello?” Micah‘s voice calls out into the receiver, my heart nearly stoping as l grab onto the phone like a lifeline. “Who is this?
“Micah!” I scream, nearly bursting into tears at the sound of his voice. “Micah are you okay? Did you get kota? Is he okay? Is my baby okay?”
“Yeah,” Micah replies ecstatically, my heart finally relaxing knowing my pup is safe again. “Yeah we managed to escape thanks to Vanessa. We got to the little town like she told us and found an inn to hide out in. Is she okay? Did she get to you safely?”
“Yes,” I cry. “Yes, she‘s right here.”
He breathes out a sigh of relief. “I‘m glad you guys are okay. Did you… did you get your ex?”
I glare over at Jack who whimpers to himself with his tongue still held by the shadows.
“He‘s not going anywhere,” I reply dryly. “And I still have some things to settle here.”
“Good,” Micah sighs contently. “Good… Well, Kota’s asleep right now but if you want, I can wake him up so you can talk to him.”
“No, it‘s okay,” I murmur. “Let him sleep. Just send me the address so I can be there when he wakes up.”
“You got it,” he replies. “Oh and one more thing. Zane‘s on his way. Your friend, Rionna, called in for backup.”
My belly fills with butterflies at the mention of his name and I am reminded of the life growing within me.
“Good,” I smile to myself. “I have some news for him,” I whisper, gently placing my palm against my flat tummy.
“He‘ll be here soon. Stay safe, Tal,” Micah says.
I hang up the phone and scowl in annoyance at the omegas still standing by.
Black mist appears at my fingertips, drifting towards the ground in front of Jack before solidifying into what appears to be a large pole with a two-pronged spear aiming directly at Jack‘s eyes. He looks down at the spear and begins to scream in fear though Vanessa‘s shadows still hold his tongue.
“You four. Gather the pack, fetch your elders and find Alpha Christopher,” I order, the four omegas exchanging nervous glances between each other. “Silver Crest will have a new Alpha tonight.
The hours seem to drag on as we wait in the little inn, all of us exhausted but too anxious to sleep.
After Vanessa gave us time to escape, we managed to make our way out of the woods and find a place to rest. It did not take much for Kota to fall asleep, the poor pup exhausted from all the running and chaos he endured. Once settled, I video–called Agnes to let her know Kota was safe and made calls to Tylen who informed me that he, Toran, and Zane were on their way. It was a huge relief to know we were not alone.
Having confirmed Talia and Vanessa‘s safety, we now play the waiting game. Micah watches a movie on the TV and Nikki can‘t seem to sit still, getting up to pace around the room or stepping out to walk up and down the corridor of the inn.
She must be anxious for Talia, Senara, my wolf observes. Are you nervous?
I know she is referring to Toran‘s return and in truth, I am nervous to see him again, the divorce papers still fresh on my mind.
There is no doubt he will try to push me away again as he has always
feared his own feelings. Perhaps I am naive and it is wrong for me to still want him to fight for me. After all, he did lie to me about my son. Maybe it is best that I let him go.
But why then, does the idea of not having him hurt me more than his lie? Why do his hugs and k!sses heal my heart every time it breaks and why does his presence always bring me peace? Why do I still love him with all of my soul?
I accidentally drift off to sleep with these thoughts bouncing around in my head and awaken to the sound of the key card opening the door. Nikki walks in with Toran, Tylen, and Zane at her heels and I carefully sit up in bed to welcome them.
“How did you guys get here so fast?” I ask. “It‘s a six-hour flight from Washington.”
“We flew to California and had Celina transport into the state,” Toran explains as he settles down at the desk. “Figured it would save us a few hours instead of flying directly here.”
Zane rushes to my side where Kota sleeps, kneeling by the bed and peering over at the sleeping pup. Tears fill his eyes as he watches his son sleep and he takes my hand to k!ss it.
“T–Thank you for p–protecting him,” he murmurs as he rises to his feet and scans the room. “W–where is Ta–Talia?”
“She‘s still at Silver Crest,” Micah responds for me, Zane’s fists clenching at his side. “She said she had something to settle before she came here but she‘s okay. She‘s not in any danger from what she explained.”
Zane leans down to k!ss Kota goodnight and storms over towards the door.
“Zane, where are you going?”I call after him in a hiss.
“To find m-my mate,” he says with conviction. “I–I‘m bringing her home.”
Tylen goes after him and the two of them disappear down the hall. I want to stop them both from doing something stupid but Toran blocks the path and shakes his head.
“Zane was anxious the entire trip here and felt the pain of betrayal many times. Let him handle this. He needs to see that his mate is alright,” he explains.
“Talia wouldn‘t betray him,” I retort. “She hates her ex with every fiber in her body. She was ready to tear him to shreds when she saw what he did to Kota.”
“What he did to Kota?” Toran asks, his head tilting to the side in curiosity. I pull the covers back and very gently pull Kota‘s pajama bottoms down to show Toran the bandages.
“He hurt him,” I whisper, my bottom lip trembling. “I should have never let him out of my sight or none of this would have ever happened–”
“Hey,” Toran murmurs as he caresses my cheeks gently with his thumbs, and I feel a peace envelop me. “You can‘t blame yourself for this. You are not responsible for someone else‘s actions.”
He stares into my soul with his dark eyes and I know I cannot ever let him go.
“I love you,” I whisper. “And I forgive you.”
“No,” I shake my head. “No, you listen to me. I was hurt by what you did but what angered me more than anything was that you simply wanted to walk away without giving me a chance to process all of this.”
He doesn‘t say anything at first and looks away in shame. “I thought it was for the best that I let you go.”
“Do you still love me?” I ask, feeling my heart in my throat. He opens his mouth to answer but I silence him with a stern look. “Don‘t you dare lie to me again, Tor? I will castrate you.”
He chuckles to himself but after a long silence, whispers his reply. “With all my heart.”
“Then I will not divorce you,” I murmur. “But I will set some new rules. The first being that you never keep me out of the loop again. You do not get to decide what I know and don‘t know about myself. It‘s my life, Tor. My decisions.”
“I‘m sorry,” he says quietly, his small voice making me laugh.
In all our years together, Toran has never raised his voice at me. It always pisses me off that he‘s so calm and sensible.
“You annoy me,” I mutter, a small smile curling on his l!ps as he pulls me into his arms. “But I still love you and I choose you every day so long as you choose me.”
He smirks and nuzzles his face in my neck. “I will always choose you.”
Tylen and I shift as soon as we reach the woods, Grayson sniffing the air for Talia‘s scent. On the plane to California, we studied the map of the region and now know Silver Crest is the only pack to the North of the river.
We expect resistance as we approach the territory, but to our shock, there‘s no guards patrolling the pack‘s border and we slip through with ease.
Can you go any faster!?
I ask, Grayson muttering in response. Be my guest. I‘m only running on all four legs at full speed, he retorts with annoyance.
I just want to see her, Treply quietly. I just want to hold her again.
Grayson says nothing, likely feeling the same way. We slow down when we reach the pack house gates, noticing a large crowd gathering in the middle of the driveway.
“What do you think it is?”
Task Tylen as we hide in the nearby trees to plan.
“I don‘t know,” he shrugs when we suddenly hear a loud howl of pain coming from the crowd.
(A/N: To clarify: Talia‘s gift is Darkness Manipulation and Solidification. Vanessa‘s is Reverse Shadow Puppetry.)