Authors: Mel Favreaux
She looked up at Dean, a mixture of anger, pain, and fear in her voice when she said, “Donovan was one of our best.”
His brows drew together. “I thought Elan was a second rate swordsman. How could he get the best of someone of Donovan’s caliber?”
“The element of surprise?” Amber rose and lifted her nose into the air, trying to pick up Elan’s scent.
“He can’t be far.”
A sneer lifted the corner of her mouth. “He’s had twenty years to pretend to be something far less than he was capable of. After seeing this, I’m sure we’re in for one hell of a surprise. Elan’s not stupid enough to try anything at the moment. Knowing he needs to get far away from here and think of another plan.” Amber moved into the kitchen and found Sara Parrish had suffered the same fate as her husband.
Dean cleared his throat and lifted a piece of paper from the table. “This is for you.”
Amber turned to see his face in a mask of fury. Frowning, she took the letter from him.
For being the one left in charge while the Alpha enjoys his wedding night, you’ve done a poor job of protecting the Pack. I look forward to taking you on as an opponent when the time comes. I’ve fought alongside you enough to know how well you handle your sword. But don’t forget, while I’ve watched you, I’ve figured out your weaknesses as you thought you’d figured out mine. Be sure to tell my brother I’ll be back to settle things. I’m sure you can understand why I’ve left in such haste.
Amber growled and looked around the kitchen. Pulling out her cell she called in a few of the packs best trackers and explained the situation. Growling, she stepped out onto the Parrish’s front porch and scrolled through her phone for Braedyn’s number.
“Damn you, Elan.” She bit her bottom lip so hard, it bled. A moment later the bite healed, thanks to her accelerated healing ability.
She looked down at the phone in her hands, dreading the fact she was going to have to make this phone call; the one thing which would ruin both of her best friends’ wedding night. Dialing Braedyn’s cell phone number, she waited for him to pick up.
By the fourth ring, Amber was ready to hang up, but Braedyn answered.
Without waiting for any preamble she gave it to him, knowing he expected nothing less from her. “Dean and I went over to the Parrish’s to let them go to the reception…” She cleared her throat. “Both Donovan and Sara Parrish are dead. Elan is missing.”
“Don’t go anywhere, Casey and I are on our way. Dean’s with you?”
“Dean is with me. He’s—” The call dropped. Growling, Amber looked at the phone to see the battery had died. “Dammit.”
“What’s the matter?”
“My damn phone just died. I have a charger in the truck.” She rushed back to the truck and plugged it in. “I’ve got to call in the last of the trackers before Elan gets too far out.”
Dean whipped out his phone.
“Call your father, have him stay with Aquene until either Braedyn or I can get there.” She drummed her fingers on her lap for a moment. Willing the Alpha couple to hurry, she couldn’t handle being still.
Hanging up, Dean passed her the phone. “Dad said he’ll stay with her, no problem. Call whomever else you need. Dad is going to call in a friend of ours.”
Taking the phone Amber dialed the number for the remaining tracker, pacing back and forth. She related only the necessary information.
“This is not your fault,” Dean said when she handed him back the phone.
The muscle in her jaw twitched as she stared into the woods—the only direction Elan could have gone. Every fiber of her being wanted to chase after him, but Braedyn had demanded she stay put.
“It’s not your fault, you know.”
A small growl rumbled in her chest. “I should have come out here sooner.”
is my job, all right?
job is to keep the Alphas safe. What kind of second in command am I to have all hell break loose on their
? I should have been here instead of the reception.”
“Wait, no one had any complaints about how tonight was handled. They said everything was under control with Elan. You gave them the injections…”
“I did, and once Braedyn and Casey get here, I’m going to ransack that house and see if it was given to him on the schedule I made.”
Headlights cut across the night. Braedyn’s old pickup pulled into the driveway.
“Dammit…” Amber stood up and waited for the doors to open. She searched their eyes for anger or disappointment.
“Damn battery died. I have it charging now.”
“You’re all right?”
She frowned, realizing Braedyn had been more concerned for her safety. “I’m fine.”
The Alpha visibly relaxed a fraction. “Have you had chance to cover any ground?”
“No, but I used Dean’s phone to call in some of the trackers. I waited for you because I know how you hate coming up cold to a scene.”
A muscle worked in Braedyn’s jaw. “Dean, can you stay outside with Casey while Amber and I go inside and look around?”
Dean nodded and leaned against Amber’s SUV. “Our dad is staying with your mom until one of us relieves him.”
“Thank you.” Braedyn narrowed his eyes and made his way into the Parrish house.
* * * *
There was a haunted expression on Casey’s face as her brand new husband ventured into the house. Dean frowned, putting an arm around her shoulders.
“It’s gonna be okay, Casey. I promise he won’t get anywhere near you.”
She raised her brows and looked back at him. “That’s not my concern at all. I’m more worried about Braedyn and what he might do.”
His frown deepened. It was difficult for him to see his little sister like this. He knew she was every bit as strong as they were mentally, it was physically that shocked him. She wasn’t just his kid sister anymore. Casey was now the Silver Wolf, the reincarnation of the Mother of all Weres. The wolf who became a woman.
“Do you want to go in?”
“No, the first real dead bodies I ever saw were in just the last couple weeks. Two of them, I killed.” Casey shivered more from the memory than from the cold. “Amber’s blaming herself, isn’t she?”
Dean nodded. “She is.”
“If anyone is to blame, it’s me. When the Silver Wolf took over and went after Harlan, I stopped her from going after Elan. She told me he needed to be taken care of, and I’ve kept quiet.”
“You’re still learning how to communicate. You haven’t been through but one cycle of transformations—” His phone rang, and with a sigh he glanced at it, seeing that it was his unit leader. “I’m sorry sis, I have to take this.” Backing away a few paces, he answered, “This is Dean.”
“Good evening, I just got off the phone with your father. You two are in a very strained position, you know this, right?” the Haitian’s measured tone was almost a comfort.
Clearing his throat, Dean ran a hand through his hair. “It’s okay, we’ve managed to mend things over with my sister and her new husband.”
“You do realize where this takes us as Guardians, correct? So long as we can keep relations with Braedyn Walker, eventually other packs and clans will follow, too.”
“I’m sorry Laveaux, this isn’t political. My brother-in-law’s murderous brother has escaped, is there any assistance we can get right now?” Though he liked his unit leader, Dean found it quite uncomfortable talking political gains, especially when Laveaux was a were-panther himself.
“You have to understand, I cannot just send a group of Guardians in there. Our foothold is so tenuous Dean, we can’t afford a war with the Were community. I would need to talk with Braedyn Walker.”
“Then I’ll see what I can do here.” He slipped the phone back in his pocket and turned to his sister. “Dad must have called him. Laveaux is offering assistance, but doesn’t want to impede any possible political relations if they just pop in with a team.”
Casey frowned. “What do you mean?”
“The relationship between the Guardians and Weres aren’t the greatest. Many think the Guardians are like asshole cops hell bent on cleansing the earth of the beasts. That’s not what we do. Some of us are Weres, too. We all have something special to bring to the table. My empathy, Dad’s precognitive dreams. Our job is to protect humanity and sometimes that means…taking care of certain individuals or groups that could cause exposure that doesn’t pertain strictly to Weres. That goes for all factions.” He could feel the painful bite of the betrayal Casey felt because they had kept secret what they did for a living from her. “Sis…”
Shaking her head, she held up her hand. “I’m still working through it Dean. Between Dad’s gut feelings and you always knowing what to say in a situation or how to make someone feel better…I’m still working on not letting it bother me. But you two kept the fact that you are Guardians from me all this time. Don’t try to force it. I need to deal with it in my own way. You and Dad were my world. The two I could count on to tell me the truth and to be honest…and then I find this out. I’ll forgive you eventually, but right now…I just need time.”
“Please understand we were only trying to protect you. Not everyone knows about this, and that’s what we’re here for. It’s not just to protect the humans. We’re protecting everyone. We don’t want populations wiped out on either side. The best way to do that is to keep everything under wraps.”
“Then you’ve done your job, because I had never considered it until I saw Braedyn shift in front of me. And now that I know, I realize there is a lot more out there I have to think about. Things that were fairy tales and myths…I’m learning are
real.” She gave him a small smile.
“Yep, the boogeyman is very real.”
Casey’s eyes widened. “Really?”
He laughed and shrugged. “I’ve witnessed a thing or two I could slip into that category.”
“I guess I need to brush up on my myths then.”
“I’ve a few books I could loan you.”
Casey laughed and hugged him tight. “I’m just glad I don’t have to hide this from you and Dad. That terrified me.” She turned back to the porch just as Braedyn and Amber emerged.
His eyes were fierce and his jaw clenched. Amber’s expression mirrored his. She leaned against the porch, curling her nails into the banister. The wood groaned in protest.
“I…I think we need to consider getting Casey and Amber away for a few days,” Braedyn said after a moment of strained silence.
Casey’s jaw dropped. “What are you talking about?”
Braedyn rushed down and jerked her away from Dean. Her eyes flared gold.
“No,” she growled.
Amber hurried down the stairs and put a gentle hand on Dean’s chest. “Back it up a little bit big brother, we’re not sure how she’s going take this.”
“You’re not serious. It’s our wedding night!” Casey’s hands clenched and she ground her teeth.
“We’ve got to calm her down,” Dean whispered near Amber’s ear. “If she does anything to hurt him she’ll never forgive herself.”
“That’s pretty much what we’re bargaining on here.” She looked up into his eyes. “Braedyn knows the Silver Wolf won’t hurt him.”
“But you weren’t sure about me?”
“We’re not sure exactly what kind of restraint Casey has. She’s less than a month into this new life Dean, we didn’t want to take any chances.” Her fingers wound protectively into his jacket.
“I can’t leave you right now. Not like this, it doesn’t make sense,” Casey insisted, sounding a little calmer.
The Alpha’s expression softened. He took her hands into his and kissed her knuckles. “Casey…” He glanced over his shoulder to Amber, too. “I can’t lose either of you and you’ve both been threatened.”
Amber shook her head. “I don’t like this either. Braedyn, as your right hand, I
be here. My job is to protect you and the pack. There has to be another way.”
“We are not sure what we’re dealing with. I need you to protect Casey. If I know she’s safe I can concentrate on whatever else needs to be done.” He looked at both women. “I know it seems like I’m being selfish, but I have to be in order to keep you both safe.”
Dean knew anything he had to say would be moot at the moment. Braedyn was already drawing their wrath, there was no need to make it worse. He could tell Amber was relaxing a little. Leaning into him, she calmly stated, “Casey, didn’t you say you had one final job? Something you were contracted to do?”
Casey threw a frown at Amber. “Don’t tell me that you’re going along with this? Screw my career. They can sue me if they want, I don’t care. I am not leaving here.”
“Think about it Casey,” Dean indicated, spreading his hands out in a calming gesture.
A growl came forth and Casey’s eyes changed to a burnished copper color. Unable to help it, Dean stumbled back a step. This was his baby sister, the rough and tumble tomboy whom he and their father had struggled to protect from this way of life. Seeing her struggle with the wolf inside pained him. But he was comforted by the fact that the wolf who chose her was wise and in her previous life had not been known to be evil.
“Elan’s not stupid enough to try to come back tonight.” Braedyn took a deep breath. “So far all the perimeters have been taken care of—just in case. I suggest that we all go home and get some rest. We’ll get up in the morning, when we are all a little more rational, and discuss this further.”
Amber sighed and nodded. “That’s the best thing to do. That way we are all thinking clearly.”
“I agree.” Dean watched his sister’s shoulders slump and she shook her head.
“Fine. We’ll discuss it in the morning then.”
Dean smiled. The scent of freshly shampooed hair filled his nostrils when Amber moved. Opening his eyes, he found her sprawled across his chest. He brushed a few stubborn curls from her face and tugged her into his arms.
Time away from her would be tough, but he believed in the old adage—absence makes the heart grow fonder. Though he wasn’t sure that he could grow any fonder of her than he was now.