I shudder as the freezing cold water from the shower slides against my skin, jerking my entire body to life in one swift motion. I need a good kickstart these days, something to keep the adrenaline going because coffee and alcohol just don’t do it anymore. I’m wide awake till well past midnight and up at a ridiculous hour in the morning.
My mind won’t stop spinning, won’t stop going through the what-ifs… what if it happens again?
The memories make it harder for me to sleep. Ashleigh lies there in a pool of her blood as Zander tries everything he can to help her. The snarls, sounds of ripping flesh, and the screams of the students when the rogues stormed the school still echo in my mind.
Ace keeps reminding me we were lucky, that Ash survived because she is mated and Zander was able to share some of his strength. But what happens if it happens again?
Ashley, Daniel, and Eric were all in really bad shape. If they hadn’t gotten them to the hospital in time, the wolfsbane and poison would have killed them.
Zander nearly lost his s**t every day that Ashley was in the hospital. She and Eric were confined for three days while Daniel was discharged the following day.
The agonizing pain of losing two pack members continues to haunt me. When their link snapped … that told me that we lost them, that I wasn’t able to save them, is something I will live with for the rest of my life.
Four kids lost their lives just because the rogues wanted to prove a f*****g point … that they can get to us anywhere. It tells us something, though. They changed their M.O. and attacked the kids in school … this means we are getting closer, and they are running scared.
So, every day, I work harder, to be stronger, to be better because when the time comes, there won’t be an option.
It’s life or death.
Charwood got it worse than any other pack in school that day. They are well-known for their defense and training and yet they lost two kids, and their Gamma and Beta heir and Ashley, their Luna, get grievously injured. That’s f*****g scary.
Today we have another useless council meeting. They insist that we have one every few weeks for any updates and developments. But how are we supposed to investigate when the council has all the evidence? When they have the two rogues that were captured, and won’t give us access to anything.
Zander wanted to rip them to shreds, but the council arrived too quickly before either of us got any sort of chance to interrogate. He's been keeping me updated every week. I don’t know if Ash knows about it, but at least I know he won’t sugar-coat the truth. One thing we both have in common, we don’t bullshit each other, something I respect the guy for.
I guess maybe we are somewhat similar after all. Won’t say we will be making fairy crowns and dancing around like best friends, but at least it’s a small start to hopefully a better future for both of our packs.
I had never been in battle before that day. Even our territories have been quiet for the last ten years, so with something like this happening at school, of course, the parents were pissed off and scared. Many wanted to pull their kids out, but the school board insisted that everything was fine.
After a lengthy discussion between Liverpool, Charwood, and Riverview packs, it was decided that appearances needed to be kept up. This meant that we would not pull out all the kids immediately. Nevertheless, some parents managed to transfer their kids to schools that are closer to our respective territories. Eighty have transferred so far, but this still leaves a large number still enrolled at Summervale.
Summervale is a pristine college, known for safety and education. It is why supernaturals and humans are happy to mix there. Summervale does not discriminate, and with members from different packs attending, it increases the chances of finding your mate.
In the aftermath of the attack, it is safer to err on the side of caution and we might just have to go back to the old ways of fashioned balls and dances. Ash was saying Charwood parents aren't happy, and I know a lot of our members aren’t either. Most of the heirs are leaving this year, so the school will be more vulnerable. There is still a hierarchy in place after we leave, but it makes a difference being Alpha Heir or Beta heir.
After about two minutes in a freezing cold shower, I shut off the water and make my way to the walk-in closet opposite my bathroom, slipping into loose gym gear and heading down the stairs.
As I hit the bottom of the stairs, a stream of light flickers through the seam of dad's office door which is slightly ajar, casting some light into the dark hallways of my packhouse.
He and I have barely spoken since he kicked out Ash. I sometimes speak to Mum, but the fact she allowed it to happen still pisses me off.
Kylie and Robert moved out a few weeks ago, just before Ashleigh and Zander’s wedding, wanting space from Dad. Robert now only ever talks to dad if it's about pack business and Kylie is rarely seen around the house. Once, we were a happy family, all of us, together. Now it's just a f*****g mess.
Curiosity leads me towards the light, my mind running a thousand miles as I drag my feet along the hardwood floor, but I pause when I put my hand on the cold metal door knob.
Should I even bother?
Do I ask the same questions again, only to get told off or given the same stupid answers?
Before all of this mess, dad would have shared everything with me, now it’s like everything was a lie, and he was only keeping me at arm's length, so I didn’t ask too many questions, so I didn’t pry too much.
Feeling my anger surge to the surface, I think better of it and turn on my heel and head for the basement gym. It is too early to head out to the pack gym, but I’ve grown to enjoy the quiet.
I enjoy my home gym. It has everything I need. The punching bag is usually in the middle of the room, two bikes along the wall against the window, and two treadmills along the wall on the other side, with the mirror giving us a reflection, making the small room seem bigger than it actually is. Dumbbells are off in the corner, and a weightlift is against the wall next to the bikes.
I try to train as much as I can these days, to be better, to save my people.
I pull out the punching bag, sliding it to the middle of the room as it hangs from the ceiling, and slip on leather boxing gloves. As a shifter, I don’t really need it, but it is a habit I picked up from human gym junkies.
With every punch, I let out every ounce of anger and angst …
Frustrations with the school.
The pure fear of losing my best friend.
Feeling the two links snap as two kids from my pack fall on that fateful day.
With every punch with more and more force, the guilt consumed me. I’m their f*****g Alpha. I should have protected them. I should have known the rogues were going to attack. I should have known better.
With every single punch, pain radiates through my body, but I welcome it with open arms, I deserve it.
After what seems like hours, I feel the blood pool in the gloves from my knuckles, a small split has opened in the right glove, and it starts to drip on the white tile floors. With a frustrated grunt, I swing back and give it one more go with all the force I have, snapping the metal chain from the roof as the bag goes flying across the room.
“Jeez, what did it ever do to you?” I hear someone chuckle behind me. I turn around sharply, snapping my eyes up to meet theirs.
“Brent,” I growl, “you know better than to f*****g sneak up on me like that.”
I stalk over to the bag that has now fallen and picks up the chain. I sling the bag over my shoulder and drag it back to the middle of the room.
“Come on, get cleaned up quickly. We have a council meeting in an hour. The others have already left,” Brent sighs, walking over to me and passing a towel.
“Of course they have. They didn’t bother telling me anything as usual,” I mumble.
Brent shrugs and moves over to the side cupboard next to the door and brings out the mop. Turning on the tap that sits between the two doors, he fills a little bit of the water and bleach and brings it over to clean up the mess I made. I look down at my feet, the blood from my hand has smeared across the tiles turning them from pale white to crimson red.
“s**t, sorry, I didn’t realize it was that much.”
“You need to stop blaming yourself,” Brent sighs. “None of this is your fault, it’s the bastards who did it, and at the end of the day, s**t happens, not everyone can get saved. You need to forgive yourself, you did the best you could.”
“Maybe you should go looking for your mate,” he adds. “instead of being locked up in this thing all day and all night. You were supposed to go to alpha training this year anyways. It’ll be good to go around building relationships with some of the smaller packs who are having more problems than us in the city,” he says as he moves the mop across the floor.
I stare at him for a second, mulling over his words, I know I blame myself more than I probably should, and I have put off alpha training this year to stay and help the pack. Even Ashleigh said I needed to go, but I couldn’t leave everyone for two years. I needed to see this s**t through.
“When did you become so f*****g smart,” I mumble.
Brent used to be the little annoying s**t, who would pull at his sister's hair just to get his father's attention and always break something to get his mother's attention. I don’t think they realized they focused a lot on Ashleigh, but when she was sixteen and showed more interest in being Beta, they started training her to be alongside me, and Brent became sort of the outcast of the family.
He just shrugs and slides the bucket and mop back to where he got them.
Thankfully, the drive from Liverpool to the town hall wasn’t too long. Cars were already lined up. It seemed everyone was there except for us. I nod to the receptionist as we walk in. We always seem to be in the same room, 88.
We follow the long corridor to the room only to find Ashleigh and Zander arguing in hushed voices about something, which honestly is a surprise in itself. These two hardly ever argue, always a united front.
“What’s going on?” I ask as we walk up to them. Brent stiffens beside me. Despite attending their wedding, he still hasn’t exactly come to terms with his sister being a Blackwood. He only attended as a show of support.
“Head in. I won’t be far behind,” I nod to him, gesturing toward the door.
“Hi, Ollie,” she smiles, bringing me in for a tight hug. A low growl comes from her mate, Zander, as I release her.
I raise an eyebrow at Zander. He knows my relationship with my cousin. Of all people, he knows I don’t mean any harm toward her.
“Ignore him. He’s just being too overprotective since I found out,” she rolls her eyes, turning back to me.
His wolf pushes forward, his eyes blazing gold as he snatches her arm, pulling her back to his side.
“Really, Zander is this necessary,” Ash huffs, folding her arms and glaring at her mate.
“I told you to stay at the pack house. Then we wouldn’t have this problem, would we?” he growled, his voice deeper, different from what it usually is.
“Jace, you know I need to be a part of these meetings. You can’t just lock me up,” she hisses.
“Well, you have already escaped Danni and Eric twice now, even Amber, so it's either by my side the entire time or stay at the pack house. I will not risk my pup, so your choice,” he shrugs as his eyes still blaze gold. With his aura pulsing out, I know his wolf is completely in control.
“Jace, bring Zander back, now,” she demands, using her own aura and pushing out Kia. It seems she is just as pissed off as Ashleigh.
He smirks before sighing, and his eyes change back to his normal hazel colour.
“Your wolf is such a jerk sometimes,” she mumbles.
Zander shrugs, “You can’t blame him, sweetheart. There was another attack yesterday. Of course, he’s on edge,” tucking an arm around her and holding her close.
“You're pregnant?” I exclaim excitedly. I am going to be an uncle. I couldn’t be more excited for these two.
Ashleigh nodded meekly and smiled. “We found out last week.”
“And you escaped your watchers in the process?” I ask, raising another eyebrow and tilting my head to her.
She shrugged and sighs, “Both Eric and Danni were annoying and overprotective, just as bad as this one. What was I supposed to do? I only needed to use the bathroom, but they wouldn’t even let me do that in peace. It’s only been a week. Everyone just needs to relax.”
I shake my head at them as Zander sends me a small grimace. We both know how stubborn Ash can be. I can’t say I wouldn't be the same if my mate was pregnant with my pup.
‘Yes, we would. I would be anyways, especially with what’s going on with all the packs,’ Ace mumbles, and I know for a fact he wouldn’t have let our mate out of pack territory.
Things were heating up, not only on our lands but also around human lands too and a lot more in the smaller packs. So, I can understand why Jace is overprotective.
‘Ollie, the meeting is about to start. Are you three joining us?’ Brent’s voice rings through.
I know they picked up on my link and both Ash and Zander look over at me curiously.
“The meeting is about to start. Look, she’s here now, might as well let her stay,” I wave to the door looking at Zander.
“Why are you on his side?” Ash growls, her eyes flashing silver as Kia pushes forward.
I shrug. “I know with everything going on, I would probably be in the same position as Zander. You are carrying his pup, Ash. Please think about what you do before you jump to anything, especially after last year.”
Her eyes softened and guilt formed in them, as she bites down on her lower lip. I know she did what she did to protect her pack and the school, but now she’s carrying his pup, she needs to be more mindful of what she does.
“No one can know Ollie, we have only told a few people at home, and you”, she whispers before tucking into Zander as we make our way towards the board room.
“You have my word. I won’t tell anyone unless you allow it,” I nod in reassurance at them.