As we ran along the river's edge I could feel the ground sink beneath the weight of my paws. Since the sun hadn’t fully set, we made sure to stay hidden amongst the trees. The commentary coming from Onyx was comical. He sounded like a receiver who had just caught the ball from the quarterback and was running towards the end zone trying to make the winning touchdown. He pretended the trees he was dodging were the opposing team's players.
I stifled a laugh as he continued to go on and on. This right here was proof that I needed to make time to let him out more for non-pack business. Which of course was easier said than done.
With the increased activity these past few months in Orleans Parish it seemed like I barely had time for anything else. Halloween was a time when New Orleans would see an influx of humans. Each and every one searching for ghosts and goblins, hoping to prove that the stories were true. Some would learn the hard way that monsters are real and not just a fairytale meant to scare you. But thankfully my pack was able to keep the majority of them safe, for the most part anyway.
My pack, Blood Moon, has had Orleans Parish in our jurisdiction for over two hundred years. Essentially we are the law, judge, and jury around here, charged with maintaining order. Every supernatural being has a code to follow. Break any of the laws in that code and we step in. Sounds straightforward enough, right? Well, you’re wrong.
The thing with sups is for the most part all of us are sworn enemies. The Vampires hate being kept in line by us wolves. The witches, voodoo priests, and priestesses constantly aid and abet anybody who can afford their prices. It’s an endless cycle.
I was so deep in thought that I didn't realize Onyx had stopped and was now sitting at the river's edge. Our pack land was just on the other side of the Mississippi River. The sky was dark now and the lights of the city were bouncing off the water. It was a beautiful sight and I could almost understand the place's allure while I observed it from way over here.
“Kane, what's your ETA? We’re waiting on you for the briefing,” Berke said. She was my Beta and had been a giant pain in my ass for far too long.
“I can head back in a few, but I plan on checking in with Minna beforehand.” It’s crazy how even over mind link I could feel her annoyance with me.
“Briefing is supposed to begin at eighteen hundred hours.”
“It won’t be the end of the world if we run behind schedule fifteen minutes or so.”
“Yes, Alpha,” she replied before cutting off the mind link.
“Sorry, Onyx but you heard the warden.”
“Yeah, I know. Just means you’ll owe me for next time,” he said before turning to run towards the direction of the packhouse. The closer we got the more excited we were to see Minna. It had taken us almost three years to find her.
There are sixty-four total parishes in Louisiana that are split amongst eight different packs. Twice a year we hold meetings that all ranked members are required to attend. Last year an Alpha had brought along his Luna and her sister, Minna.
The moment I saw her I finally understood what I'd only ever heard others talk about. Even though you grow up knowing all about the mate bond you are never really prepared when it actually happens. The immediate love I felt for a stranger was unreal and even more crazy was how it was reciprocated; no questions asked. Needless to say, she didn’t return home and a year later she is currently three months pregnant with our first pup.
When I got to the tree's edge I shifted back into my human form. I grabbed the pair of basketball shorts I had left on the ground and started walking up the path towards the house. Before I had a chance to even step foot on the steps I was hit with the smell of peaches and vanilla. When I reached the porch I saw Minna swinging in one of the hammocks, reading a book. As I got closer she placed the book in her lap and smiled at me.
“Berke is pissed. So you better make this a quick hello and then head out there with them,” she said while smiling up at me.
Carefully, I climbed into the hammock with her and placed my hand on her stomach. “It won’t kill her if we start late, unfortunately.” Minna adjusted herself and nuzzled her nose in my neck.
“One day you’re going to give her an aneurysm.”
“Wishful thinking.” I was joking of course. Berke and I had grown up together. She was the annoying little sister I never wanted. She saw the world in black and white and my father had taught me to look for the gray. But aside from our differences, we worked well together. I knew no matter what she always had my back.
“How has this little one been treating you today?” I asked while rubbing my hand in a circular motion over her bump.
“He’s kicking like crazy. If he doesn’t watch out I’ll be forced to evict him before his seven weeks is up.”
I shifted myself off the hammock and dropped down to my knees. Bringing my face level with Minna’s stomach I had a conversation with my son.
“Now, you listen here little one. It’s time you start learning to mind your mama. Take it from me, you want to stay on her good side.”
Minna swatted at me but couldn’t hide the smile on her face.
“Now that you’ve lent him your fatherly advice you better get out of here before you end up on Berke’s bad side.”
“Shows what you know. That's the only side she's got,” I said, causing Minna to laugh as well.
As I stood up one of the guards at the northern gate linked me.
“Alpha, we’ve got a situation. About twenty-five or so wolves are heading this way.”
“Rogues?” I asked. Minna managed to get herself off the hammock and was instantly at my side. There was no doubt she could feel the sudden change in my emotions.
“I don’t think so. They look too organized.”
“Stand your ground. We’re heading your way.”
Just as I closed the link Berke and my gamma, Ryker came running out onto the porch.
“Kane, the southern gate has been breached,” Berke announced.
“So has the north. B, link Thomas and Alex to bring their troops and meet you at the south gate. Ryker, link Marcus and do the same for the north. Tell him you and I are heading there now.” I turned to Minna who stood there fearless at my side.
“I’ve already linked a few omegas and told them to gather the children as well as anyone who can't fight. I've instructed them to head to the panic room.”
“Good, that's where I'll meet you when this is over.” I saw her face flinch and she stepped back as if I had slapped her.
“I can fight.”
“Like hell you will. You can’t shift and you’re too far along to take any risks. Please, just this once, do as I ask.”
Minna hesitated but eventually nodded. “Be safe,” she said before giving me a quick kiss.
Berke had already headed out while Ryker waited for me a few yards away. When I caught up to him we both took off at full speed.
“This doesn’t make sense,” he said.
“If this is truly an attack, you and I both know it can happen at any time and without warning. It’s been so long since we’ve been the target we should have expected it.”
When we reached the gates my warriors had assumed their defensive position. Mimicking our attackers some of my men had shifted and some remained in human form.
“State your business,” I yelled over to them.
They remained silent and eventually, I saw some of them move to form a path for what had to be their leader.
“Who’s asking?” It was obvious I wasn’t the one who needed an introduction here.
“We are from the Ever Green Pack in Gulfport. We’ve come to stake claim over your territory.”
“From what we can tell you’re outnumbered so it won’t be much of a fight. Where are your ranked members?” Something about this whole interaction was off. That's when we heard the screams coming from behind us. “Attack,” was the order I gave via mind link before I myself shifted.
With the small number of wolves in front of me, I had full faith that my warriors could easily deal with them. Onyx turned and began running back towards the village. With Ryker’s wolf at my flank, I knew he had to be seeing the same thing I was.
There had to be over a hundred wolves here. Immediately I sent out an order to have any and all capable fighters make their way here now. I saw one of our own being pinned down so Onyx leaped into the air and sank his teeth into the wolf's throat as he landed. With one violent shake of his head, I felt the wolf's neck snap in two. Onyx released him so we could continue to battle.
After some time it became clear that we had an advantage over this pack. They were sloppy and undisciplined in their fighting skills. One by one we took them down and the ones we didn’t had already started to pull back. Just as things seemed to be over I heard a familiar scream.
“Onyx that’s Minna. We have to get to her.” Without hesitation, Onyx jumped into action and headed in the direction we knew we’d find her.
From the distance, I could see three wolves surrounding her. She had her back pressed up against a tree and she was in a defensive stance. Onyx pushed himself to go faster but it was too late. I saw the wolf to her right swipe his paw at her torso. His sharp claws tore through her like paper. Her arms immediately wrapped around her stomach but it was too late. I could smell her blood from here.
I watched as Minna dropped to her knees. She looked in our direction and I could see the fear and sadness in her eyes. The wolf shifted, I saw him place his hands on either side of her head and with one twist he broke her neck.
The pain that ripped through us caused Onyx to slow down, but only for a second. Onyx twisted that pain into rage. He let out a growl so fierce that the other two wolves instantly retreated. It didn’t matter, he only had his sights set on the one.
The man tried to run away. He may have had a fighting chance if he had not shifted before killing my mate. It didn’t matter either way though. Human form or wolf, he was still going to die. When Onyx lunged at him his front paws hit the guy's back, knocking him to the ground. I could feel and hear the bones in his body shattering. When Onyx's teeth sank into the soft flesh around his throat it almost felt as if his life had left his body before I dealt the final blow.
Onyx flung the guy's lifeless body away from him and let out the most gut-wrenching howl I have ever heard. When it was over we shifted back and I ran to Minna. I knelt beside her and cradled her in my arms. There was no way for me to stop the screams or tears that escaped me. In the blink of an eye, my entire reason for living was gone. How am I supposed to survive losing my mate and my child?
In the distance, I could hear my pack howling. They too would be grieving the loss of their Luna and future Alpha. But right now I couldn’t bring myself to comfort them. I felt when Berke and Ryker approached me. Berke called out my name and moved towards me. When I growled at her she backed off. I wasn’t ready to let go just yet.
I sat there for what felt like hours, but in actuality had only been minutes. As I was about to let go of Minna a sudden rush of warm wind seemed to wrap around us. The night had been cold, so even in my state of shock, I could register how odd it was to feel the unexpected temperature change. But as quick as it came it left. Maybe it's odd to say but that brief feeling of warmth seemed to give me a small amount of strength.
As I stood I wiped the tears from my face. I saw two men make their way towards Minna with a stretcher. I held up my hand and they stopped dead in their tracks. Scooping up her body bridal style I gently carried her to the pack hospital where they would prep her for her pyre.
As we walked through the hallways everyone stood along the wall and bowed their heads in respect as we passed. When I entered the area that acted as our morgue I laid her down on the cold metal table. I cradled her face between my hands and placed one last kiss upon her lips. When I stood I placed my hand over her stomach.
“Goodbye my loves, until we meet again.”