Authors: Stacey Kennedy
After rounding the corner, we were in the Council’s foyer. A King’s Chamber was always a better description I thought, but who was I to put up a stink about a name. Within five steps from the men—and twenty of mine—we entered the Council’s Hall.
All four Council members sat in their throne chairs, which were in the center of a spectacular Gothic Cathedral. Large stained-glass windows, marvelous stone sculptures and heavily detailed pillars were only the beginning of the beauty held here.
The Council is the governing body of the Otherworld—the Leaders, Masters from each of the Supernatural races. Guardian, Witch, Vampire and Werewolf. Everything had to go through the Council first or heads would roll—literally. However, rules around here were few and far between. The only one that remained the most important…never take a human life.
Those guilty of that offence, died¯no questions asked.
Once we reached the chairs, Valor gave them the rendition of the story he’d told Kyden and I. He was more stressed about this situation than he was letting on. Tension rolled off him. I couldn’t help but wonder why. This wolf obviously held importance to him. He wouldn’t do this for just anyone. To go to such lengths to ensure her safety seemed a bit over the top. There had to be more to this than we were being told. When Valor finished, silence sat around us. Expressions of confusion ran across each of the Council members’ faces.
“What caused the wolf to attack her?” Zade, Master of Vampires, asked Valor. His dark eyes clearly questioning as his dark hair dangled on his face.
“It took time to find him. The Alpha spent a day searching and when he killed him, he said he was wildly out of control. We are unsure at this time what exactly took place, but we are looking into it. I have some of my pack out investigating and meeting with the Minnesota pack to find out the details.”
“It has been some time since we have heard of an incident with a wolf,” the Master of Weres, Brax said. His soft, sweet features of long dark hair and kind eyes were nothing but a front. He was scary as hell when he wanted to be.
He was right too. The last time we had a problem with the wolves it revolved around a cruel vampire, Lazarus. Just another memory I’ve chosen to block out, which since joining this world, were increasing dramatically. It didn’t thrill me to hear about wolf attacks. But knowing that the wolf attacked a human, some of my worry settled immediately.
This wasn’t someone else out for revenge or anyone with a
target in mind. Living in my happy bubble of protection was exactly where I wanted to stay.
Valor continued, “The Alpha has confirmed that this is the first of any problems within his territories in some time. He knew nothing of the wolf in question and gathered his wolves to discuss the matter. We are not anticipating any further trouble in this regard.”
“Well, that’s good,” I noted. “I’ll help one wolf, but if this turns into a ‘Nexi therapy session’, I’m not volunteering.”
Laughter rippled through the Council’s Hall. This Gothic Cathedral always did have such an echo to the room. The emptiness of it—four throne chairs sitting in the middle of this huge architectural masterpiece—didn’t exactly make it homey.
“How long do you expect this to take?” Talon, the Master of Guardians, asked Valor.
He didn’t look pleased to be losing Kyden and I. He may be the top Guardian in the Otherworld, but he’s also Kyden’s father. Sure, he’s a sexy devil with a glorious muscular body and jaw-dropping face, brown hair and the same eyes Kyden had but when I looked at him, I saw a dad—plain and simple.
“I am unsure how long this will take,” Valor replied. “I can only hope that it works at all. The young wolf is terrified—lost.”
Brax stood, approached Valor, and rested a hand on his shoulder. “You have done much for us, Valor. We will help you in any way we can.”
“What’s going on?” Haven’s voice said from behind me.
I spun around as Haven and Finn entered the hall. She’s cute with big blue eyes, bouncy brown curls, and Finn belonged on the beach with a surfboard in hand. They looked good together. I loved them both beyond words.
“Why are you feeling so heartbroken?” Haven asked, examining me with suspicious eyes.
I laughed. “That is somewhat annoying you know.”
Our soul-sister bond had become a royal pain in my backside. Not that I didn’t love sharing such a deep bond with her that made emotions between us impossible to hide. It’s just, I couldn’t feel anything without having Haven knocking on my door to investigate.
“It is not,” she rebuked, looking royally pissed. “It’s special.”
I took her hand, squeezing it and focused on warm and happy feelings to share with her. “Sorry. You’re right. It is very special.” I recovered that moment quickly, and moved on, eager for her to forget it. “Anyways, Valor has a young wolf that needs some help, so he came to see if I’d mind helping out.”
She perked up. Her big blue eyes opened and even sparkled slightly. “Another vacation?”
Talon cut in. “You will not be going.” His voice rang out deep and authoritative “We cannot lose all of you.”
Haven pouted and stomped her feet, putting her hands on her hips. Even her bottom lip came out a little. That was Haven—a ten year old in a twenty-four year old body—cute in every way, but also temperamental as hell.
The Master of Witches, Zia interrupted. “Do you wish to do this, Nexi?”
I glanced toward her. She gave me a smile that only intensified her beautiful features. Her strawberry hair seemed to do that thing you see in models when a fan is on them. Blow with beauty. Yeah, that was her—simply breathtaking.
This wasn’t even a question. I owed Valor. Even doing this wouldn’t repay my debt to him for all the hairy situations he had gotten me out of. “I do. It is a small thing he asks. Plus, I feel bad for this wolf. It’s scary as hell waking to this world, and I didn’t shift into a wolf either. Who knew what I would have done if that happened?”
Zia inclined her head, showing pleasure in the decision made. “You of all people should be able to help her.” She looked to Talon. “We can do without them for a while, can’t we?”
Talon grumbled something incoherent, which made Zade, Brax and even Valor laugh. Apparently, their super hearing understood words. After clenching his jaw, he sighed in resignation. “Go then. Contact us tomorrow night to advise us how things are going.”
Not that he wasn’t up for us helping Valor. It was obvious that wasn’t his issue here. Suddenly, I saw a little inkling of his true feelings and it just sent a shot of happiness right through my soul. He had missed us. Would he ever declare it? Never. However, his qualms weren’t about the situation, he didn’t want us to go.
Instead of embarrassing him by pointing out such things, since he would be considering the way Supes were, I just smiled and followed the others out. As I turned, I saw that clench in his jaw again and a little bit of longing reached his eyes. Needing to acknowledge him, I focused on the gifts I’d been given as Spirit Witch. I let th
e wall of protection down as Zia’s Spirit flooded my mind. This was the one gift as Spirit Witches we shared¯the ability to communicate telepathically.
When I felt her presence completely, I said,
“Tell him we missed him too.”
When I glanced over my shoulder, she was whispering in his ear. As Talon raised his head and met my gaze, he smiled.
We arrived at a large log house surrounded by green grass, dozens of shrubs and trees. Enormous wide windows sat along the front side of the home where low lighting poured out into the night. Four chimneys had dark smoke drifting from them and there were no flowers in sight. Snow would make it a perfect Christmas escape.
“Your home is incredible,” I said to Valor.
“It’s home.” Valor sighed, obviously tickled to be home.
Couldn’t say I blamed him there. The house was nestled into mountains with miles upon miles of wilderness.
“Come this way.” Valor waved toward the house. “Briggs is waiting for us.”
Kyden and I followed him up the stairs to the front entrance. Valor didn’t hesitate and swung the door wide. The moment I stepped through the thick wooden door, my breath was stolen as I looked up. The ceiling had to be forty-feet high, with wood everywhere. The walls were decorated with large paintings of wolves frolicking.
Valor led us to a living room that was just off the entrance. A fire burned brightly with two oversized couches hugging around it. Briggs was sitting on one of them—concern tightened his normally lighthearted spirit. Not only was he Kyden’s closest friend, but he was also as mischievous as they come.
Usually, a smartass grin would fill his slender face, along with yellow eyes and high spiked brown hair, but that is not what I found tonight. As Valor’s Beta—his second in command—he was always strength personified. Now, his appearance led one to believe he was only a pack member with no ranking at all. As we stepped into the room, his head snapped up toward us and he stood immediately. “You have arrived.” His voice was hurried as he rushed over to me and pulled me into a fierce hug. His entire body trembled.
“Hi Briggs,” I managed through his tight squeeze.
He reached out touching Kyden’s shoulder and released me from his hold. “You doin’…”
Kyden interrupted him. “I am well, Briggs.” He examined his friend curiously. “You alright?”
Briggs never answered, just glanced over his shoulder.
I followed his gaze to see a small wolf cowering in the corner. Her eyes were frantic as she whimpered. “Ahh…poor baby,” I soothed.
Briggs’ gaze swung back to me. “She is not well.”
“Yeah, I see that.” I started to approach her and she yelped loudly. Her entire body trembled. I froze, meeting her terrified gaze, then I saw her injuries. Blood was seeping from too many wounds to count. “She’s hurt,” I stated harshly.
“We cannot heal her,” Valor said softly. “She won’t let us get close enough to offer aid.”
I glanced back at Kyden. “This may be harder than I thought.”
“She is very frightened.” His gaze locked on the wolf, in classic concern for Nexi protective mode.
“What can you do?” Valor asked urgently.
Before I had a chance to respond, Briggs shouted, “You must do something! Please, you have to help her.”
My brows furrowed a little at his unexpected outburst. “Are you okay, Briggs?”
He looked about ready to explode. He shook his head, his eyes tight with emotion I had never witnessed in him before. “You need to help her.”
“Do you know her?” Kyden asked the obvious question as he examined his friend inquisitively.
“Not until tonight. I had never met her before but…”
As the silence grew thick, my gaze lingered on the trembling wolf. Suddenly, a light bulb clicked on. Briggs was attracted to her. Which came as a shock, since he’d never seen her human form, nor had an actual conversation with the little wolf for that matter. I could only assume it was some wolf thing I didn’t understand.
“How’s fluffy doing?” A loud voice came from behind me.
When I looked back, a woman around my age entered the room. Her shoulder-length hair flipped out at the ends, brown eyes surrounded by thick beautiful lashes and a pouty mouth that people paid good money for. She was one of
—the naturally beautiful type—I wasn’t even sure she was wearing makeup. Instantly, I was envious of her. It was obvious from the pajamas she wore, she had just got out of bed. When I wake up, I look like something that came out of a tornado—nothing like this loveliness in front of me now.
Valor’s growl came loud and rumbled along the floor. “Isla, I told you not to come in here.”
She huffed at him, dismissing his remark with a wave of her hand. “Whatever, old man.”
Holding back my laughter was impossible, realizing just who she was. Valor had once said that I reminded him of Isla, his daughter. Immediately, understanding dawned.
Valor gave his daughter a reprimanded look, before he did turned toward me. “Nexi, this is Isla.”
Isla’s eyes widened. “Nexi.” She stuck her hand out hurriedly. “It’s great to finally meet you.”
I shook her hand and nearly had my arm ripped off by her fierce handshake. When she let go, I flexed it a moment just to get the feeling back in it. “Nice to meet you too.”
Isla’s chin lifted as if she’d just received the compliment of the year. “Kyden,” she said, keeping her eyes focused on my face.
“Pleasure to see you again, Isla,” Kyden responded, even though she didn’t appear at all interested in him.
“Now go back to your room,” Valor ordered.
She snorted, snapping her gaze to her father. “Get serious! I’m not going anywhere.”
Valor’s looked at me with perfect understanding. “I did tell you once, didn’t I?”
I nodded, laughing. “You did.”
Isla turned on him, squared her shoulders, her hands firm on her hips and even threw in a stomp of her foot. “What did you say about me?”
“Nothing of importance,” Valor laughed.
Through the laughter, came a low harsh growl. Then unexpectedly, Briggs shouted, “Isla, go back now. We do not have time for your games. Get out.”
Isla looked completely shocked, which was soon replaced by a pissed off beauty queen. “You don’t talk to me that way.”
Briggs stepped closer, glared down to her. “I will talk to you however I damn well please. We need to help this wolf and you are wasting time.” He pointed to the foyer. “Now go.”
Kyden reached out to Briggs, placed a hand on his shoulder. “Relax, Briggs.”
Briggs shook off his hand, full of something that was far past enraged. “We need to get on with this.”
“Okay.” I stepped in, trying to ease him. His body was wrapped so tight in fury, I was a little concerned he was going to lose it. “Listen, Isla, it was super nice to meet you. Briggs is right, though, we have to get back to this. Can I come see you later?”
She smiled innocently. “Of course.” Then, she glared at Briggs. “See dufus, you didn’t have to be such an ass about it.” With a flick of her hair, she growled at him and left.
Valor gave me an appreciative nod. “What are you going to do?”
That was the million dollar question now wasn’t it. I glanced back at the wolf that was now shaking worse than the last time I looked. Resolved, I met Valor’s eyes and started in the only place that made any sense. “I need some supplies.”
Kyden’s brow arched. “Supplies?”
“Yep, I need a pillow and a blanket.”
Before I had finished speaking, Briggs ran from the room, and was back a second later carrying the requested items. “Will this do?” he asked frantically.
First, I took the items from him then I hugged him. “I will do what I can to help her, Briggs.” He leaned away, not looking settled in the least.
“Alright, all of you, out.” They all looked at me as if I was nuts. “You heard me.” I pointed to the door. “Out.”
Briggs nodded, as did Valor.
Kyden leaned in, kissed my lips. “I will not be far. If she attempts to hurt you, yell for me and I will come.”
“I doubt she is capable of that right now.”
Kyden glanced to the wolf, his jaw tight, sending the muscles to flex deeply. Apparently, the idea of leaving me alone with her was not his first choice. “Young wolves can be unpredictable. Just stay cautious.” He followed the same direction Briggs and Valor had used, and I noticed a sliding door that would close off the room.
Just as he reached the door, I called out, “Close the door, will you?”
Kyden glanced back, his gaze met mine, then he shut the door. His expression was curious that was for sure. It appeared that he had no idea what I was about to do. To be honest, neither did I.
When the door closed, I glanced back to the little wolf. She was whimpering so softly my heart broke. God, this must be so terrifying. Turning into a furry creature with four legs had to scare the willies out of a person.
Instead of approaching her, I went over to the couches and pushed them to the other side of the room to give us some space. Just as I was about to sit down in the open space, I noticed the rug. It was a dead bear sprawled out with its mouth wide open. “Eww…this rug is sick!”
Nevertheless, it was better than sitting on a hard wooden floor. I put the pillow on the bear’s head so I wouldn’t have to look at it, sat down, and pulled the blanket over me. It was one of those soft velvety ones—snuggly soft.
Once I was comfy, I met her gaze again. Now that I was closer, she cowered further away. Her entire body shook and her bright silver-flecked eyes were wide open. She was such a pretty wolf with soft brown fur and four white paws. Very slender—petite.
“Hi,” I said in a quiet,
I’m a friend,
voice. “I’m Nexi. I really wish we could have met under different circumstances, but what do you do?” Her whimpering got louder. “Listen, I know you’re scared. Trust me I’ve been where you are.”
And that was the beginning of a conversation that went on for hours. I laid it down. Told her everything that had happened over the past months—how I came to arrive in the Otherworld and just all the crazy shit I’d been through since.
I didn’t leave out a single detail and gave strong emphasis on just how I felt through it all, in hopes she would come to see that I understood what she was going through. Well, as much as I could, as a non-werewolf.
As each hour passed, she seemed to shake less and even inched forward a little. By the time I was done, she had actually lain down and rested her head on her paws. She looked utterly exhausted.
“Okay, you must be tired. I know I am.”
The sun had come up some time ago and my eyes were beginning to sting. Sticking to vampire time, means daylight is a night gone on too long. “Now, I know you’re scared and you must be cold.” I reached out to her. Her head shot up and she yelped. “I’m not going to hurt you,” I soothed. “Sometimes you need to trust, even when it’s hard to.” Had I ever learned that lesson? “This is one of those times.”
She sat for a few minutes, then slowly crawled toward me. With small movements, I moved in very slow and smooth motions, not wanting to startle her. When she was just a foot away, I leaned forward and rubbed the side of her belly, stunned to realize how soft wolf’s fur is. It was like peach fuzz on her belly. Within minutes, she relaxed.
“You’re badly hurt. Will you let me help you?” She bobbed her head eagerly. Obviously, her pain was bad. Never had I expected her to be so compliant, but I was glad she was. Watching her in pain was excruciating. I was desperate to help her and my gifts as a Spirit Witch meant I could. “This is going to be weird, but I am going to use my magic on you. Just close your eyes. It will only take a second, then you will feel all better. Okay?”
When her eyes shut, I drew on Spirit. Months ago, this would have been a strain on me. Now it was like nothing more than breathing. Warmth and adrenaline poured through me as it always did when the Spirit element rose. Only seconds passed before the adrenaline peaked, then with my hand on her belly, I released the magic.
She instantly yelped, cowering backwards.
“It’s over now,” I said quickly. “I know it hurt, but you feel better now right?” It always hurt, especially deep wounds. With that, I could sympathize.
She looked down at her paws to see the blood was gone and moved around, obviously to test that her extremities were no longer restricted in pain. Then, she met my eyes in bewilderment and gave a little bark of apparent thanks.
“Yeah, I know, freaky. Took me a while to get used to it too,” I waved her forward. “Now come on, let’s get some sleep. I’m bushed.” She inched her way back up toward me and lay down at my feet. “Come closer.” I waved her to come closer again. “We’ll share the blanket.”