What do you do when your Alpha was nearly assassinated and is now out of commission; you've killed a pack member; your mate is dying and beyond your reach; and the house you are standing in has gone up in flames – all in the last two hours?
Yeah, Decebel thought. Hell if I know either.
As the mansion burned and smoke filled the spaces the flames had not, Decebel and the other males in his pack continued to search around, making sure no one was left inside.
Decebel and Fane finally reached the suite where they'd last seen Vasile and Alina. Much to their relief, the Alpha and his mate were gone. Hopefully that meant they'd gotten to safety. Decebel looked into the adjoining room. The dining table there was still perfectly set, food half-eaten, glasses half-filled. Only the two spilled glasses on the floor were out of place – Vasile's and Alina's – surrounded by the poison that had almost killed them.
Just goes to show that there's never a dull moment in the life of a Canis lupis.
"I can't smell anyone, but that doesn't mean anything. The fire and smoke would cover any scent," Decebel told Fane.
"We need to get out. Now." Fane urged his Beta.
"Is your mate safe?" Decebel responded.
Fane nodded. "She says Vasile and Alina are safe as well. It appears that all of our pack made it out, as well as her father. And she says to tell you that if we don't get our furry butts out of here right now she will personally…," Fane paused and, cringing, shook his head, "it's better if you didn't know. I say we just heed her warning and get out."
Fane and Decebel took off at a run, heading for the front door of the mansion, which was quickly becoming a death trap. The flames burned ever hotter, melting plaster, beams and anything else in its path. Several times the two had to jump over flames and duck under falling boards.
Finally, they pushed through the front door, still surrounded by smoke-filled air. They kept running. Their lungs cried out for fresh oxygen, burning with each breath. Fane flew straight into Jacque's waiting arms. Decebel couldn’t help but notice, reminding himself that his own mate was cold, lost, and hurt. He wanted to howl at the injustice of it. He’d finally heard the voice in his head that he’d been longing for—Jennifer’s voice. No sooner had he heard her distress call that she had been taken from him. He gritted his teeth and put his anger to good use, checking over the pack.
He saw Vasile and Alina seated in front of a tree, leaning against the large, rough trunk. The ground around them had been swept free of snow in an attempt to keep the Alphas as dry as possible. He headed straight for them, pausing on his way to touch his pack mates, sending reassurance through a simple act.
"How are you feeling, Alpha?" Decebel asked as he crouched down in front of Vasile and Alina, who was finally awake. Decebel tried to keep a submissive stance as he knew it was difficult for his Alpha to be seated on the ground with everyone else standing.
"Getting stronger, thanks to Sally." Vasile's eyes briefly shimmered with moisture as he looked over at the soot-covered brunette who – to every one's astonishment – had been revealed as a gypsy healer.
"Are you regaining your strength as well, Luna?" Decebel addressed his female Alpha in a rare show of formality.
Alina nodded and gave him a small, reassuring smile. "I will live another day, so long as Vasile needs someone to keep him in line."
Decebel chuckled. "Thank goodness for that." His smile faded quickly as his wolf stirred, reminding him that he needed to be searching for Jennifer. He shook his head, trying to clear the fog. He did need to search for Jennifer, but he had promised her that he would get her friends to safety first. That meant getting them as far away as possible from whatever magic fueled that unnatural fire.
He looked back at Vasile. "That fire... It moved like it was alive, like someone was controlling it, maneuvering it."
Vasile nodded. "We need to talk to Sally. As a healer, she should be sensitive to magic, especially dark magic."
"We need to get to safety first," Decebel told him carefully, making sure it didn't come across as an order.
"I agree, Beta. I trust you to make that happen."
Decebel called Sorin over.
"I need you to get a head count of our pack. Advise the other Alphas to do the same," Decebel's voice was commanding. It was time to get things in order and get out of the open, where they were most vulnerable.
Sorin nodded and moved quickly through the crowd to an open area. He made the announcements and then began calling out pack member names.
Skender, Boian, Fane, Jacque, Costin, Crina, Sally, and Cynthia formed a circle around Decebel. He noticed the humans shivering in the cold, but not complaining. Their faces were covered in soot, their clothes were singed, but determination filled their eyes as they waited trustingly.
"What's the plan, Beta?" Skender asked.
Dillon walked over from his own pack, stepping next to Jacque.
"Whatever I can do to help. My pack is at your disposal." He told the Romanian Beta.
Decebel nodded, but did not respond verbally.
Jacque gave a brief smile to her father and then turned her attention back to Decebel.
"We need to get out of here. There's a village we drove through about ten miles down the mountain. We should see if there's a place we can stay there. We need to check and see if any vehicles are salvageable." Decebel began giving orders, needing to stay busy, building a plan towards fulfilling his promise to Jennifer. The sooner he did that, the sooner he could start searching for her. "Males, you check out the vehicles. Females, organize our pack into groups to ride. Ask the other packs to do the same."
Without a word, all the wolves turned from Decebel to carry out his orders.
"Can I please have your attention?" Sally tried speaking above the pack, teeth chattering. No one heard or bothered to pay her any mind. Cynthia and Crina grinned at her sympathetically. Jacque smiled. "Step aside, healer – how can you even speak with your chops going to town like that? Let me show you how it's done."
Sally did the mature thing and stuck her tongue out at her best friend.
Jacque stuck her thumb and middle finger in her mouth and let out an ear-piercing whistle – which was even more piercing for the wolves, with their sensitive ears. Silence fell and all that could be heard was the crackling of the fire that continued to rage, giving the only light to the dark night.