“Who the hell are you to tell me what I understand? A mere human? Please, I’m a single mother. I’ve dealt with crap you can’t even imagine. Have you ever had a daughter go through puberty? Huh? Have you?” Lilly was snarling, she was shaking with anger. How dare he tell her that she couldn’t understand his responsibility? Then it hit her.

“Wait, are you trying to justify what you are helping Mona with by saying you are saving your people?” she asked him incredulously, her voice cutting through him like a knife. “So you would rather infect your heart and your people with the taint of evil?”

Lilly saw him flinch. She had hit home. Before she could say anything else, Cypher stormed out of the kitchen. She heard a door slam and jumped as the walls rattled.

“Well,” she said into the empty room, “that went well.”

Chapter 19

“I keep telling myself that in order for there to be light there has to be darkness. But the darkness that is creeping over us seems impenetrable. I can’t imagine a light bright enough to push through the opaqueness. It crawls across the land, withering everything it touches. What will be left when it’s over? Will it ever be over?” ~ Sally

Sally watched the guys load all their stuff into the van once again, preparing for the long journey to the Carpathian Mountains. Jen had told her what Vasile had told Decebel the night before. She was mad that Jen hadn’t immediately come and told her, but understood her reasoning. Watching Jen, she could tell something wasn’t right, but when Sally tried to ask Jen if she was alright, Jen just spouted off at the mouth in typical Jen fashion.

The weirdest thing was that Jen seemed to be avoiding being touched and wouldn’t make eye contact with her mate. In fact, she had hardly spoken to Decebel, which was really strange. Usually they were attached at the hip. Well, she would just continue to watch and listen. Maybe she would be able to come up with an answer, and if that didn’t work she would just bug Jen until she finally 'fessed up to whatever the hell was going on.

Once they were finally on the road, Decebel broke down exactly what had happened and let the males know they needed to be alert for anything.

“It seems Mona has been busy, more so than we originally thought.”

Peri let out a snort. “Busy doesn’t even begin to describe what that heifer has been up to.”

Jen put her fist in the air and hollered, “Word!”

Sally grinned – that was more like her friend. Maybe she had just been tired this morning.

“How you doing?” Costin asked as he put his arm around Sally and pulled her close. She snuggled into him, enjoying the new intimacy between them.

Sally couldn’t help but feel more confident in their relationship. They had done the blood rites. It was a done deal. He wasn’t getting out of it now.

His chest shook as he chuckled. “As if I would ever want out.”

“Nosy much?” Sally poked him in the chest, chastising him.

“How can it be nosy if I have a right to the information?”

Jen snorted from the front of the van.

“Did I just hear you right, furry C? Surely you did not just say you had a right to my girl’s thoughts. Surely I heard you wrong.” Jen had turned in her seat and was giving Costin the famous glare that many a man had crumbled under.

“Alpha, reign your woman in.”

Then everything began to move in slow motion.

In a violent reaction to Costin's teasingly misogynistic comment, Jen yelled, “OH, HELL NO!” She had her seat belt off in a flash and began to lunge at him.

Decebel, in an expert move, had the van on the side of the road, in park, and his arm around his mate's waist before a breath could be expelled.  Jen’s eyes were glowing.

“Damn,” Sally muttered.

If Costin had been in wolf form, his hackles would have risen at the threat he recognized Jen to be. Even though she was the female Alpha, he saw her as a potential threat to his mate, who was human and fragile.

“Jennifer,” Decebel snarled.

After several moments, when everyone seemed frozen, Jen finally held her hands up in surrender.

“I’m done.” Jen’s head hung in defeat as Decebel let her go, and she climbed back down to her seat.

The whole van seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. Disaster averted – for now.

“Costin, cool it. No harm to yours,” Decebel told him through the rear view mirror. Costin held his Alpha’s eyes for a heartbeat and then dropped them.

Sally looked at her mate and watched as he struggled with his need to protect her and his need to obey his Alpha. She took a page from Jacque’s book and reached up under Costin’s shirt, placing her hand against his chest. Flesh to flesh. She watched as he visibly relaxed. His trademark grin, dimples and all, stretched across his face.

“Thank you,” he told her. Sincerity shone in his eyes.

“Anytime.” She smiled back.

“What the heck was that about anyway?” he whispered to her.

Sally shrugged. “Something is up with her.”

Cynthia turned in her seat and looked back at Sally.

“Can I try to talk with her first?”

Sally nodded. “Sure. Do you think you know what’s going on with her?” Her eyebrows rose in question.

Cynthia shrugged noncommittally. “Sometimes people will talk to a doctor because they feel there is some anonymity to it. I’ll give it a go. The worst she can do is tell me to get bent.”

Sally snorted. “That is something she would say.”

The van was quiet for hours. They slept off and on and stopped occasionally for food or to use the restroom. Sally continued to watch her friend and grew more and more worried. Something was definitely wrong.

They switched drivers periodically so that they wouldn’t have to stop. They drove the thirteen plus hours straight through. As they grew closer to the forest, there seemed to be an undercurrent of stress rippling through the van. When Decebel pulled to a stop on what seemed to be a back road, he held up his hand to keep anyone from climbing out of the van.

“It’s after midnight, but we're going to have to walk for an hour and then make camp. Vasile and I planned for this possibility so I made sure to bring provisions. Remember, this forest is not our friend. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Stay in pairs, no wondering off on your own. The males will rotate a night watch.”  With that, he climbed out of the van and everyone else followed.

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