“You all know Vasile.” Skender stepped forward, taking the pressure off of the less dominant historian. “He cares more deeply for our race than we can imagine. He was trying to prevent a war, and trying to prevent us all from having to be brought together, considering what might happen between our packs. He was not attempting to keep you in the dark, because he wanted to leave you defenseless. If we hadn’t allowed the dominance in us to drive wedges between us, it might not have come to this. If Desdemona had thought that she had to contend with our entire race and not just a single pack, she might not have pursued this ridiculous plan.”
“Are you saying that this is our fault?” Angus growled, with glowing eyes.
Skender held up his hands plaintively and dropped his eyes.
“No, I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying this is a pack problem. It’s all our faults. Whether we like it or not, we are all pack. We may come from different countries, we may speak different, languages and live different lives, but we are all from the same Maker, all of the same blood and that makes us pack. Pack stands together, fights together, and is bound together.” The silence following Skender’s words was soul piercing as the Alpha’s heard, not just listened, but heard what he was saying. If they understood nothing else, they understood the importance of pack. Wolves were not lone creatures. They depended on one another and they needed one another.
Dillon stepped forward and waited for Skender to invite him to stand before the Alphas. Skender gave a slight nod and stepped to the side.
“We might as well put aside petty rivalry and territorial posturing,” he told them. “We all know we are going to stay and fight no matter the consequences. I personally think that the first step would be learning to fight together, as one pack. We need to know how each of us fights, how we move, and what our individual pack strategies are so that we can be effective when we go to battle.” Dillon watched and waited for a response from the pack.
Slowly faces morphed into looks of determination and nods were given.
Dillon clapped his hands together and rubbed them slowly. “Great,” he turned back to look at Skender. “Where’s a good place to do combat training?”
Skender let a slow smile spread across his face as he motioned for the Alpha’s to follow him.
“We have a gym and outdoor grounds we use for our battle training.”
Skender lead them into the large gym and turned to face the group.
“There is only one rule in this gym. Respect your opponent.”
“I think it might be wise to add just one more rule,” Victor spoke up. “Don’t kill your opponent.”
“Good call,” Wadim said with a low chuckle. “It would be a damn shame if the last thing I ever documented for our race was that we were dumb enough to kill each other before the witch got a chance to.”
Thurlok stared at the stone in his hand as a wicked smile crossed his face. He considered the power that he now held and thought how foolish Perizada was to give one such as him an object this powerful. He frowned at the thought. He knew Perizada, knew her to be an intelligent foe. It didn’t make sense that she would barter such a treasure. And, just as he began to wonder what the catch could possibly be, his palm was suddenly empty. A snarl emitted from his chest as he glanced quickly around him. He knew that it was gone, but that didn’t keep him from searching all around the bridge. After several minutes of looking, he finally stopped and closed his eyes. He had been tricked. He did not like being tricked and raged boiled up inside of him as he thought about what a fool he had been to trust the Fae.
“PERIZADA!” He yelled into the night. “You will be sorry,” he promised the emptiness between panting breaths. He would not let her get away with her treachery. He, who had guarded the entrance to the In-Between for so long, would not allow the insult to go unanswered.
Peri felt Thurlok’s rage through the blood bond. She hadn’t known how long the stone would stay in his possession. The Fae stones had a mind of their own and tended to turn up where and when they were needed. She had not worried that he would be able to use the power from the stone, because she knew that he would not have it for very long. She also knew that his wrath would be swift and that he would respond rashly because of it. She would need to be on alert, though she knew that his power was nothing compared to her own.
Costin hadn’t been able to stop touching Sally for even the briefest time since she had found him and he knew that it was probably driving her insane, but he was fighting his wolf every second to keep from grabbing her and fleeing to a safe place. He knew that no such place existed, but his wolf didn’t care. He felt they were vulnerable with so many dominant wolves so close to his mate, his fragile, human mate. He knew that his emotions were running on overdrive with all the memories of what he had endured in the In-Between and he didn’t know how long they would remain open wounds.
“Stop,” Sally’s soft voice penetrated his thoughts as she gently turned his face to look at her. “I’m not annoyed by your touch. I’m not irritated, nor do I feel smothered, so please quit entertaining those thoughts.” She met his hazel eyes and saw the raw emotion swirling in their depths.
“Being here is driving me insane, Sally,” he told her, honestly.
Sally nodded. “I know, but in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s driving the others crazy as well. Truly, you are more of a threat to each other than to us females. You all are so consumed with the thought of one of us being hurt that you don’t realize that there really is no threat.”
Costin pulled her onto his lap and kissed her neck. “There is no reasoning with me or my wolf, love, not right now.”
Sally rubbed his back gently and let out a slow breath. “Okay,” then repeated, softly, “okay.”
The morning light began to penetrate through the trees as the wolves and the Fae began to stir. Jacque looked around and as she saw the gaunt and tired faces of the males, she knew that none of them had slept. They were on edge and distrustful of one another and it broke her heart. They may have made it out of the In-Between alive, but they had not emerged unscathed.
“Hey,” she felt Fane’s breath on her neck and fought the urge to climb into his arms, pushing away everything else but him. “You alright?”
She leaned back against his chest as his arms came around her. He pulled her tight against him and she felt his chest rumble with satisfaction at his mate’s eagerness to be close to him.