Lone Red

By Mel Ryle All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Action

Nine

“Mate? What does that mean? A Mate?” He probed and he tested the word on his tongue. After a second, the term had dawned on him. I watched as understanding came back into his eyes. “Wait, you don’t mean… No. But that’s not possible…”

I nodded. “We all thought so as well…”

“Wait, we? Who else besides Axel knew about this?” He pressed with worry.

Rather than answering him, I countered with a question myself. “Why aren’t you surprised about this? Axel had been unsettled for half a day since I told him.”

“I noticed something yesterday while you were dragging him out of the cafeteria. But not being his Mate – soul bound lovers and such… and when did Axel know? Or rather, when did you discover this?”

I scoffed at the term he used. Soul bound lovers. We weren’t lovers – yet. “I knew the day before, after storming out of the cafeteria with him. He proved the connection by kissing me. Axel wasn’t happy to know about this, by the way.” I emphatically added.

“Of course, admirer B wouldn’t,” Tony muttered in amusement.

“What?”

“Nothing.” He cleared his throat and swiftly turned serious again. “So, Mates huh? How is that possible between a Lycan and a Custodian? That’s unheard of.”

“You tell me. You’re the brainy one in the group,” I snorted in defeat.

“I studied law and politics for the Custodian Order, not mystical connections and romance between our kind and Lycans. Even in the Curatrix Grimoire, I’ve read our species were linked through the first Lycan, Salazar Lycos. But those documents are based on stories and myth.”

“So you’re saying I’m an abomination, a freak?” I finally pointed the obvious.

“I didn’t conclude that, you did.” He held up his hand sheepishly.

I groaned. “Tony, you’re not helping. I thought telling you would put some things into perspective.”

“I’m glad you truthfully told me your secret – though you were pushed to do it – but I’m not all-seeing and knowledgeable, Roe. If you want answers, you need to be asking the right question to the right person.”

“And who would that be?”

“Have you and your Mate asked the Alpha or Luna of their Clan?”

“Cole considered it. Maybe he might be talking to them about this right now…” I trailed off, imagining the scenario. But I didn’t have any face to put on the Alpha since I hadn’t seen him or the Luna.

“Would you be willing to meet those people?” He asked, pausing for a second before asking a different question. “How are you even feeling after finding this out? Are you… towards Lycans…?”

“Of course I’m conflicted, Tony. I hate them. I’m supposed to hate them. I loathe them even more after what happened to my family. But this is beyond who I am. This is magic and the mystical beyond our world. How am I supposed to fight back something I have no control over?”

Tony’s defeated expression bore on the back of my mind. But I couldn’t take back those words. It was the truth. Before he got to speak up and comfort me, a knock on the door interrupted our conversation. My heart lurched while Tony opened the door. However, I quickly relaxed when I saw Axel peering in.

“Hey, the food’s here and so is Sir Lockwood… What are you two doing?” He trailed off and inquired while glancing between Tony and I. Knowing Axel, he could easily feel the slight tension in the room.

“Nothing. We were talking…” Tony replied first, but I interjected before he finished. “I told him about Cole,” I stated.

Axel studied Tony’s expression for a brief moment. I saw both of them nodding in unison before Tony shifted the conversation. It felt like the conversation we had a few minutes ago hadn’t occurred.

“I’m hungry. Why don’t we head out before Kaleb gobbles up all the Chinese takeout? It is Chinese, right?” Tony asked Axel as he stepped out of my room.

“It is,” Axel affirmed while still holding out the door. After answering Tony, he then glanced at me expectantly. “Aren’t you hungry, my lady?”

Rather than verbally answering him, I nodded and headed out as well. Tony, Axel and I headed towards the living room, which was already occupied by the other two members of our team. I gave John a brief nod as greeting while taking my seat on the single couch across from him. Kaleb, Tony, and Axel had to share the bigger couch. They all squished together like sardines, which made me laugh. After we all settled down, we decided to concentrate on eating first rather than getting directly to business. Per John’s words, before he starts eating his meal, tomorrow is the day we would officially start our mission.


Bright and early the next day, I had already packed, suited up, and ready to go. By eight in the morning, I was making the usual eggs and bacon for the boys plus John, who slept over at our place again. Once everyone was present and had finished eating at the dining table, John called our attention in the living room to go through our task for the day.

“We are doing paperwork. I know it sounds less thrilling and boring, but remember this is an investigative assignment. We’ll be doing a lot of those than fieldwork.” He paused and gave each of us an envelope. “Also, as I’ve said last night, we are also meeting the Alpha today. Does anyone have any problems with that?”

Like last night, not one of us answered. Yet it was obvious we weren’t comfortable with the idea. However, in the world we live in, it was bound to happen at some point in our life. When Custodians have a problem handling a certain group of Lycans, we always turn to the Alpha in the area. It’s diplomatic to inform and greet the one with the power to prevent further damage or breach of the treaty. In cases with Roués, it was highly expected Kynigans in active duty meet with Alphas in the area before taking action in eliminating them. However, when it comes to Vauriens, the only thing Lycans could help with was to give information. Because Vauriens are rare and only threatening towards Custodians. To not breach the treaty, we take care with our own rogues.

“Do anyone of you have any question before we head out?” John inquired, glancing between the four of us.

“No, sir.” We replied in unison.

“Are you sure? Because if one of you suddenly raise a question during the mission, I won’t be answering them.” He firmly informed and waited for anyone to bravely ask him something.

“We’re okay Sir Lockwood. If we have a question, we’ll ask you after the day is over.” Kaleb offered.

“Okay. An opportunity wasted here.”

After packing up necessary armory; a handgun and pocket dagger; communication devices packed underneath our uniformed black cotton shirt, carefully placed behind our ears; we all headed towards the car with John taking the wheel. It was past ten in the morning when John dropped off Tony and me in the library while Axel, Kaleb and he headed to the site for a quick look during the day. When we were discussing this last night, I was about to volunteer for the position – since I got to be back home again. But then, Kaleb jumped in and invalidated my decision. His excuse concerned my safety and even pointed out my last performance the night John met us and meeting the Lycans in patrol.

I admitted my fault for not saying anything to them upon seeing the Lycan. His testament was enough for John to make a final verdict. So, I was stuck with Tony at the library. Our task was to gather files and information about the attack. It had been on the public record after human authorities dubbed the incident as an accidental catastrophe. The fire was from a gas leak. But the bodies found had been too burnt to be recognized whether something happened to them before the fire. Since the house was scorched heavily, signs of entry had been ruled out. On the public record, it stated there were no survivors. Although I knew that tidbit as false since I’m here and I’m very much alive.

“Roe, I know what happened was very traumatic for you. If you want to take a step back, I’ll gather everything we need before they get back and pick us up.” Tony proposed sympathetically while I held the newspaper clipping.

“I’m fine, Tony. Thanks for your concern. But it’s been nine years. It doesn’t really affect…”

“You know we can hear you winded or muttering restlessly at night.” He interrupted.

I pressed my lips in defeat. “Okay. I’ll just go sit over there and occupy myself with a book or something,” I willingly agreed.

“Good. I’ll just be here if you need me.”

I headed towards a secluded reading area, which had a comfortable ambiance. In the middle surrounded by shelves upon shelves of books was a comfy couch and bean bags to lounge on. Like a haven for bookworms, I headed towards the fiction section and snatched myself a paperbound copy of Hunger Games. Katniss was one of my favorite lead female characters, both for her bravery and independence, and for sparking a revolution that brought their tyrant government to its knees. The Custodian Order held no characteristics like Panem, based on what I perceive in my reality, yet it had certain eerie similarities.

It wasn’t until I was a hundred page in the book that I realized I was no longer alone in my reading haven. My ears perked up as I scanned the quiet area. A moment later, the people responsible for my alertness had shown themselves. The one closest from where I sat was none other than Cole.

“How long have you been following me?” I spoke up, breaking the unnerving silence.

“Aren’t you angry seeing me here?” He countered knowingly.

“I guessed I’d see you somehow before school starts next week.”

“Was I too obvious last time we met?”

I rolled my eyes and closed my book. “Very.” I briskly stated. “Now, mind telling me why you’re following me?”

“Actually, I wasn’t following you. I was looking for you. And I’m here because I want you to come back home with me.”

My eyebrow arched in surprise. “Excuse me?”

“I want you to meet the Blackwell Clan.” He plainly stated.

I continued to stare at him, unable to process what he had said. When the words sunk in, I held up my hand in objection. “Wait! Hold up! Hold up! Did you say meet? A whole Lycan Clan? Are you kidding me? I barely even considered to be this close to the three of you.” I pointed out and peered toward his usual choice of company, Ash, and Dan.

“No one’s going to suspect you as a Custodian there, Roe. I’ve already talked to my mother last night. She wants to meet you.” He argued, but he didn’t look convincing.

“This is going too fast for my liking, Cole. I haven’t completely wrapped my head around what’s between us. Plus, now you’re asking me to meet your mother and Clan? Give me some time to breathe.” I gasped in exasperation.

“How long? And if not now, when?” He paused as he took a step closer to me. “Don’t you want to know why we have this connection? Don’t you want answers, Roe?”

“Don’t you dare bait me with those ideas,” I warned in clenched teeth. But his words had already caught me. Obviously, I wanted to know. It had been eating up my head, especially after the conversation I had with Tony. A lot of worries and unanswered issues had bottled up inside me. And if I don’t get them resolved, I might physically self-combust.

“We won’t be taking long, Roe. I’ll bring you back. I promise.” He avowed.

I considered his words for a second before shaking my head. “I can’t do what you ask now, Cole. I can’t just leave in the middle of…” I trailed off, as I was about to tell him why I’m here. For some reason, I felt telling him about who I really am, a Custodian Royal, wasn’t the right – yet.

“You’re in the middle of what?” Cole inquired when I hadn’t continued what I was about to divulge.

“I’m busy right now, Cole. I can’t go.” I firmly declared.

But rather than arguing about it again, Cole closed the distance between us and grabbed my hand. The contact made me gasp as a warm tingling sensation passed through my body from his touch. Before he could drag me any further, I tugged away from his hold, bringing him to a halt.

“What are you doing?” Cole and I turned towards the new company in our group. Standing not too far on my right was Tony, who held a mountain of books in his hands. After briefly regarding the situation, I watched as realization dawned on him. “Are you here to take Roe away? Because if it’s so, you’re not getting away that easily.”

“Tony, what are…?”

“Who are you? Where’s the other guy? The annoying one,” Cole interjected as he glanced between Tony and me.

“Oh, you mean admirer B. He’s currently away with admirer A. You must be new,” Tony smugly answered before I got a word out.

From his response, I suddenly felt a shift from Cole’s aura like dark had clouded his presence. With his hand still gripping my arm, I lightly tugged it, snapping him out of his trance. I kept my eyes on him, waiting until he met my gaze. Once he did, I watched his dark expression softened and calmed.

“Tony, shut your mouth,” I muttered after I was sure Cole was composed. “Axel is with Kaleb right now, Cole. This is Tony. As you’ve already guessed, he knows about us.”

Cole briefly assessed Tony. “Can he be trusted?”

“Of course. He’s family.”

From the lack of noise in Tony’s direction, I snuck a peek and found him ogling at me in wonder. I arched my eyebrow in question, which he answered with a smile.

“Okay.” Cole nodded. “He could go with us if that’s what it takes.”

Now I was trailing my thoughts back on the topic at hand. “Wait a minute! I haven’t answered nor agreed to your demands.”

“Is taking her to your Clan answer the question why you two are bound?” Tony interjected like he overheard our conversation. He then placed the book down on the couch where I had sat.

“I talked to my mother… but having her there would be proof.”

“When you say talked? Did you inform her about having a Custodian Mate?”

When Cole hadn’t replied, I heard Tony huffing in frustration. “Thought so.”

I arched my eyebrows, waiting for either of them to expound their words. “What?” I inquired when no one spoke up for a minute.

“Roe, you’re Mate hadn’t told any of his Clan and mother about you being a Custodian. Of course, they might not believe him if he did. Bringing you there would substantiate his claim. However, there are holes in this plan.” Tony decisively explained.

“These are my people. They will accept her as their own.” Cole interrupted, his tone edging towards a growl.

“Even if you say you believe that, these are individualistic creatures with their own mind and opinions. They have been grilled with a belief that Custodians are an enemy to your kind.” Tony reasoned.

“But she is my Mate.”

“A fact that doesn’t change. The same with her being a Custodian.” Cole’s eyebrow furrowed while he regarded Tony’s words. “Are you ready to defend her against your own people? Are you ready to be shunned for her?”

“You questioned the connection of a Mate’s bond,” Cole finally growled. His voice had an echo of an Alpha’s authoritative characteristic. “I’d die for her if I have to.” He avowed.

I clasped my hand, startling everyone. Everyone’s eyes hastily turned on me. “Okay. Enough talk about what one could do for someone or about this Mate bond.”

“Roe, I…?” Cole started but stopped when I held up the hand.

“I’m not finished.” I informed. “I think Tony is right. However, I’ll admit it’s eating me up to know why we have this connection. And you know my resolve, Tony.” I addressed him. “You know how far I’ll go to get answers.”

I watched his steel gaze softened as he slumped and sighed in defeat. “Fine. But my offer still remains. I’m coming with you if you are going with them. You need at least one ally.”

“I’m her ally too, you know,” Cole muttered in annoyance.

We hadn’t lingered long in the library and quickly headed out towards the parking lot. As the three Lycans escorted us to their ride, there was a moment of hesitation from Tony and I while studying the two near identical Jeep. The color and plate were the only thing that differentiates them.

“I’m riding with you.” Tony declared adamantly beside me.

“You’re going with Ash and Dan. I want to speak to Roe on the way there.” Cole argued.

“Not happening,” Tony responded before I could get a word out. “I’m not taking that chance. She’s my responsibility.”

“Do you think I might do something to her?” Cole rashly inquired like he’d insulted him.

Tony glanced briefly between us and regarded our expression. Whatever he found, it couldn’t budge him from his decision. However, I hadn’t said a word yet.

“Tony, I’ll be fine. You could go with Ash and Dan. I want to speak to Cole as well.” I ordered firmly, trying to keep my voice leveled. If I hesitated, he might think my decision was forced.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. Please.” I lightly begged and gestured towards the silver jeep where Ash had jumped on by the driver seat. Dan lingered by the front passenger seat, studying the three of us.

With a nod, he headed towards the other jeep and hopped in. Cole escorted me to the front passenger seat on the other jeep, which was black. Once I was settled, he walked around the driver seat. On cue, Dan got in the car at the same moment Cole closed the door. We backed up the driveway first before they followed closely behind us. For the first minute inside the confine with a Lycan – something I wouldn’t have thought possible a few weeks ago – rather than an anxious feeling swirling at the pit of my stomach, my body seemed to relax and calm. Even my heartbeat was even and composed.

“Thank you for allowing to be alone with me.” Cole finally spoke, breaking the still silence.

“So what is it you wanted to talk about?” I asked averting the conversation towards business rather than creating an intimate atmosphere, which slowly crept the second the door closed.

“I just want to give you a fair warning concerning my family…” he paused to clear his throat, “and I want to talk about us as well.”

I held back the involuntary twitch in my eye. “What about your family?” I inquired and ignored the second part of his sentence.

“Aren’t you going to ask about us before we discuss that?” He countered. He sounded a bit amused at how I evaded the topic.

Sighing heavily, I glanced at him in the corner of my eyes before looking back towards the long, near empty road. The farther he drove away from town, as we headed northwest, the more I grew alert. The area around us swiftly transitioned into nothing but lines of trees after trees until it felt like we entered a national reserve.

“No.” I ultimately admitted a minute later.

“Don’t you feel it at all?”

“I do…”

“But…” he offered since I hadn’t continued.

“I’m not ready.”

“I’ll wait. I assure you I do want this. I want you. Never doubt that.”

Unsure how to respond, I allowed silence to be my answer. Though, in truth, I hadn’t doubted him since the magic occurred.


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